Simplicity. I love it. Foley's is simplicity's manifestation in a neighborhood bar. Though many Chicago bar patrons and local sites offering bar reviews place a lot of importance on a bar's beer selection (yours truly being one of the most guilty with this one), custom martini menu, extensive food menu complete with vegetarian options, daily specials, number of flatpanels, availability of live music, quality of jukebox selections, dog-friendliness, child-friendliness (yes, even the bars particularly on Southport and in Roscoe Village), and outdoor seating in summer, Foley's brings us back to the basics, and does so very well.
Foley's "Bar & Grill" can be found lazing on the south side of Irving Park Road, across from Silvie's, and just down the block from the Irving Park Brown Line el stop to the east and Globe Pub and Katerina's to the west. A tasteful dark wooden sign with gold lettering, all the rage these days with Belly's, Casey Moran's and Grand Central, hangs above a green-painted wooden door straight out of 1962. Step inside and you'll find a narrow, one-room bar, most of which is filled up with the actual, green-padded, red-topped wooden bar that runs against the western wall. Overhead is a white-paneled drop ceiling and a wooden hood above the bar with recessed lighting and green string lights. The space may look a bit bigger due to the mirrored walls, but it simply isn't. White painted, wood-paneled walls, brown linoleum and a sliding plate glass window up front with a few neon beer signs overlooking Irving Park Road rounds out the décor.
Entertainment can be found at the free electronic darts machine, Golden Tee, wall mounted jukebox (featuring an eclectic mix of Tom Petty, Patsy Cline, Prince, James Taylor, Irish folk music, and Bruce Springsteen), and video poker machine (not free), all of which attempt to take up all the remaining space in the bar from that of actual customers. Further entertainment can be had by trying to order food as there is no kitchen (this is why I put "grill" in quotes earlier), by chatting with the owner Wanda or beloved bartender Seth, by sizing up the almost full-size poster of Michael Jordan, by watching one of the old vacuum tube TVs in the corners of the room, or by chatting with one of the older, eccentric regulars some of whom are found in photos taped to the walls below the bottled beer selection, just as they do to soul-mate bar Friar Tuck. Speaking of libations, Foley's keeps it refreshingly simple with just two taps: Miller Lite and Blue Moon. They used to have Killian's instead of Blue Moon, which was actually out the last time I was there. Pitchers go for $6, bottles for just over $2 and Jell-o shots for $1, pending availability of course. Hungry? Eat elsewhere. If you're lucky, you might be able to persuade Seth into getting you some chicken wings.
"The main difference between Foley's and your uncle's rec room is that your uncle's rec room is probably a bit bigger."
Bob Shertler, Barfly's Guide to Chicago's Drinking Establishments (2000)
Foley's Bar (and Grill) is part of the increasingly disappearing old-school cadre of neighborhood dive bars, such as Rose's and Sterch's in Lincoln Park, the Cork Lounge and Johnnie's in Lakeview, and Sovereign in Uptown. Such places are not meant to last these days, so enjoy it while you can and have a draft Blue Moon on me. For more information, check out the "unofficial" Foley's website. Booyah!
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