I’m a girl that loves flowers. There’s nothing original about that. I’m a girl that believes she had the best mother in the whole wide world. Again, not a new idea. But I’m also a girl that loves throwin’ down some cold hard cash and placing a bet on anything that lends itself to such antics. Hey, I’m from Chicago, whaddya expect? Blooming foliage, Mother’s Day, and the Kentucky Derby all seem to magically come together in May, and why not celebrate the rosy-colored season in a dingy old bar? Thus, I couldn’t resist focusing this month’s post on a fantastic little dive bar called Rose’s Lounge.
What is now the near northside of Chicago used to be what I fondly call, Deutschago. German immigrants populated the modern day neighborhoods of Old Town and Lincoln Park. They brought their trades with them and the three Bs – brewers, bakers, and butchers – established successful businesses throughout the Windy City. The spot where Rose’s stands today was once a butcher shop. In 1910, A. Falbisaner opened his meat market at 2656 N. Lincoln Ave. Meats and sausages were popular and Falbisaner’s stayed put for most of the early 20th Century. In 1935, the name officially changed to Seminary Meat Market (after nearby Seminary Ave.). Maybe the new owners didn’t know how to sell chops, because that place didn’t last too long. In the late 1940s a couple purchased the building, sightly remodeled the first floor commercial space, and opened the Pit Pour Lounge. The neighborhood clearly welcomed the new saloon because the Pit Pour was a a staple for the next few decades.
In 1962 a kind, hard-working woman by the name of Rose moved to Chicago from Macedonia. Looking for a better life, Rose laid roots in the Windy City and began working at a factory and rented a home in seedy Lincoln Park. Always wanting to work for herself and be her own boss, Rose saved money to one day purchase a home and a business. When the owners of the Pit Pour Lounge put the building up for sale in 1980, Rose snatched it up.
Rose’s Lounge is unlike any other bar for one reason…Rose. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting countless numbers of bar owners over the past couple of decades, but Rose takes the cake. First of all, Rose is at the bar everyday for every shift. She refuses to let anyone step in for her. It’s only when she’s tired, ill, or off seeing family does she willingly hand over the reins to someone else – and that someone else is usually her son. Second, Rose cares for her bar as if it’s an extension of her home. Wonder why all the random stuff is behind the bar? Because she treats that space as if it were her own living room. All of the items are gifts that people have given Rose throughout her lifetime. It’s not that she doesn’t have room for them in her house, it’s that she takes such pride in the things people have given her and she chooses to proudly exhibit them in her tavern. Her favorite item? The color photo blow-up of a beach in Hawaii. She dreams to one day get to what she envisions as paradise on earth. My kind of dream. Third, she cares about you. Knowing you can’t possibly drink on an empty stomach, snacks are always provided and you can always rely upon the fact that you never know what you’re going to get. Fourth, she cares about decor. Those streamers and Christmas lights have been up since about 1982. Why take ‘em down when you have to put ‘em right back up? And when I asked Rose about the concept of lounge and how it’s portrayed in her bar, she thought I was nuts. “What do you mean you don’t see the lounge?”. She was right, not one, but three lounges welcome you as you enter the bar. Made up of old tables, chairs, and couches (from her own personal collection or those of close acquaintances) there are three wonderful little social areas that you and your friends can claim as your own. Lounge indeed. And finally, Rose is humble. While protective of her bar, she’s absolutely grateful that you chose to spend your time and money in her saloon. Don’t be surprised to hear the words, “Thank you, I love you” as you exit the bar – she truly means it.
What I love about saloons like Rose’s Lounge is that they not only have Chicago stories to share, but they also have the ability to tell us tales about distant lands in distant times. Rose shared so many heartfelt accounts about being a young gal in Macedonia. She told me about her family, her environment, and her everyday. I considered myself lucky to get insight into something I never knew about. And getting that insight – that was great. But what I took the most to heart was her chronicle about making that difficult and courageous choice to come to the U.S., her journey to get here, and the struggle and hard work it took to make a successful life for herself. What Rose shared with me was her own personal tale of pursuing – and achieving - the great American dream. And learning about that tale, that, was golden.