"The best bar on the block"
Cheap beer, a laid-back crowd, real darts, and a regulation bocce ball court in the beer garden. Need I say more? All right, I will. Cody's is a great example of an old-school, Chicago corner bar in an area that desperately needs one and it has one of the best beer gardens in the city. Who's your daddy?!
Cody's is located at the corner of Paulina and Barry, just down the block from the Walgreen's at Paulina and Belmont. This part of Lakeview is wedged between Ashland to the east, the North Branch of the Chicago River to west, Belmont Avenue to the north, and an industrial corridor to the south. As the industrial area turns more into condos, the area is getting more of a residential feel, but at this point is still touch and go.
Except for Millie's Tavern to the south, Cody's is really the only neighborhood bar in the area. As this part of Lakeview is in transition, Cody's serves an eclectic mix of patrons that mirrors the neighborhood: dog walkers, biker poseurs, Lincoln Park frat boys, and guys doing crosswords at the bar. Step past the crooked green pole holding up the second story and through the wooden doors into Cody's and you'll encounter a spacious room with a high tin ceiling and a long wooden bar on your right. At the bar, you'll find lava lamps, mountains of wax where they keep burning candles, an ancient Bears pennant framed above the bar, $1.75 Schlitz, free munchies, boardgames, and even cappuccino. Glass blocks make up the almost the entire south wall and causes the entire place to glow during sunny days. A pool table stands askew in the middle of the room, below a mounted deer head adorned with string lights and opposite an impressive wrought iron potbelly stove. The bathrooms are located in the far corners of the room and, while flawlessly functional, look as if the owner read the Time Life instructions on laying tile but not the part about finishing the walls. Upon these plywood walls, you'll see laminated pages from the Chicago Tribune, circa the 1960's; patrons have also felt the need to decorate the walls with such witticisms as, "Hilary Clinton is a whore." Even if there is a large crowd inside Cody's, it is never that crowded due to all the space.
A word of warning: the Golden Tee machine between the bathrooms in the front room is the 1999 version, and thus, is pure evil. There is not enough room between the track ball and the glass screen to make that 550 yard drive you are used to making on newer machines. My hand hurt so bad one night from slamming it against the glass that not even my drunken stupor could dull the pain. I sported a purple welt for weeks and my fingers hurt literally for months. I even had to play left-handed at one point. God help us all. [Editor's note: the Golden Tee machine has recently been updated to the 2004 version.]
Down a few stairs from the main room is the dart room your dad would be proud of. The room boasts real cork dartboards and chalkboards with a cutout to place your chalk in. Be wary of the dartboard on the left – the last time I was there, it was unplayable. It looked as if a canonball had hit the wall behind it, causing the dartboard to bend outward with such force as to break the metal partitions between the varying point values. Don't worry though, there's another dartboard back up the stairs in the main barroom and there's even a couple of boards outside in the beer garden. The wall above the dartboards back in the dart room seems to be an experiment in how many plaques can be hung before the wall collapses. There is also a balcony for dart observers, should there ever be any. Watch out for the German Shepherd-Husky-coyote mix of a dog that romps through dart games in progress and kicks up a fuss until petted.
Like Resi's Bierstube and Grizzly's Lodge, Cody's has an impressive beer garden for a neighborhood joint. You'd never know it unless you've been there, read about or known someone who's been there as you can't really see it from the street. Access to it can be had through the white door at the north end of the main barroom. When you walk out you'll find a couple of tables on a wooden porch and more on the cement patio. The space is actually a garden, sporting flowers, trees, bushes and lanterns, which gives it that laid-back, relaxing feel that any good beer garden should have. Additionally, Cody's is one of the few bars (if not the only one) in Chicago that has outdoor dartboards, which are protected from the elements by an overhang. Don't bother trying to find the light switch when it gets dark, just head inside and get the bartender to turn them on (apparently, there's a convoluted system of electrical distribution outside at Cody's...) To the right of the darts is a pebble alley that runs the eastern length of the beer garden, which is used for regulation bocce ball. Leave your ID with the bartender to get your balls and there's even a rake for grooming. The bocce officially ends at 9pm, but if you're not too loud, they'll let you play longer; this is to help keep the noise level to a minimum. Strangely, they'll let you play darts longer as if bocce ball stirs up more raucous behavior. On the other hand, I did observe a rather loud foursome playing who, instead of playing two people at either end of the court, would would walk from end to end at the end of each round with some hangers on in tow. It looked like golfers moving from hole to hole, followed by a gaggle of fans. My friend and I wanted to jump in and join the mobile gallery but, sadly, the match ended before we had the chance. After working up an appetite from a heated round of bocce, Cody's doesn't have a kitchen but does invite you to bring your own food and propane to barbeque on their Grill Master. We did this once at a going away party and it worked out beautifully, although we found you'll want to get your grilling done before it gets dark as it gets hard to tell when you're food is done in the dim lighting.
"Just last week [Fat Tuesday] my roommate and I headed to Cody's for a cold one in celebration of nothing in particular. It was a usual Tuesday. as Danny preceded me into the bar, I stepped directly to my favorite spot, the 'spill seat.' Just as I was about to order our first round, Danny stopped me. The expression on his face was genuine and disturbing. With the skill of a ventriloquist, he uttered, 'that chick over there still has my fucking TV... meet me at Millie's.' I was unable to follow up with question or comment as Danny was fast out the door. I ordered a Guinness and went over to the "chick" in question. [She was sitting with some dude] So I said, "Hey there! My name is Tony, do you know my roommate? The guy who just left?" Apparently she did not see him, so she denied his acquaintance. Then I asked, "Do you know Danny [name suppressed to protect the guilty]?" Her face turned white. I said, "He tells me you still have his TV and he wants it back." I've never seen someone go from white to red so quickly, at least not since that albino dude had a heart attack at the bocce ball court last year, but I digress. I really didn't intend to start any trouble, plus the owner knew what I was up to. It turns out that her story is that Danny told her to keep the TV. A bunch of Crap! When I finally met up with Danny at Millie's [the best dive on the north side in my opinion] we had a good laugh over the whole thing."
– T.C. (March 6, 2006)
All in all, Cody's is the "quintessential neighborhood bar," in the words of Chicago Magazine reviewer, Penny Pollack, and was awarded Best Darts by The Official Chicago Bar Guide (2001). I couldn't agree more. If you're up for a cheap pint, game of darts or to bask in the glory of their bocce ball beer garden, Cody's is the place for you.
Example of Cody's conversation:
"You know Bonnie is single."
"What about the other one?"
"That's my wife."
"I think Schlitz is better than Budweiser."
"I think they're both piss."