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© The Chicago Bar Project   Written by Sean Parnell

Inner Town Pub
1935 W. Thomas St. (1100N, 2000W)
Chicago, IL 60622
(312) 235-9795

"Home of the Arts"


Day
Drink Special
Food Special
Mon
$2 Pabst
n/a
(no kitchen)
Tue
$3.50 Xmas Morning shots
$2 Pabst
Wed
--
Thu
--
Fri
$2.50 Pabst pints
Sat
--
Sun
--
Dark. Dingy. Grungy. Perfect. A die-hard, bohemian clientele flocks to the Inner Town Pub every night of the week, which acts as their muse and matches their scruffiness. The Inner Town Pub takes its name in part from its location "inner-town," otherwise known as the Ukrainian Village, and for its pub-like atmosphere conducive to the swilling of ale, art of conversation, open-mic, pool and dart matches, and remembrance of "The King."

The Inner Town has fit in nicely in the gothic neighborhood that surrounds it since its opening in 1983. Previous to that, the bar was a Polish tavern and was a speakeasy during Prohibition. All in all, the present-day Inner Town Pub has been a bar for the last 100 years, here at the corner of Thomas and Winchester (one block east of Damen and two blocks south of Division). For those of you not used to bars in the Ukrainian Village, Humboldt Park or even Rogers Park, don't fret over the black iron bars placed over the doorway and smallish windows. They're only meant to keep out rogue elements after close and you're not a rogue element, are you? While the neighborhood is still a bit rough despite recent regentrification activity, patrons at the Inner Town are not. Just head through the metalworking and into this red-brick temple of nightlife for "cocktails" as suggested by the bright sign depicting a blonde with a nice rack walking in front of tenements.

Once you step inside, you'll immediately get a warm sense at the Inner Town with its dim glow, laid-back barflies, cracked orange and white linoleum floor, pealing black ceiling, and tunes from the likes of Tom Waits, David Bowie, and several other artists I've never heard of. How satisfying it is that the music isn't blared out from the jukebox in Gin Mill style. Lighting within this darkened chamber is emitted from a couple of ceiling fans, candles in stained glass holders, two backlit green signs with a nude woman (one on a crescent moon, one standing with flowing hair), orange string lights, two lights with owls at their base, and flashing "Welcome to Innertown" sign behind the bar. There is also an intriguing, backlit, stained glass panel depicting the Inner Town Pub emblem amongst oranges, reds, yellows, and blues in the back of the room under two mounted guitars. Running along the west side of the room is the old, red-vinyl padded bar itself with matching red-vinyl bar stools. Behind it is a fascinating array of bar-iana that includes a 60's Elvis bust made into a lamp, a stuffed moose head framed by army helmets on posts, glassware that hangs upside down below a UN-endorsable collection of tiny country flags (and slightly larger American flag), a stuffed fish, a Hawaiian Elvis painted on the wooden door behind the bar, a battered white refrigerator, and a stone elephant set upon a loudspeaker next to the silent TV in the corner. The bar offers a basic selection of cheap beer, highlighted by domestic pints for $2, and does not serve food.

"This place is Chicago's seedy version of the young and the restless, that is, if you go there a lot."

– review from "paddy" on Centerstage Chicago (2001)

Across from the bar is an elevated seating area surrounded by an ancient wooden banister that holds in wobbly regulars. Here, wooden tables jut out from the worn, wood-paneled east wall below an American flag with 40 stars and a psychedelic version of the Mona Lisa. The north wall boasts random framed pictures (including one of JFK), and a few more tables extend from the west wall between closet-like bathrooms and the ATM (women's under a large stuffed fish, men's under a framed picture of Abraham Lincoln). An arch separates the front room from the back, with string lights running along it, and between two tree saws that would make any ecological terrorist proud. In the middle of the back room, just in front of the small pool table that offers games for free (just add your name to the chalkboard and wait for your turn), stands an odd, solitary wooden table amongst framed drawings of women from the 60's showing plenty of cleavage, a framed velvet Elvis painting above a six-inch high wooden stage, a cork dartboard, an old piano in the southwest corner, and the obligatory Golden Tee. For those who appreciate fine velvet artwork, more can be found between the plant and under the crescent moon, next to the bar.


The Inner Town is great anytime during the week or weekend, and is ideal for getting a few drinks prior to catching a live alternative rock, punk or acid jazz band at nearby Empty Bottle. If it's Thursday or Sunday, Inner Town's much lauded open-mic night starts around 10:00pm. These addictive sessions feature folk, honky-tonk, blues, punk, and whatever else people bring to the stage. For this, the Inner Town Pub was selected for Best Open-Mic Night by New City Chicago in 2001. Additional entertainment can be had at the appealingly-named Great Breast Theatre on the second floor where you can take in a play for $10 or "whatever you can afford." This is especially important now that the video poker machine, and the older lady permanently affixed to the stool in front of it, is gone.

"More colorful characters per capita than any other bar in town"

Official Chicago Bar Guide (2001)

The pleasant grunginess of the Inner Town Pub rivals that of other eclectic haunts like Gold Star, Friar Tuck, and Beachwood Inn, and was enhanced one night by the wet dog that came in and kicked up a fuss until it was petted. Overall, Inner Town feels like a cross between the Charleston and the Red Lion Pub, and could easily be located in Bucktown or the East Village in New York City for that matter. From Mike, the "urban cowboy," mistreator of "Jo-Jo" and owner, and his free-drink favoritism to the endless banter of locals, the Inner Town Pub is one of the last, classic joints that truly embodies the neighborhood it serves. For more information, check out the Inner Town Pub website. Welcome to Inner Town.

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