A quintessential Chicago bar, Schaller’s Pump boasts a storied history that’s built on a foundation of baseball and politics. The tavern is a mainstay of Bridgeport in every sense of the word. It’s Chicago’s oldest continually running bar (since 1881) and over the years it has served as a shot-and-beer hangout for blue-collar workers, a pre-game dining spot for White Sox fans, and a hangout for the deal-making politicos that work across the street at the 11th Ward Democrats.
Visitors walking up to the tavern should enter through the side door next to the parking lot; the large, arched-wooden door in the front of the bar remains shut at all times to ward off door-to-door encyclopedia salesmen. Once inside, visitors may not be blown away by the unassuming décor, but they’ll soon warm up to the cheap beer, singing old-timers, and menu of hearty eats such as butt steak and corned beef hash.
However, the real draw is the chance to hear a good story. Owner Jake Schaller has lived upstairs for 35 years, and can talk anyone’s ear off with tales of illegal booze-running and Chicago big-shot sightings. For example, The South Side Brewing Co. operated next door during the Prohibition, under the guise of making non-alcoholic beer. Little did the authorities know that barrels of booze constantly rolled through underground tunnels connected to Shaller’s Pump. Future mayor (da mare, in Chicagoese) Richard Daley spent his 21st birthday here, and White Sox owner Bill Veeck used to stop in regularly for a cold brew. One time, Mr. Veeck took a $20 bill, covered one side with butter, put a silver dollar on the other side, and threw it (true it, in Chicagoese) at the ceiling. The bill supposedly stayed there for 20 years. It’s the type of longevity that makes this place so charming.