Since the Hopleaf has become more popular than Jesus, Andersonvillians often have to venture elsewhere for brews, views and unoccupied barstools. Cafe Bong, with its one dimly lit Miller sign and name that still makes me giggle like a teenager every time I say it, was my go-to bar on such occasions, partially because of the karaoke mic thrust upon me before I even sat down, along with an OB (the beer, not the tampon) and a styrofoam plate of peanuts. Two plasma screens showed National Geographic clips of snow-capped mountains and elk mating rituals while I sang, often to songs bearing hilarious lyrical typos like "Living on a Player" and "You Otter Know." A faint smell of moth balls, coy Marilyn Monroe posters and mismatched glasses from the clearance rack of Pottery Barn all added to the Bong's dive-y mystique. This is not the kind of bar you'd bring home to mom and dad, but it's also one you don't easily forget.
Cafe Bong has recently changed management, and while it's slightly less unnerving not to drink vodka out of a coffee mug, the Bong has lost some of its bad-assedness in the switch. Karaoke prevails but gone is the multi-language songbook including "A Gay Ranchero" by Various and "Achy Breaky Heart" in Spanish. You can still sing from anywhere in the bar—at your stool, on the miniature pool table, even in the bathroom—thanks to the 50-foot-long cord. New additions include board games, a fruity house shot that has yet to be named, a jukebox that actually works and the requisite Cubs-Sox paraphernalia that adorns most Chicago bars. As a local patron put it, "You can't go wrong at the Bong." Bong, tee hee.
Centerstage Reviewer: Anna Pulley