Sunday, August 2, 2015

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

My experiment worked!  I finally went into the English Pub a block down the alley from my apartment, and despite my fear it was so worth it.  The outside is not much, but then neither was my favorite bar back home.  And it's off the beaten path, but close enough to activity to stay in business, and that appeals to me as well.  The fact that I can walk to it in a minute is also a very freeing feeling.  Even drunk I think I could make it home safe, down an alley, in Chicago.  Because it's my alley.  I've walked it a million times as a shortcut to Second Daughter and Second Son's apartment; so I know it, well. 

But the inside of this Pub is what sold me.  When I walked in the first things to hit my senses were Jurassic Park playing on the small TV high in the corner, a group of very colorful people arguing Star Wars movies, and soft jazz playing from a hidden place I never located.  I knew I was home, before Sinatra started singing Lovely, and the waitress said hello.  Id never watched Jurassic Park, muted with subtitles and Frank singing, but I kinda think that's the only way to watch it now.  And the Star Wars arguments were very difficult to not shout out answers.  I bit my tongue and told the bartender that "Going over there and giving them a laundry list on why they are wrong is not the way to make friends."  and he said, "NOW you tell me."  Everyone that worked there had a quick wit.  I think I found where my peeps hang out.

The next things were the thick wooden tables and leather back chairs arranged in twos and fours around the center.  Three high tables with higher wooden chairs surrounded them, and a cozy booth, almost completely walled off on the opposite corner by the window.  That wall was lined with booths and tables to split or combine and more of the comfy chairs.  But the real charm was the bar itself and all the British paraphernalia on the walls.  At first I wasn't sure where to sit, but I bravely made my way to the bar and decided to eat there.  I wanted to send a signal that I was approachable and you can't do that at a table for one. 

Everything English, (and one breakfront for the Scotts!) surrounded me.  Beautiful framed pictures and posters from rock royalty of the Beatles and Pink Floyd to the real royals of Queen Victoria and Prince Phillip.  Pirates were beside explorers.  And Shakespeare made more than one appearance.  Posters advertising places in England, hobbies like rugby and soccer.  But the most impressive piece was the life-size red telephone booth.  Inside it they had a fancy lamp, which was on, of course and a table with an old, black, cradle style, dial telephone, placed lovingly on a lace doily.  If only it were Tardis blue, I did ask, "How much for the fake Tardis?" and the owner lamented about his search for a real one, and his frustration that if there were ever a great selling item it would be a life size Tardis.  We discussed our mutual search and failure and my parting line, "If you paint this blue, I'll buy it,"was received with warm smiles and nods.  The bar was lined with whiskey, scotch, gin and bourbon, and the beer choices were endless both cold and the traditional warm.  I sampled a pale ale on tap, warm.  Which was good, but I'm too American, I like my beer cold, so I settled for Samual Smith IPA from India. Which was awesome and went really well with my fish and chips.

The owner and his wife were delightful and they invited me back on Friday for all I can eat fish and chips.  I expect to meet more regulars then.  I did meet one and he was very interesting, and worked at the Lincoln library which is full of all sorts of civil war and Lincoln info.  He knows a lot about that era but was kind enough not to brag on it.  He also hoped to see me again when I left.  The wait staff and bartender were very nice.  One of them had just celebrated her birthday last night at the bar and it was packed, and she was hung over.  They gracefully allowed me to join in the jibs, as the regulars did, when she complained about her head.  Everyone seemed very nice and I was treated like I had been coming there all year not just one night.  She mentioned the hipsters were drinking Malort.  The bartender nor I had ever tried it so we sampled it.  It was the most disgusting thing we had ever tried.  It truly tasted like bug spray, bitter, bitter bug spray.   Fucking hipsters will drink anything and call it cool.  Google it, there's an actual article "The New Malort: The Worst Drink To Ever Happen."  And I agree.  They have a second room to eat in too and a reading room in the back full of books for sale.  I meant to go back there and check it out but I was having so much fun talking with everyone that I am saving that for my next experience on Friday night.

I can't wait to show this bar off to old friends and family,  that might come and visit.  It really is a hidden gem.   Oh and it's call The Red Lion in Lincoln Square.  In case you want to google map it and check out it's website.  If you're ever in Chicago, look it up.  I'll be the one at the bar with blue hair.