Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Visit to Miller's Pub

Miller's Pub is the sort of place that reminds me of the origins of Chicago's Loop area, when the sidewalks being the train tracks were gritty and full of characters. Things have been scrubbed pretty clean in recent decades, matching the homogeneity that robbed midtown New York of much of its flavor. But Miller's Pub remains.

This cavernous, wood-lined bar was founded in 1935 on S. Wabash by the Miller brothers. It was purchased by another set of brother—Pete, Nick and Jimmy Gallios—in 1950, and remains in that family. According to legend, they didn't have the money needed to change the sign, so they left it as is. The bar moved to a different location on Wabash, also owned by the Gallios, in 1989, when the original location was renovated "to seat cars instead of people." The children of the original brothers not work the bar. (I think the current space must have had a history before the Gallios family got ahold of it. It's rather old looking and stained glass in the vestibule reads "Wabash Inn.")

The cocktail menu is a treat. It feature not only an Old Fashioned (with muddled fruit) but a Wisconsin Old Fashioned (brandy instead of whiskey). And the lengthy beer list has kept up with the times, including local craft breweries Goose Island and Metropolitan.

But the reason I went in was the sign that said "Try a Tom & Jerry. A Miller's Tradition." The Midwest is a place where the Tom & Jerry never lost it's status of a harbinger of the holidays. I don't know, but I'm guessing they've been dolling them out every December for half a century or more.

I stepped right up to the long and crowded bar and ordered my Tom & Jerry. The creamy liquid was scooped out of a traditional bowl sitting right on the back bar, ladled into a coffee mug, topped with nutmeg and served with two red straws. $9. There was no lack of brandy in the drink, and it was hot and warming. A fine, fresh Tom & Jerry.

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