A classic Chicago Old Style sign hangs alone over the entrance of Montrose Saloon, an unassuming corner bar. Three tables line the wall opposite of the bar, each with its own bus-terminal style color TV, and a regular clientele of older neighborhood guys fill half the stools at the large, bracket-shaped bar.
As soon as we settled in, the barmaid and patrons welcomed us, encouraging us to throw darts, shoot a game of stick or head outside to the beer garden. The outside space is twice the size of the bar, and with the picnic benches still lined up against the fence, it felt more like a drunk uncle's side yard in the sticks than anything urban. How many other Chicago beer gardens can offer horseshoes and bags with plenty of space for kicking back?
Every second Wednesday of the month, the Saloon hosts a bluegrass jam to build support for the annual bluegrass fundraiser held by community radio station WLUW in the peak of summer. Its hosts other musicians, too, and has a jukebox that defies classification: You can follow Prince's Kiss with a tune from Willie Nelson. The bluegrass, folksy vibe distinguishes it from the other Old-Style-type taverns.
Domestic bottles cost $3, and draft choices include PBR, Lite, Bass, Guinness and Old Style, of course. Don't expect food service: The sign out front makes it clear that this spot's all, and only, about the booze.
Centerstage Reviewer: Robert Duffer