Belly up to the bar and listen to the stories the walls have to tell. The definition of an historic bar doesn’t always mean it's old; it needs to have a certain charm and cozy feeling that surrounds you when first entering.
Take the train to Flossmoor Station Restaurant and Brewery in the heart of historic Flossmoor. When the Illinois Central Railroad built the original building in 1906, there were only six homes in the community of Flossmoor. As time went by and eventually the old building was rendered obsolete as a train station, Flossmoor natives Dean and Carolyn Armstrong couldn’t sit back and watch the deterioration of the beloved historic building. The couple quickly decided to invest themselves into turning the building back into a charming establishment that the community could enjoy. By adding modern conveniences, but preserving as much of the authentic character as possible, Flossmoor Station Restaurant & Brewery soon became a reality thanks to the Armstrongs. Another historic building that now houses a brewery is Evil Horse Brewing Co. in downtown Crete. The revived 103-year-old Seggebruch Building was originally constructed to house William Seggebruch’s grain, flour and feed business, as well as Fred Rohe’s insurance office. It was also the home for dances, roller skating, theater, an auto repair shop, barbershop as well as a bowling alley. Now Evil Horse is brewing amazing craft beer and has plans for even more uses in the building’s future.
The oldest standing brewery in Illinois can be found right here in the Chicago Southland. The building that houses Thornton Distilling Co. in Thornton dates back to 1857. The original brick and limestone brewery and grain tower was built by the John S. Bielfeldt Brewing Company on the west bank of Thorn Creek. The artesian well that is still utilized today was already on the property, where a log cabin brewery had opened in 1836. The well is tapped 1,500 feet underground! During Prohibition, the Bielfeldt Brewing Company was sold to Carl Ebner, who used the building to sell “soda-pop” while secretly producing beer. After being raided by federal agents, Al Capone and his henchman Joe Saltis took control of the property. Today, the team at Thornton Distilling produces artisan spirits as part of their Dead Drop line. Whiskey, rum, vodka and other spirits are availble to enjoy in their barroom or bottles can be purchaesd to enjoy at home.
Another Chicago Southland location with mobster connections can be found in Peotone. The building that houses Edwin’s Roadhouse (also known as Capone’s Miami Gardens) was erected in the 1920s by Henry A. Baumann. The location was strategically chosen because of its proximity to Chicago, Chicago Heights, the Illinois-Indiana border and the Will-Kankakee County line. Early mobsters found safe harbor, food, entertainment and, of course, booze in this secret location. There are secret tunnels, escape routes, hidden parking and more secrets, all built for the most famous Prohibition-era gangster, Al Capone. Another infamous gangster used the building, known back then as Miami Gardens, to elude capture. After breaking out of jail in Crown Point, John Dillinger escaped to Peotone. Edwin’s Roadhouse offers tours by appointment and serves cold beer, wine and liquor. This bar is a must-visit for all history fans!
When traveling, it’s always wise to ask other bartenders and brewery owners where their favorite historic bar is located. The owner of Hailstorm Brewery, Chris Shiller, loves the historic bar and atmosphere at Ed & Joe’s Restaurant & Pizzeria in downtown Tinley Park. His favorite part is that the bartenders can only get behind the bar through the cooler. Plus, they always keep a few Hailstorm beers on tap, that pair well with good friends and stories. Right across the street is Teehan’s Tavern, which has been in the family since 1917. When it was originally bought, Tinley Park was a dusty farm town. While the downtown area has obviously changed since then, Teehan’s still has the building’s old-fashioned look and memories throughout. For a real homey/dive bar feel, mosey into Old Plank Trail Tavern in Historic Downtown Frankfort. Known to some of the regulars as “Gracies,” there is a room in the back that could easily be your great grandmother’s living room, with antique couches and chairs as well as little porcelain trinkets you would find in any grandmother’s house. There’s also a pool table and an outdoor patio to enjoy a killer Bloody Mary. If you think you’ve seen this place before, yet it’s only your first time here, you may have seen it in some movies and TV shows including Dolly Parton’s 1980’s movie “Straight Talk” and a handful of smaller projects and TV pilots.
Now grab a cold one as you enjoy the bartender’s stories at any one of these rare places seemingly forever frozen in time.