An American Abroad

The Cove: Exemplar of a Neighborhood Bar

I’m particular about my bars. A good bar should be unpretentious. Welcoming. Not too loud but not too quiet. Old. Diverse in its clientele. A place where you can chat with strangers or sit quietly and read without being disturbed.

There aren’t very many places that meet all those criteria — which is one reason why I am not a big bar-goer. But there is such a place in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. It’s called The Cove. It’s located at 1750 E. 55th Street. And it’s got a great old neon sign out front.

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Inside, it’s got a classic long-rectangle layout, with a venerable dark wood bar running down one of the long walls.

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There’s another room of the same dimensions that’s accessible from the far end of the barroom. This gives The Cove room to seat a lot more people but doesn’t spoil the cozy feel of the bar itself. The other room has a mural that depicts local heroes (though the portrait of Barack Obama is almost unrecognizable).

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On the three nights I was there, the clientele seemed to be a mixture of neighborhood folks, U. Chicago grad students, down-dressed professionals and working-class Joes, men and women, old and young. Most bars I’ve been in are 90% one ethnic group or another. Not so at The Cove, where the mix over the nights I was there was about 50/50 black and white. There was an overall friendly, relaxed, welcoming feel to the place.

By the time I last left, it was dark out, the NBA finals had just concluded with a Warriors victory, and it was time for me to go. I took one last pic of the cool vintage neon sign and vowed to return when I could.

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  1. I’m not a big bar goer either, I like to sit on a patio on a nice evening or have a nice drink with dinner but bars are often too much trouble. This place looks great, though. I will have to seek it out next time I’m in Chicago!

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