When Lithuanian immigrant John Badauskas, the original owner of Bernice’s Tavern, passed away 21 years ago, his son Steve put in his two weeks’ notice at his engineering job and returned to man the bar alongside his mother, Bernice. Those first years without John were rough — with only a couple of steady regulars, it seemed logical to shut the place down — but Steve pushed to make the bar a neighborhood haven for music and art. In the past 20 years, he’s introduced weekly movie nights, regular jazz acts and open mics, and arguably the most popular event, Stingo, a Wednesday night bingo game Steve has hosted for 14 years where contestants win goofy prizes of his choice, from liquor-branded swag to his own personal knickknacks. While the crowd has changed over the years to reflect the eclectic residents of a slowly gentrifying neighborhood, you can still spot touches of the family’s heritage that hark back to the days when the tavern’s patrons were almost all Lithuanians. Check out the European decor while sipping on a Svyturys.
Address: 3238 S. Halsted St.
Year opened: 1965
Drink of choice:A Svyturys beer and a shot of Jameson
Clientele: Born-and-raised South Siders, a handful of hipster UIC and SAIC students, and an eclectic mix of Bridgeport neighbors
Song you might hear: “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” by the Temptations