Editor's Note: the Rose & Crown closed sometime in late 2002 or early 2003 and is now Bridget McNeill's.
Of the only two English pubs in Chicago, the Rose & Crown London Pub has the misfortune of being the lesser known one. Many know the the more popular Red Lion Pub from its alleged hauntings, beer garden and authentic English pub atmosphere. While the Rose & Crown isn't haunted (that we know of), doesn't have a beer garden, and arguably has a somewhat less authentic atmosphere, it does have excellent food, a nice game room, and is an excellent place to enjoy a pint after a long day on the lakefront.
Since 1995, the Rose & Crown has been located less than a block from Lake Michigan on Belmont, just west of Sheridan. The pub, owned by Chris and Randy Funk, makes up part of the first floor of the 30-story condominium building, named simply "420 W. Belmont," and is somewhat difficult to spot with its humble wooden sign hanging out front. To enter, step through the automatic sliding door to the right of the pub. Walk down the short hallway to your left, just beyond the curving wall adorned with posters of London, and through the plate glass door. Don't worry about having your ID ready as I don't think they ever card anyone. The other hallway leads to the condominium lobby.
Inside the Rose & Crown, you'll find a large room divided into three sections: the bar, the dining area, and the game room. The polished wooden bar runs along the east side of the room and is complimented by Tiffany-style lights and packets of "crisps" (chips) behind it, bar towels hanging at the end of it, and a TV hanging above the triple-paneled cooler behind it. The cooler offers a variety of bottled beer and cans of Schlitz. The Rose & Crown also serves up pints of Tetley's, Guinness, Harp, Bass, and Caffrey's. All in all, there are over 50 types of beer available, gov'nor. A wood-paneled divider with coathooks divide the bar area from the low-rider tables, in front of the floor-to-ceiling plate glass windows overlooking Belmont. These tables offer prime viewing of the ever-interesting Belmont foot traffic.
More wooden tables with wooden chairs padded in leather are available in the dining room. Here, you can enjoy fish 'n' chips that are so good, they rival that of the Duke of Perth, Tommy Nevin's and Cullen's. You'll also find a fine selection of sandwiches, salads, pies, pasties, bangers, burgers, and carved meat every Sunday (either roast beef, turkey, pork, lamb, or ham). The dining area also offers a nice vantage point at which to observe the Rose & Crown's classic British décor: mirrored and lighted English ale signs, pictures of fox hunting, a stuffed duck mounted on the wall in mid-flight, and flags of Scotland, England, Wales, as well as America.
A brass railing with drapes separates the dining area from the games area. This part of the Rose & Crown features a pool table and a dartboard, guarded by a suit of armor. There is also a video slot machine for those in a gambling mood.
The quiet feel of the room with its carpeted floor and drop ceiling is often disrupted by loud, older patrons while classic rock plays steadily in the background. The Rose & Crown attracts a varying clientele, but many happen to be middle-aged or older. Some may live in the condos above, and others may be stopping by after docking their boat at Belmont Harbor. Whatever the case, the conversation is usually abundant, particularly with the big screen TV at the north end of the room going.
While not found in the US in great numbers, pubs named the "Rose & Crown," are prolific in merry old England. In fact, according to the Green Lion Enterprise database of over 45,000 pubs, there are over 300 establishments with that name in England. The reason for this primarily stems from the end of the War of the Roses and pub landlords wishing to illustrate support for their monarch. Other popular English pub names include: Red Lion, Royal Oak, White Hart, White Horse, Kings Head, Kings Arms, and pubs with either "Crown," "Swan," "Plough," or "Bell" in the name. The Rose & Crown is also the name of a song by Ian Robb, with the chorus:
"What have they done to the old Rose and Crown?
The Ship, the King's Arms, and the World Upside Down.
For oak, brass, and leather, and a pint of the best
Fade away like the sun as it sinks in the west."
– lyrics from Old Rose & Crown (Ian Robb)
The Rose & Crown is often described as having an authentic English pub-like atmosphere, but I have to respectfully disagree. The elements are there, but the Rose & Crown seems like a cross between Miller's Pub and the Golden Nugget. Essentially, the result is that of an English-themed neighborhood bar set within the environs of a 60's era coffee shop. Regardless of being authentic or not, the Rose & Crown is a great place to have a pint, some fish 'n' chips, a game of pool, and is properly enjoyed when the weather is dreary. The Rose & Crown is not the most exciting place (although the annual celebration of St. George's Day on April 23rd is notable), but it is clearly the best neighborhood pub in this corner of Lakeview, where Friar Tuck's, Monsignor Murphy's and gay bars are the only alternatives. Here's to the Rose & Crown!