My Bar Is Simon’s Tavern
5210 N. Clark St.
By Jeff Ruby
My wife and I used to sneak out to Simon’s after the kids were asleep. Every time we got inside and I saw the long wooden bar, the worn Naugahyde stools, the Viking tchotchkes, and the neon-lit portholes reminiscent of a 1930s ocean liner, I had the same thought: This is what a bar should look like. Dark and lived in, scruffy and indifferent at first glance, then fascinating and ultimately warm as the night wears on.
Simon’s is not the best bar in town—in fact, it’s probably not even the best bar in the vicinity of Clark and Foster. But when I tell a joke about a guy walking into a bar, Simon’s is what I imagine. It’s where I’ve reconnected with old friends, and where I’ve slammed shots with people I’d just met and would never see again. When I needed to cry in my beer, I cried at Simon’s. When I wanted to hoist a celebratory ale, Simon’s was where I did my hoisting. In short, Simon’s is mine.
A Prohibition-era speakeasy for Andersonville’s Swedish immigrants, Simon’s is said to be haunted. (I’ve never seen the ghost, though the bathroom is always cold.) The jukebox, which understands my mood and caters to it—with Jawbreaker and Johnny Cash, Parliament and the Pogues—makes the alcohol taste better, the camaraderie feel livelier. I don’t know the bartender’s name, nor does he know mine, but he keeps making me a great gimlet, and I keep tipping him. And as long as Simon’s triggers the kind of fuzzy euphoria that you experience between your second and third drinks, when the world outside melts away and everything feels all right, we’re both fine with this arrangement.