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Bucktown Pub Chicago Sign

Bucktown Pub

1658 W. Cortland Ave. (1900N, 1700W)
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 394-9898

Bucktown Pub Chicago Bar
Photo courtesy of Matt Hamilton
Depending on your outlook, the Bucktown Pub is one of two things: either a hip yet laid-back, nuevo-neighborhood pub, or a Chicago original that lost its unique character. Perhaps both? Whatever the case, you can be sure to find an unpretentious atmosphere, a good selection of microbrews, a nice garden, and maybe even a lingering spirit...

The Bucktown Pub is located at the corner of Paulina and Cortland, just to the south of the late-night Bucktown legend, Marie's Riptide, and just down the block from Cortland Garage. A wooden sign depicting a goat riding a motorcycle hangs from an orange-brick two-flat. Stroll through the plate-glass double door with impressive brass rails and you'll find a single-room bar with walls of exposed brick, a burgundy-painted tin ceiling, and a nice wooden bar backlit with red beveled glass that runs most of the length of the eastern wall. Across from a most impressive and ornate antique chandelier is a mounted goat, who gazes down thirstily upon a dozen beers on tap and patrons at high-backed, wooden barstools. A column of wooden cocktail tables lies opposite the bar, and a few more barstools can be found in front of large windows overlooking Cortland. The entrance to small but seldom crowded beer garden can be found just beyond the restrooms on your right as you pass, no pun intended.

New additions to the Bucktown Pub include a bit of motorcycle bric-a-brac with helmet, boots and part of a bike—homage to the bikers that come in on Wednesday night—as well as the inevitable Golden Tee machine, and open mic on Sundays, starting at 10:00pm. On the other hand, for those that knew the original Bucktown Pub, there has been much churn and mourning of its loss. Let us compare and contrast, shall we?

  • Polished interior with a red glow
  • Wall-mounted internet jukebox supplemented by the bartender's iPod
  • CD Jukebox stocked with classic rock
  • Nicely framed concert posters of classic rock bands
  • Golden Tee
  • Pinball and shufflepuck bowling
  • Patron cell phones
  • Midwest microbrew pints
  • 23-ounce Bucktown Lager for $2.50
  • Mellow new ownership
  • Bombastic former owner, Kristine Palmer
  • Laid-back Bohemian alternative to Cortland Garage
  • Soft-core vintage bikers from the neighborhood (Wednesdays)
  • Hard-core bikers just off the Kennedy
  • Smoking ban
  • Matches that say "Fuck You"

On the other hand, we can all appreciate what remains at the Bucktown Pub: free popcorn from an old-fashioned machine (now served with spicy salt), nocturnal distributions from the "Tamale Guy," and possibly the apparition...

"To the chagrin of neighborhood regulars, the barroom had been closed for two years after its former owner, a man remembered only as Wally, shot himself in the upstairs apartment sometime in the late 1970's. With Wally's widow still in the impression that she finally had a place of her own. Not six months after the opening, however, she had become convinced that Wally was still very much in charge... Patrons who remember him recall a grouchy, verbally abusive tyrant, who would perch on one of his own barstools, ordering around both the bartenders and the customers. His wrath was arbitrary in life and after. The ghost, it seemed, would roam the place at will, picking on whomever offended his indiscernible tastes, sometimes throwing objects at the offensive patron or employee to underscore his opinion."

– excerpt from More Chicago Haunts, Scenes from Myth and Memory by Ursula Bielski (1998, Lake Claremont Press)

"I worked there back in the mid-90s when I was in my final year of college. I needed daytime school hours, so I quit my day job and was hired at Bucktown Pub as a bartender. I was told about the hauntings of Bucktown Pub when I was hired, and some were interesting. A believer of ghosts since I was a kid, I respected the fact that the pub was haunted. So, every day I worked, I would say hello to the ghost, and tell him that I hope we have a good day. For the most part, I would never see anything occur if there was a crowd. But, if I was the first to open the bar, I would be alone to get things organized, cleaned, and ready for business. At these times, I would always hear coins bouncing across the floor. I'm not sure what he was doing, but I always assumed he was saying hello to me. So, I would just say 'hi' back. One night, however, I didn't like being alone when I closed, so I always kept a regular patron around with me after I locked the doors to clean and close the bank. One night, my patron and I were chatting a little longer than normal after I had already put everything away. Well, our spirit friend didn't like us there that long. So, he decided to take two of our beer signs—that were NAILED into the wall—and slammed them down on the bar while we were talking. Needless to say, we both shut up in amazement that they came down one at a time. BAM....BAM! In respect, I responded to the spirit out loud, 'I'm sorry. Did I do something wrong?' With no answer, we opted to leave him be and skedaddle out of there. It was a very cool experience, and one I will never forget."

– N.M. (September 24, 2010)

Bucktown Pub Chicago Interior

While many bemoan the pub that hadn't changed much for over 30 years, others can appreciate the chill environs where you can bask in the red glow of the interior or the sun of the beer garden, and for those anytime of day who seek refuge from Cortland's Garage – an even more unwelcome addition to the neighborhood. If you like Bucktown Pub, you'll probably also like the similar vibe at nearby Lemming's, Floyd's Pub and Cleo's on Armitage. For more information, you'll have to call as the Bucktown Pub does not have a website. In the meantime, here's mud in your eye, Wally!

"I must say Bucktown Pub's biggest slice of genius pie is served on a plate of 'I accidentally went to Cortland's Fucking Garage and I need a shot of something strong to wash away the horrible memories.' The runoff crowd from that shitshow must be a blessing for business."

– Andrew C. on Yelp (March 2, 2008)

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Out with the old... "Sometimes you want to go where nobody knows your name"

Bucktown Pub Chicago Former Decor

Comments on the old Bucktown Pub:

"So it is true. The Bucktown Pub has shut its doors. Anyone who patronized this establishment can share in my feeling of sadness as I peered into the window last night only to see the walls shed of their fascinating memorabilia and the jukebox removed. I will miss seeing Christine in action. I will miss hearing the Rolling Stones all night long. I will miss table bowling. I will miss the popcorn. I will miss biker night. I will miss asking for 'Butt Wipe,' and I will miss the bar we thought of as our own. Thanks, Christine."

– posted by Chrissy on Metromix (December 20, 2001)

"I have been to a lot of bars in my life and this has got to rank up there as one of the worst. The bartender a washed-out, haggardly woman named Christine is usually too drunk to give me a beer. Instead she screams racist slurs in her deep manly voice and stumbles around bothering the customers, sometimes with the aid of her disco ball. Not entertaining, simply pathetic."

– krys

"The weekend was ever so nice. Friday night I went out to various bars with LT, Marc, and Mike. An evening full of beer and boys. One of the places we stopped was the Bucktown Pub, whose bartender is this transvestite-looking woman (who apparently is actually female, although I swear I didn't believe it at first and I'm usually pretty good at guessing those things), and when we walked in she yelled at each of us in turn, "Yeast infection? Yeast infection? Yeast infection?' Turns out she knows Marc, that's the bar's term for a half-and-half (Black and Tan, if you're a Loyalist), and that's what he usually orders."

Mimi Smartypants (October 4, 1999)

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