Being a dive bar is a serious business these days. Any bar that still holds a Schlitz relief on its facade wears it as a badge of honor. Old beer signs as your only sign? That's the mark of a cool bar (especially if said beer stopped marketing itself several decades ago).
While the Chipp Inn doesn't have a globe built into it, or a swinging faded sign for Hamm's or Special Export or the like, few could dispute its pedigree. More obvious evidence of its neighborhood bar status is simply the fact that it's the only business located on tiny Fry street - and it's on the exact opposite end of the block from Ashland.
Once inside, the Chipp Inn does indeed show off its signage – the walls are as fine a museum as any of vintage promotional lamps and signs. Beers run on the cheap – a cooler of bottles runs in the $2-$3 range, and cans of Hamm's can be had for $2. For those who want to secretly class it up, Matilda and Kalamazoo are on tap for about $5.
Come football season, the bar becomes an open party: cooks drop by to make up a free meal for the patrons, and Bears touchdowns give you an opportunity to learn the entirety of the Bears fight song (every other person of both genders already does by heart). An annual adult spelling bee tests your alcohol-addled word skills, and a chili cook-off promises a packed room of gourmet chilis and hungry critics.
It's a tight and friendly crew of locals at all times, so leave your sense of bar isolation at home and bring your wallet instead – they don't take credit cards or have an ATM.
Centerstage Reviewer: Dan Morgridge