Reichert’s Tavern (05.18.12)
Note: The rating system used here pays homage to the quintessential neighborhood/factory bar – Nudo’s (Fred Nudo, proprietor). It was located near the Superior Match Company in the shadow of the Chicago Skyway, just west of Stony Island. On the back bar of Nudo’s stood a long-untouched bottle of Galliano, with enough dirt and dust on it to warrant a farm subsidy. On the bathroom sink, in lieu of hand soap, was a can of Comet. Hand-lettered posters served as wall décor and touted the virtues of the joint: “Freddy’s Meals on Wheels – Over XXX Served.” This culinary shout-out was no idle boast; for a couple three bucks per plate, Freddy served up some mean cuisine – meat loaf/MPs/green beans, hot dog cacciatore, and the like. And ever-present in the bar was a Swede named Ole, who seemed to inhabit the borderland between customer and employee. Nudo’s lasted 80 years; it died when Freddy died in 1991. By then it had become a relic of the Italian neighborhood that once existed there. Riposa in pace, Freddy – born 98 years ago today.
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Sneak a peek at the old Lake County maps shown below. They’re littered with the names of long-forgotten hamlets – from Indiana City up north to Lineville down south, with Clarke, Maynard, Klaasville, Tinkerville, and others in between. Many were little more than a crossroad or train stop that needed a name. Some (like Indiana City) existed more on paper than in fact, some (like Lineville) faded into oblivion and some (like Clarke) were swept into larger municipalities. But a few live on – like Brunswick, located west of Cedar Lake, west of U.S. 41, not far from the Illinois line (and a bit north of Klaasville).
German immigrants settled Brunswick some 150 years ago. There’s a lost-in-time, old school charm to it. Fact is, there’s an old school in it: a one-room schoolhouse now used as a community center. No longer there are the violin string factory and the Hudson Auto Dealership – the brick garage is still there, but the Hudson sign that hung outside sadly vanished not so long ago. If you’ve been to Brunswick, odds are you were just passing through on your way to/from Chicago via the back roads. If you’ve paused in Brunswick, odds are it was only for the few seconds it took to honor the 3-way stop sign at W. 135th and Calumet Avenue. But it’s worth a longer stop – for a cold one at Reichert’s Tavern, located at the SE corner of that intersection.
Reichert’s is clearly geared toward Brunswick “homies,” although not too many of them at once – a dozen patrons would leave SRO at the bar. Its décor is, shall we say, a bit eclectic. Mounted above the back bar is a deer head…with sleigh bells around its neck…and a cigarette in its mouth. Harley-Davidson flags serve as window coverings. A sign on one window sends a clear message to would-be trespassers: “Violators will be shot. Survivors will be shot again.” Judging by the pickup trucks parked outside, the onscreen stock car race, and the gun cleaning kit passed around the bar that night, the sign is more promise than threat. In the back room “dining area” (two tables, no food, but fresh pretzels and peanuts) stands a life-sized statute of Captain Morgan adorned with plastic Halloween spiders. On the walls are large USA and POW-MIA flags, a Viagra clock (slightly cocked, with a movement that seemed a bit stiff), and the de rigueur picture of dogs playing poker.
The choice of booze is limited – beer, wine and wine coolers. But the beer was good and cold, the price was right, and best of all, they skipped the pretense of providing a mug or glass with the bottle. Reichert’s has its regulars, sure, but auslanders get a genuine welcome and cordial service there, along with back-to-basics nutrition: beer, peanuts, and pretzels. Remember the 2009 Obama/Gates/Crowley “beer summit” in the Rose Garden? It was reported the summiteers were snacking on peanuts and pretzels while quaffing. Shudda held it at Reichert’s.
Ambiance: (Max 5)
If “you eat with your eyes” – as they like to say on The Food Network – do you also “drink with your eyes?” (No, I’m not talking about “beer goggles.”) Well, there’s plenty to eyeball in this joint. The roar of big engines on the telly is music to the ears of this crowd, so who needs a jukebox or CD player? And if you live in Brunswick, I’m sure it’s a place “where everybody knows your name.” Think of Reichert’s as “Cheers” for the pickup and biker crowd.
Booze: (Max 5)
Not much in the way of choice, true, but if it’s good enough for Obama, Gates and Crowley…
Food: (Max 5)