Over the past few years, strollers and dogs have replaced the gangs that used to hang out on the street corners of Roscoe Village. Yet the Village Tap
—and bartender John Talley—remain.
Often cited for its award-winning, year-round beer garden, the bar resides in a space with an alcoholic history that dates back to the 1930s. The atmosphere changes depending on the night or who's behind the bar, but the warm wood and exposed brick give patrons a feeling of coming home.
Like the bar, Talley's own history is closely tied to the neighborhood. With the exception of a yearlong motorcycle trek down to South America, he's worked at the Village Tap for the last 13 years, not too far from where his father and grandfather grew up.
"It afforded me to go to school, to buy my own place, to take off for a year, all that kind of stuff," he says. "In any job, that's all you're looking for."
Best drink in the house:
Probably the bloody marys. People come in and ask for that on Saturdays and Sundays, for sure. Some people like to put meats and cheeses into it, but I don't do any of that. I make my own mix [and] it's more in the ratios. I think bloody marys should be spicy, but I don't make it super spicy right away. It should have a sweet spice. Horseradish, Tabasco, steak sauce, pepper, that's about it. I have it down to how many shakes of each I put in the mix.
Patrons might score a free drink if:
[They don't] ask for one. Or says it's their birthday right off the bat. Anybody that's very nice and polite and tips well the first couple of times, that'll get you a free drink.
Little known fact about this joint:
It's all in what it used to be, not what it is anymore. The whole neighborhood was rough, even when I came here. I used to see kids on their bikes doing 'bike-bys,' getting shot. It wasn't that long ago. When I first started here, we used to have little Pac-Man/Asteroid tabletops. Every tabletop was a video game. There used to be a bowling machine against the wall, we used to have pinball...[and] an old English phone booth that never worked.
For good grub before or after a shift, you hit up:
I'm so cheap, I usually just get my shift meal here before I start. I'm a sucker for the burger or I'll usually get the special. Most of the recipes come up from Jak's Tap. Wednesdays, I always get the pork chop. Today [Sunday] I didn't eat the brisket. I had a BLT because someone had one back there and it looked good. I'm friends with a lot of people in the neighborhood so I'll go over to Volo sometimes.
When you're not boozing here, you prefer to patronize:
I'll go to Four Moon. Lately, because I moved to Uptown, I'll go up to Holiday Club because I know all the people there. I don't go to the 4 o'clock bars anymore. People say 'What are you doing after work?' I'm sitting right here at the end of the bar, I'm having my two shift drinks, and then I'm calling a cab and going home.
I've been doing the microbrew thing for so long, I got burnt out on it. I'll taste everything, but I can't drink all the hoppy ales or it'll stick in my mouth the whole night. So I'll drink Guinness or a stout or a porter or Sprecher Black.
Another bartender/owner we should know is:
Sparky at Four Moon Tavern. He's been in the neighborhood forever. He got grandfathered in at Four Moon. When they sold that place—it used to be Kokopelli—one of the stipulations was 'you gotta keep this bartender.' He can make anything, he's a good listener and talker. He gives sage advice. He has the persona of a professional bartender, but he's also surly and drinks a lot while he works. So he's what you would expect from a bartender.