Neighborhood bars: Clintonville

From the April 19, 2012 edition


590 Oakland Park Ave., Clintonville


India-Oak Grill is one of Clintonville’s most popular hangouts, and it epitomizes the nature of a neighborhood bar. It’s a quaint, friendly place where beers are cheap and it’s easy to strike up a conversation with the person next to you, even if you’ve never been there before.

There are a few booths in the middle, with a catty-corner bar and some tables scattered throughout the remainder of the room. Most of these seats fill up quickly when quitting time rolls around, as patrons mingle or catch up with the daily sports beat with “P.T.I.”

An ideal way to enjoy happy hour is with a Shiner Bock draft — India Oak is one of the only places in town with the excellent Texas brew on draft, which is immensely better than the bottled sort — and a bag of peanuts, preferably the “hot” variety.

If you’ve got a bigger appetite, India Oak has a wonderful Italian sub and other tasty sandwiches and burgers. Conspicuously absent — a pleasant surprise — are the obligatory deep-fried foods that dominate most bar menus. India-Oak’s food is hearty but fresh.

On Fridays and Saturdays live bands nuzzle into the corner stage for some rollicking entertainment, and the large patio out front is perfect for relaxing with friends.

O’Reilly’s Pub

2822 N. High St., Clintonville


The first thing you’ll notice about O’Reilly’s is the short bar. Hitting patrons just below the waist, the bar has no bar stools, just comfy swivel chairs. Taking a seat, you’ll immediately become aware of the intimate nature of the spot.

Despite its small size, O’Reilly’s is a popular place for a wide variety of Clintonville denizens. Everyone from revelers to quiet, bookish types settle in for a couple drinks.

O’Reilly’s also serves up some of the neighborhood’s best pub grub. Favorites include the massive chicken wings and the burgers. If you like spicy foods, try the Pepper burger or the nuclear Scott’s Style wings.

Bob’s Bar

4961 N. High St., Clintonville


“The Cultural Hub of the Midwest” is the moniker Bob’s Bar has bestowed upon itself, but I like to refer to it as “the best place to drink beer.”

Serving more than 200 beers — including three dozen on tap and one cask — Bob’s has any beer you could ever imagine and many you’ve probably never heard of. If you need help deciding which beer is for you, just ask the bartenders, who are some of the most knowledgeable beer drinkers in town.

Become a hardcore aficionado by completing the World Tour; drinking 130 beers (with no time limit) is rewarded with a limited-edition T-shirt and a personalized 25 oz. mug that you can refill — for life — for the price of a pint.

Crest Tavern

397 Crestview Rd., Clintonville


Many of you have probably driven down Indianola Avenue and passed Crest Tavern without giving it much thought.

The Crest is one of the city’s best dive bars, with a strong beer selection featuring a number of options from local breweries, and its devoted regulars range from burly blue-collar types to fashion-savvy hipsters and neighborhood bohemians.

The Crest’s front room is a simple bar area where customs gather for some jovial drinking, and in the back there’s an excellent dart room. Outside is a small patio that fills up quickly, especially when it’s warm out.