The Corner Bar

Chicago, Illinois

Johnnie's Tavern - Columbus Dive Bar - Exterior

In Short

The Corner Bar in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood has seen some renovation over the years, making it more a friendly corner spot than a true dive bar. That being said, original coolers and an amazing art deco-style bar show off the history of a space that once operated as an ice cream parlor as a front for a Prohibition-era speakeasy.

Field Rating

7

out of 10

Fresh coat of paint but with a mix of vintage touches.

Field Note

Marketing doesn’t get a whole lot more straightforward than a Chicago dive bar in the city’s Bucktown neighborhood naming itself The Corner Bar. True to name, the bar sits on a largely residential street corner, serving as a quintessential neighborhood collection point, in this case all the more Chicago appropriate thanks to the Old Style sign above the door. The bar’s unofficial but probably official motto is “Corner Bar Loves You,” a fitting moniker for a dive bar clearly built as a welcoming, no-frills, pet-friendly spot nestled into its surroundings.

As with many Chicago dive bars, the roots of The Corner Bar stretch back to Prohibition with some suggestion that the space was operated as an ice cream parlor as a front for a speakeasy. Post-Prohibition, the location operated as a confectionary at one point before transitioning into the full-time tavern business sometime around the 1950s. After bouncing around between names including HappyDaze most recently, the site’s current incarnation traces back to its opening in 2002 under The Corner Bar as its name, sold along the way to current owner Perry Anthius in 2018.

The building is about as classic Chicago as it gets, brick building on a street corner with a pair of windows filled with beer sign neon.

The building is about as classic Chicago as it gets, brick building on a street corner with a pair of windows filled with beer sign neon. Glass opaque blocks sit on either side of the front door, illuminated to create a little character underneath the Old Style sign that dominates the corner. Rather than inscribe said Old Style sign with the name of the bar as so many other dive bars do, The Corner Pub keeps it simple, instead displaying “Cold Beer” in all caps underneath the Old Style logo. Chalkboards face the street with rotating messages and artwork that on this reviewer’s visit included “Free Smiles” and some Corner Bar artwork in the style of the Old Style brand.

A level of polish certainly exists within The Corner Bar, the historical space given a bit of a makeover that makes it feel more like a contemporary pub than a blast from the past. Still, the coolers are reportedly original to the space, evidence that the bones and soul remain intact despite the facelift that has been applied to the interior space over the years. String lights line almost every surface within The Corner Bar, providing that signature dive bar glow. Updated brick surfaces throughout demonstrate some of the polish brought to the interior.

The bar itself is impressive, an art deco-style piece that sits toward the front of the bar’s main room, warm lighting bouncing off of faded wood to add to the dive bar ambiance of the space. As with any great dive bar, a bit of taxidermy can be found here in the form of what looks to be a boar head in a Christmas stocking. Rather than a single tower of liquor bottles, the selections are distributed throughout the bar as it twists and turns in places, creating more the appearance of a counter than an overly structured bar area.

The overall effect is one of choiceful dive bar-style art mixed with some more original, faded pieces, the story of the space in a microcosm.

Decorations vary between fresh artwork and old pieces, all of it distributed pretty uniformly throughout the space. There is, of course, a leg lamp (it’s a major award) to be found atop the bar’s original coolers. Chicago Bears artwork is well represented, including a modern-style Mike Ditka rendition that sits in stark contrast to some of the bar’s other elements like a Scoopy Doo figure atop the bar and a mounted still from Planes, Trains and Automobiles. The overall effect is one of choiceful dive bar-style art mixed with some more original, faded pieces, the story of the space in a microcosm where the traditional has been augmented.

The Corner Bar is about as classic a corner pub as Chicago provides, albeit one that has seen just enough renovation to likely elevate it out of true dive bar status into something more like an unassuming neighborhood haunt. With a friendly vibe, a warm atmosphere, a beautiful bar and a great location, The Corner Bar is a perfectly-named slice of Chicago that serves its purpose well in a building with deep, local roots.

Photos

The Basics

2224 N Leavitt St
Chicago, IL 60647

Classification:
Neighborhood Bar

Connect

 
  

Further Reading

Block Club Chicago
Imbibe Magazine

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