The seed of this year’s Bar Issue was a deceptively simple question: Who the hell is Danny, anyway?
All sorts of improbable tales have been uttered by booze-loosened lips about the unseen namesake of Danny’s Tavern, that unlikely drinking destination nestled in a two-flat on a largely residential Bucktown street. Perhaps the most enduring story of the bunch I heard was the one about how, back in the 80s, a notorious party animal named Danny hosted so many liquor-soaked bashes at his shabby residence that the city eventually threw up its hands and granted him a tavern license, if only to allow inspectors (and police) to more easily keep tabs on the place. Every one of these whoppers seemed to end the same way: “And Danny—he still lives in the apartment upstairs.” Since no one I knew had ever laid eyes on Danny, it was easy to envision a Howard Hughes-ish recluse, a sort of barroom phantom who in all likelihood was tormented by the nightly festivities below.
The sober truth, as Reader contributor Patrick Sisson discovered for one of this issue’s pieces on bar namesakes, is that Danny is alive and well and living in Vermont; the former power-pop band member is now known professionally as Daniel—Daniel!—and works as a self-employed carpenter.
In addition to profiling the intriguing people behind eponymous bars throughout the city, we asked some of our favorite bartenders to play a boozy version of the parlor game desert island jukebox to hear about bars where they wouldn’t mind being marooned—and what they’d drink while happily stranded. Each recommendation, be it a locally produced craft beer or an offbeat cocktail, a recently opened spot or a trusty standby, is well worth a place on your must-try list. —Jake Malooley