A “Musical Inn” paints a very ‘Alice in Wonderland’ portrait: singing chairs, dancing spoons, acid flashbacks…but Phyllis’ intention was hardly a psychedelic boutique hotel (interesting thought though) Phyllis’ Musical Inn is Wicker Park’s oldest live music joint and happens to be one of my favorite bars. Find it at the corner of Division and Wood, between Ashland and Damen. It’s even got a good story…if you were wondering.
During the 1940′s, Wicker Park was mostly a Polish neighborhood and Division Street in that era was nicknamed the “Polish Broadway” for all the nightlife on the strip. Phyllis Jaskot, an accordion player, opened her namesake Inn in 1954 as a live polka club (Phyllis is Polish…if you were wondering). A true neighborhood staple, Phyllis’ has stayed put through Wicker Park’s better and worse times. Famed Chicago writer Nelson Algren even hung out there; immortalizing Wicker Park during the era.
PMI is still going strong–and is still in the family; Phyllis’ son Clem now runs the show– as a live music venue, though not all the acts impress. To be honest, some of the music can be pretty miserable. And as just a friendly caution: the open mic on Tuesday’s is a comedy open mic for amateurs, and last time I witnessed that mess there was plenty of uncomfortable silence.
Despite its average local music acts, PMI is still a Chicago original. It’s got the best secret beer garden in the city, a fish tank, and a framed picture of Pope John Paul II on the wall (what good Polish family doesn’t?). Phyllis picked out the faded blue wallpaper with the pianos on it and the murals on the walls tell a bit of the local history.
But don’t go calling Phyllis’ a dive bar. It’s been loved and well worn…if you were wondering, but it’s not an Inn or a dive.