photo: Courtesy of Bridget Cicenia
After I secured the lease on my first Ukrainian Village apartment, my feisty landlord put a strict deadline on the deposit. To save time, he suggested I drop it off at the liquor store nearby. As I rambled on about leaving early in the morning, surely hours
before any sign of life at the store, my landlord interjected: "They'll be open." Thus, at 7 a.m. on a Monday, I headed toward the flashing, bulb-lined arrow pointing the heavens down to Rite Liquor; my inaugurate visit to a Chicago slashy, or liquor store-slash bar. Teetering outside, two sweaty, grizzled men marked the spot. I might have felt threatened by the cat-calls and half-hearted lunges if their motor skills hadn’t been so clearly impaired.
I've since befriended Rite Liquor's owner, Mike Liacopoulos, a Greek spitfire at five-feet, five-inches, who never tires of the one inside joke we have, even though it's a socially awkward one. Though the interior of this subterranean-like, near century-old Division mainstay manages to block out all rays of sun, there is laid-back, eternal Sunday-afternoon-on-the-South-Side vibe present. The assortment of off-putting regulars occupying the bar can usually be found silently surveying the flickering TV screen—breaking sporadically for the occasional patron harassment or sip of Old Style. Cutouts of beer girls grace the floor, and a decent pool table in back lets the nearby post office workers release a little steam off-the-clock. Rite also stocks a good selection of specialty beer, juice and even some of that fancy flavored water the kids are drinking.
Truth be told: Rite gets real gritty. Scene kids looking for slumming ops will find they've been a little sheltered by "dive" joints like L&L Tavern. Conversely, Rite regulars probably don't want most of you around, anyway; only adventurous drinkers should grab a stool. Fortunately, the slashy is a boon for commitment phobes; should the atmosphere be a little more frightening than enlightening, just grab a six-pack for the road and come back when it's light out. They'll be open.
Centerstage Reviewer: Libby Ramer