"Ain't got laid in a month of Sundays," sings a balding man in a black track suit as he pulls back his arm and gingerly hits a ping pong ball, causing it to land on his opponent's side with a slight yet impossible-to-return spin. His partner, obviously nervous and also in a track suit, misses the ball. For the most part, the crowd—a group of fashionably dressed twentysomethings—just keeps on sipping $2.50 PBRs and $4 well drinks in plastic cups. But one lanky fellow wearing clashing neon colors and ripped jeans launches up and crosses off a name from the chalkboard to claim his turn with the worn paddle.
Walking into this scene, you might think you stepped into a suburban rec-room. Scraped wooden floors, two back-to-back ping pong tables, bright awkward lighting and a cheap-o boom box with stacks of mistreated CDs only further confirm the adolescent yet charming tendencies of both the bar and its patrons.
The Happy Village makes no attempt at branding itself; it's like a home, revealing to midnight meddlers all of its growing pains—the brown velvet psychedelic wallpaper and the crystal chandeliers. In the green and white front room where the tiny bar sits, whirring fans highlight the absence of a proper air circulation system. A fantastic beer garden, with a pond, wooden arches draped with greenery and dowdy cement angel statues, stays open until the neighbors start to complain.
All these estranged elements means that Happy Village portends many things to many people. To the hipster class of Ukrainian Village it's a cheap date, where you know you won't have to shout to talk and that the tamale man will always show up to hawk his homemade fare. To the guys with potbellies and Ditka glasses settled into the bar watching the Cubs, it's a place where the beer will always cost just a couple bucks. And to the ping pong enthusiasts across the city, it's a battleground!
Centerstage Reviewer: Maude Standish