You'd think a spot offering $6 pitchers of PBR would be overrun with hipster mafia, but Little Joe's, open since 1946, is a lot more Tony Soprano than Rivers Cuomo. Decked out with the requisite vinyl stools, green pendant lamps, religious iconography and wood laminate paneling, the decor is "Italian family basement." There's a #1 Cubs fan license plate hanging over the kitchen entrance, which is enclosed by a set of saloon style swinging doors. At any moment, you expect a Spaghetti-Western, cigar-chomping villain to come out with all guns blazing.
Little Joe Assenato (Joe's father use to run the place) is the Italian Ted Danson. He's quick to dole out a greeting, never forgets a face, and always knows your name. Sausage-fingered blue-collar types clutch amber bottles, and a smattering of UIC students rouse mischief alongside early-bird diners and families from the neighborhood.
The bar doubles as a restaurant, serving up classic fare like linguini and clams, but most folks come for the house-made Italian sausage, a spicy concoction studded with fennel and smothered in green pepper and onion. No entree, which includes soup or salad and bread, tops $20.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Michael Nagrant