Earlier this year, Marble and Crown Tap Room, two beloved dive bars in adjacent northwest-side neighborhoods, closed their doors to loyal customers to make improvements that would help them better fulfill the desires of the area’s changing demographics. Change scares people, especially when it threatens to turn their corner watering hole into another Logan Square madhouse packed with recent college grads finding themselves through craft cocktails and creative facial hair.
Both bars quietly reopened last week—the former rebranded as Best Intentions—and took somewhat different approaches to raising their profiles without totally alienating regulars who just want a comfortable place to catch a buzz.
Marble shuttered in February after being purchased last year by brothers and first-time bar owners Calvin and Christopher Marty, who wanted to execute a concept more elaborate than having marbles everywhere, which doesn’t really count as a concept. The brothers Marty anticipated reopening in a couple months. Five months later, it’s no wonder the makeover took longer; the space that’s become Best Intentions is barely recognizable.
I walked into its wood-paneled confines—seriously, everything but the bartender is covered in faux wood—at around 7 PM last Friday and was pleasantly surprised to find open swivel seats at the bar as well as stools at the counter that runs along the west wall. A vintage jukebox full of 45s occupies the rear where the bar used to be, and above the new bar on the east wall hangs one of those old-school signs with a list of old-school cocktails and their prices.
There’s vintage this and that everywhere; even the coasters look like they were salvaged from some late-70s bar supply warehouse. It’s an atmosphere carefully crafted to look sort of shabby, like Rose’s Lounge in Lakeview or your grandpa’s basement, except that your grandpa doesn’t know from cachaca.
On that same Friday night, I headed up Kimball to the corner of Milwaukee and Diversey to find Crown Tap more crowded than I’ve ever seen it. (Full disclosure: I’m kind of a regular and I’m relieved they’ve reopened.) This latest round of renovations, for which the bar was closed since May, is actually its second since the folks who own neighboring Dante’s Pizzeria and the Rocking Horse took over in 2014. (On the one occasion I visited prior to the ownership change a man fell off of his bar stool onto me and started screaming “Fuck you! Call my wife!”)
Suffice it to say, Crown had already undergone some change, but this time they’ve added a patio, larger windows, and another stall in the ladies’ room. The interior design has no discernible theme—I can’t even recall if there was anything hanging on the walls—it’s just nicer. It’s sleek. There’s lots of dark wood. It looks grown-up but not stuffy. Proof: you can still pay three bucks to roll the “hot dice” for a shitty shot.