Jimmy's Woodlawn Tap welcomes all comers, save for those who dare set a pint glass onto the bar without a coaster. Doing so prompted a bartender to come over, lift up the beer and place it on the wood-preserving pedestal. "Thatís much better," he said. It was a move that could have given off an air of pomposity, but at Jimmy's it told you that as long as you respect the place, you're in. This Hyde Park pub has been a haunt for locals and University of Chicago students since 1948, and it houses a motley crew indeed. It's the sort of place where you'll see a 50-something clad in denim fist-pound a 20-something with an afro, listen to tales of the latest Facebook drama or sit next to a weary Englishman fresh off the plane.
The term "joint" was invented for places like Jimmy's (you can almost sense it scoffing at the Starbucks that occupies the corner space next door). The outside is marked by three black placards with white capital letters that read "Woodlawn Tap" (that's the official name, by the by, but to locals, it's Jimmy's, after late owner Jimmy Wilson). No garish Wrigleyville signs here.
Beer advertisements and the occasional piece of odd paraphernalia (a box, for example, of what appeared to be "Barf" brand laundry detergent) dot the walls. Too much of this, and the place would slip into careless dive territory, or worse, look like a quasi-ironic pretender. But Jimmy's has been doing this too long to be anything but authentic (besides, any bar that used to host writer Dylan Thomas on a regular basis must know what it's doing).
With 10 taps (pints start at $2.50) and a full bar, Jimmy's is well-equipped to provide respite from a grueling day of work or class. The menu includes simple fare, but it's filling, tasty and refreshingly cheap, with hamburgers for $2.25, massive plates of fries for $4 and Reubens for $5. The only plastic Jimmy's wants to see is an ID, but there's an ATM for the cash-strapped.
TVs ring the main sitting room, and somewhat out-of-place modern rock pumps out of the jukebox. The front section can be pretty loud, so if you're trying to study or have a quiet conversation, head to one of the three back rooms. They won't get service until 9 p.m., but you can walk back to the front to get food or libations. The third room features live jazz on Sunday afternoons and evenings.
Centerstage Reviewer: Kent Green