Jun 24, 2014

Chet's Corner Bar, where the beer flows on but the shuffleboard table might have had one too many

Chet's: The new owner has found his calling
The hairy guy's report:

Beer has been a part of life at the corner of Madison and 21st since at least 1893, according to city directories -- presumably with a break for Prohibition, though you just never know.

In all those years, the bar at 1001 S. Madison has operated under a slew of names and owners. There was Jacob Bukowski in the mid-1890s and Steph Klass in 1935. It was the Madison Tavern in the late 1930s, Syring's Bar through the 1950s, Rich's Bar in 1970, Sam's Lounge in 1980 and then the Madison Pub through 2012. 

And after getting an outside paint job and a spiffed-up interior, the bar reopened late last year as Chet's Corner Bar.

The guy who bought it says he had no experience bartending or running a bar. Six months in, it's a fair time to ask: How's that working out?

"I'm getting better every day," says Matt Czerwinski, a South End guy with a long history to uphold and an engaging personality to pull it off. "The patrons make me successful," he says.

Matt admits to still learning the trade. So when Harry asked for a Manhattan, Matt left it to
Owner Matt Czerwinski
his ponytailed uncle Tom to make it. Tom (also a Czerwinski), taking the job seriously, even put on his glasses.

And quite the Manhattan it was: Maker's Mark, three cherries, complete with Angostura bitters, $3.75. (In the interest of full disclosure, comrade Doc claims he conspired to make sure everything was on hand before Harry showed up. But it was a great drink; you can lead bartenders to a bottle of bitters but you can't make them know what to do with it.)

Matt says bartenders from other bars have been showing up weekly and give him ideas. And he says he's getting good at mixed drinks.

Meanwhile, a half-dozen or so folks were drinking beers, talking, laughing and shouting out the answers to "Jeopardy" on afternoon TV. Nighttime brings out a younger crowd that leans to craft beer and sweet drinks, says Matt: "You gotta be confident at night."

For the rest of us, there's a dartboard, a pool table and a shuffleboard table (which lists away from the wall, making for some creative arcing shots whether you want them or not. Matt said he's had the table balanced twice before but that it keeps wanting to lean). And there's a karaoke machine.

The walls have neatly-framed beer signs, and the backbar is carefully arranged with the top shelf
The daily specials
liquor on the top shelf, the middle-range stuff on the middle shelf and the cheap stuff (think peach schnapps and Crystal Palace gin) on the bottom.

Beer prices can get complicated. On draft are Bud and Bud Light ($1 shells, $1.50 pints), Killian's ($1.25 shell, $2.50 pint), Redd's and Arcadia ($2 shell, $3 pint). Some cans and bottles are $1. And a can of Hamm's is 75 cents, maybe the cheapest bar beer in town. Those are the daytime prices; the prices go up 25 cents after 6 p.m. Various bottled craft beers are also available.

The only food, so far, is the garden assortment of bagged snacks. Matt says he plans to add other food in the near future. Hours are 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. (except Sunday, when it opens at noon).

So who's Chet, you're probably wondering. He was Matt's father -- actually named Mike but nicknamed Chet -- who died not long ago. Chet would be happy to see his namesake bar, we're sure.

See Doc's report on Chet's Corner Bar: We turn a corner and face home, with fond memories of Baldo and Diogenes

  The particulars:
  Chet's Corner Bar
  1001 S. Madison

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