Hipsters looking for a stiff drink away from the nouveau Wicker Park scene will love Zakopane, a working-class Polish bar named after a popular vacation spot in Southern Poland. Though it may appear out of place on this ever-evolving stretch of Division Street, the tavern is a reminder of the days when the area was known as "Polish Broadway."
Zakopane's decor is the epitome of no-frills with its beige masonite countertop bar and matching floors, which conjure memories of sterile grade-school classrooms. The view from the black vinyl-covered barstools is certainly unique. Snow-tipped pine garlands laced with holiday lights frame bottles of booze behind the bar. Toss one back while watching the TV mounted in the corner—or just pretend to—and people-watch via diamond-shaped mirrors made for a bedroom ceiling.
Wood-paneled walls showcase beer logo "art," and the back of the bar has a hardwood floor with tables and chairs that can easily be pushed aside for dance parties. Tunes are supplied by a jukebox loaded with Polish rap and pop tunes, as well as Elvis hits.
Drinks come cheap ($3.50-$4.50), from Zywiec beers to cocktails mixed with Wisniowka (a cherry vodka). Food is non-existent unless you consider Frito-Lay chips a meal, so don't come hungry. Patrons at Zakopane are serious about drinking and so is the bartender. She knocked back four shots in a half-hour.
Centerstage Reviewer: Jen Hazen