If you don't mind a few curmedgeonly old-timers, Steve's is a great place to stop by if you're ever around Chicago's Southeast Side and the Polish neighborhood of Hegewisch. Add to that an impressive banquet operation and, if you call ahead, fried chicken made available in the bar, and you've got a great spot in especially if you're paying a visit to nearby near Holy Cross Cemetery in Calumet City.
Steve's is located at the southwest corner of Baltimore Avenue and 132nd Street and lies at the base of a two-story building with a flat stone facade that was common in Chicago's post-war era. A maroon awning with Steve's written in white cursive lies above matching orange neon within the taverns two windows. A few cement stairs with wrought iron railings to facilitate your ingress (and egress) lead up to the front door.
Step inside and you'll encounter a crew of old-school codgers sit at the edge of the wooden bar that bows out at the end who wearily eye anyone they don't recognize (though it's a friendlier family crowd earlier in the day at least on weekends). Grab a seat at one of the high-backed, black vinyl barstools or at one of three wooden cocktail tables opposite – the latter of which is recommended for viewing the tavern's incredible array of ceramic figurines on display behind glass cases along the south and west walls, above the back bar with its yellow beveled glass and "Gift certificates available" sign. Some of the architectural highlights include a green-painted tin ceiling and multicolored hexagonal tile above the windows along the north and east walls, that creates a flower-like pattern in orange, yellow and red that nicely matches the cabinets housing the ceramic tchotchkes. A more modern touch is added by the two flatpanel televisions an opposites ends of the bar.
Patrons can't go wrong with Old Style on tap for $1.50, though there are four other bottled beers including Coors (regular). A stuffed buck on the north wall with impressive antlers, a vintage Western Telephone Company railroad clock on the south wall, and beer posters of chicks in bikinis rounds out the decor. For entertainment, there's not one but three, full-size video poker machines to the left of the front door. When the Old Style proves too much for your bladder to hold, the men's restroom lies just beyond the bar and to the right of a pair of swinging doors leading into the banquet hall in the rear. Steve's Lounge doesn't offer an official menu but fried chicken, with universally lauded breading, and sausage are available from the adjacent banquet hall if you call it in first.
"This Chicago neighborhood is named for Adolph Hegewisch, the president of the now defunct and once nearby U.S. Rolling Stock Company, who hoped to establish 'an ideal workingman's community' in the spirit of nearby Pullman, when he laid out the town in 1883."
– Chicago Sun-Times (October 12, 2007)
Parking is easily available at diagonal spots running along 132nd or parallel spots along Baltimore Avenue, as you'll not find cabs down here. If you're making a night of it, be sure to stop by Mugs Bunny, located a few block south on Baltimore. For more information, Steve's doesn't have a website but there's some information on Hegewisch.net. Na zdrowie!
"So drive on out to this vintage place, a throw back to the days when Mamie Eisenhower's bangs were still making headlines and when a real live band played at a doings (that's south side lingo for a Big Event)."
– Steve Y. on Yelp (February 6, 2007)
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