Great Scot: St. Andrew’s Inn, right across the street from the Broadway Armory
It’s always smart to transition any cultural experience into postculture drinking as seamlessly as possible. Still, I thought The Creative Director was pulling my leg when, after we saw the National Theatre of Scotland’s heart-in-your-throat production of Black Watch at the Broadway Armory on Wednesday night, he said, “Let’s go get a beer at a place called St. Andrew’s.”
“Ha! I get it. Like, St. Andrews, Scotland, right? Yeah, that would be something,” I said, digging for my phone so I could research actual bars in the neighborhood. Then, a red awning across the street caught my eye. “Oh. There it is. St. Andrew’s Inn.”
Most of our fellow theatregoers were crossing over to Moody’s Pub, of the famed beer garden and burgers—a great spot, to be sure—but for a bar we just happened to stumble upon, St. Andrew’s was a gem. Here’s what sold us on the place, which first opened as Edinburgh Castle in 1955 and changed names in 1970 (the current owner, Julius Lamar, has been there since 2004):
1. The décor—a polished square bar in the middle of a cozy room, with a plastic onion vine here, decorative-plates-as-wall-hangings there—is neither chic nor purposefully anything, a welcome relief when, pretty much every day, some young nightlife impresario tells you the wide-eyed tale of how his bar counter was “reclaimed” from a barn in Wisconsin.
2. One of those hulking digital jukeboxes was glowing away near the front of the room, but no one was feeding it. Instead, the Def Leppard album Hysteria was playing from start to finish at an almost too low—but much better than blaring—volume.
3. A line on the menu reads, “99 bottles of beer on the wall.” We didn’t count, but that looked about right.
Inside St. Andrew’s (see those bottles in the upper-left corner?)
Inspired by a nearby stranger, I ordered a Belhaven Scottish Ale ($6.50), TCD got a Rogue Dead Guy Ale ($6), and we settled in to discuss the play. I had been nervous beforehand due to warnings of loud explosions and strong language—you’ve never heard the F word until you’ve heard Scottish soldiers get creative—but we were both enthralled, and I kept hoping the cast would walk through the door so we could talk bagpipes and kilts and whether or not they sustain a lot of bruises during stage combat.
After an order of nachos, TCD began to nod off a little, so I tried to perk him up with stories from the day. I told him about my friend who’s leaving New York and throwing away a new IKEA bed because no one will buy it on Craigslist (bedbug phobia). I relayed the tale of a dramatic IM exchange with my sister, which ended when she pissily signed off. I was considering telling him about how my dad sent me a link to another one of those dogs-eating-with-silverware-like-humans videos on YouTube, but instead, the bartender came over to ask how we were doing.
“Have the guys from the play been hanging out here at all?” I asked.
“They were in late on Sunday, about six of them with strong accents,” he said. “We talked Scottish beers and whiskeys. They said they’ll be back.”
“Oh, yeah? What did they have to say about American whiskies?” I wondered, guessing the answer. (You know what they say: If it’s not Scottish . . ..)
“American whiskey? They said it’s crap.”
Disagree? Drop by St. Andrew’s Inn some night after the show—Black Watch runs through April 10—and debate with the mates yourself.
A question mark no more: Club 162 gets its new sign
P.S. NAME-THAT-BAR UPDATE: It’s opening day at Wrigley, and amid all the action around the field this morning, I spotted workmen installing a sign at the bar formerly known as Benchwarmers. What used to read “? Tavern,” a nod to the spot’s name-this-bar contest, now reads “Club 162.” I called the bar’s manager, Mike Roberts, to get the story.
“Club 162 came from one of the entries in our ESPN contest, but I don’t have the name of the winner in front of me,” he said, sounding wired for what’s bound to be a hectic day in baseball land. “Basically, there are 162 ballgames in a year,” he explained, adding that, in some promo materials, they’ll drop the “L” in “club,” so the name will read “Cub 162.” “We’re adamant Cubs fans and we want to be the best Cubs bar we can be. But the rest of the year, we’re a club.”
Stop by today (3551 N. Sheffield Ave.; 773-327-7800) to see a live broadcast of the 1:20 p.m. game against the Pirates and drink $5 Heineken.