Don’t know about you, but we could really use a drink right about now. So we’ve scoured the city to find our 21 favorite bars — from upscale jazz joints to dives where your beer bottle sticks to the table. We’ve also tossed in some personalities familiar with local nightlife and quotes we overheard while out on the town.
The South End is rife with friendly neighborhood bars, but the one with the biggest embrace has to be O’Dolly’s , located just north of Outer Loop between Fairdale and Valley Station (7800 Third Street Road) . Drop by on a Saturday afternoon and you might see a lively women’s Bunco group in the dining area while men at the bar boisterously compete on the Silver Strike 2007 electronic bowling machine. At this lounge and restaurant, signs outside say “Families Welcome” and “Home of the Big Al Burger,” and that says as much about the place as the Bud Light on draft and the Jägermeister chilling machine conveniently placed next to it.
Stop in on a Friday evening and you might see Big Al Kaiser himself, who opened the Cheers-like joint in 1991 with his now-deceased wife Dolly and sold it a year ago to Christi and Lee Polston. Christi says, “We were coming here every day for 10 years before we bought it.” And Kaiser, from his familiar position at the bar, adds, “I wouldn’t have sold it to just anybody.”
If there’s an extroverted bone in your body, you’ll have instant friends here — unless you order one of the pickled eggs from the large jar near the side door; the regulars scatter before the sulfurous smell escapes (but they all say the eggs are go-oo-od). Better to order the hand-pattied burger, soak in the jukebox’s country-heavy tunes and become part of one of the daily O’Dolly’s sitcom episodes.
Overheard: "Come back. We're here anytime." – O'Dollys customer
Photo: John Nation