Food & Dining - chicagotribune.com: Burgers, fries, beer — and a slice of history

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Food & Dining - chicagotribune.com
Headlines from chicagotribune.com

Burgers, fries, beer — and a slice of history
30 Jun 2011, 3:34 pm

It's a drizzly weeknight in late May, and the plastic chairs in the beer garden of Moody's Pub are empty and threatening to bolt with each gust of wind. Inside, the bar is dark and cozy and warmed by the smell of charcoal-grilled burgers. The Cubs are on TV — losing already in the first inning — but no one's paying attention. A crowd of young men sit at a long table and cackle over pitchers of beer. Nearby, a senior citizen struggles to hear his cellphone, which is pressed to his ear and set to speakerphone. In the corner booth, a handful of people gather, decorating the table with a huge flower arrangement; moments later, a woman walks into the bar and is welcomed with a subdued chorus of "surprise!"

Servers make the rounds, fists clutching a half-dozen mugs at a time, arms stacked with as many as four baskets of the pub's beloved burgers and fresh-cut french fries. It's a sleepy night, and the vibe is something like a Sunday night before a busy school week.

And indeed, busy days would come for Moody's Pub: The following week, the restaurant's sprawling, two-level beer garden draws the summer's first crowds. On sunny afternoons and balmy evenings, the 60-table space becomes Edgewater's de facto back porch. As "helicopters" flutter from silver maple trees shading the garden, children slurp Shirley Temples while their parents chat over sangria. Often, grandma and grandpa round out the table.

"We're going on our third generation of regular customers," said Glen Bernoff, who has worked at Moody's Pub for 34 years.

"We have two sets of regulars: Ones in the summertime who like to sit outside, and ones in the wintertime who like to sit inside and eat peanuts."

Moody's Pub has been a neighborhood fixture since owner John Kahoun built the building at 5910 N. Broadway in 1969. Moody's opened in 1959 at North Avenue and Wells Street, said John "Jake" Kahoun Jr., John Kahoun's son who now runs the pub. It moved to a second location on Larrabee Street, but it burned down, so John Kahoun enlisted a buddy from college who was an architect to design a building.

The new Moody's Pub was built on an empty lot along a strip of Broadway known at the time for auto dealerships. Jake Kahoun said his dad — now 78 and having difficulty with his memory — loves arches. As a result, the facade is dominated by an arch with two stories of rounded bay windows.

Once the building was up, John Kahoun set to work. He built the beer garden, constructing brick walls to house shade trees as well as miniature ponds that once were home to goldfish. Inside, he built the fireplaces, booths and bar. Jake Kahoun said his dad salvaged a fireplace from a downtown hotel — complete with a mirror perched atop a carved mantelpiece — and used it to frame bottles of liquor behind the bar.

Bits of Kahoun family memorabilia fill the walls of Moody's Pub: A portrait of Jake Kahoun's "great-great Moodys"—relatives from his paternal grandmother's side of the family — hangs over the center of the bar. A cow's skull from the Moody's family farm in McGregor, Iowa, catches the orange glow from the grill when the flames flare up.

Farther down the wall hang a pick and ax from a lumber mill on Flambeau Lake, in northern Wisconsin, where his dad worked during high school. And then there is the seashell from his parents' honeymoon in Cape Canaveral, Fla. And the Nazi helmet and fencing mask customers brought in when the bar was in Old Town.

Patches of stained glass glow along the walls facing the bar. Jake Kahoun points out the pane his father made — it features a thin red cross — and says the rest were made by a family friend. He also points out the pictures his aunt painted — one of his sister, another of his mother while she was pregnant — but it's so dark he has to pull out a flashlight to show them off.

"I asked my dad once, 'Why don't you show the art better?'" Jake Kahoun said. "And he said, 'It's not really art. It's just taking up wall space.'"

ctc-dining@tribune.com

Moody's Pub

5910 N. Broadway 773-275-2696

moodyspub.com

Open: 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday, and noon to 1 a.m. Sunday.

Established: in 1959; moved to current location in 1969

Known for: burgers, french fries, reasonably priced drinks, summertime patio, wintertime fireplaces

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