Image courtesy of Ugly’s Pub.
Although Ugly’s Pub (1125 N. Old World Third St.) has been open since late July and as much as the name intrigued me, it took me a while to make a visit. Unless I am going to a Buck’s game or am forced by an out-of-town bachelorette, I don’t frequent bars in that area. Call me an old 20-something, call me lame, but it just isn’t my scene.
I tried my best to keep an open mind when my friend Kari and I headed to Ugly’s on a recent Saturday afternoon to grab drinks and lunch before a shopping excursion. Parking is never easy to find on Old World Third, not even on a gloomy Saturday shortly before noon. After securing a spot near the Bradley Center and a quick walk, we made our way past the open garage door window and entered Ugly’s.
The interior’s décor was not what I expected to see; it’s a beautiful setup with dark wood floors, partially exposed brick walls, plush seating and a white subway tile back splash that makes the bar stand out from the dark wooden structure. Ugly’s definitely raises the bar (no pun intended) for fellow Old World Third establishments.
We sat down and were greeted by a peppy lady bartender. After reviewing the drink menu, I decided to go for my weekend favorite, a bloody Mary, and Kari ordered the Wrench Berry Mojito for $10.75, which is made with Bacardi Dragonberry instead of traditional Bacardi Limon.
My love affair with the bloody Mary is pretty serious and I have no problem paying $9 to enjoy its company, but at that price the art of garnishing becomes hugely important.
When the bartender placed the cocktail in front of me (at left), I was a pretty underwhelmed with the presentation, including the absence of a beer chaser. Three olives, a small square of cheese and two cocktail shrimp that smelled like fish just didn’t do it for me. Once I removed the shrimp from the glass, the bloody was quite enjoyable and easy to drink.
Ugly’s on-tap selection includes roughly two dozen beers and all the usual suspects. For $3.75 you can enjoy 16 ounces of Bud Light, Budweiser, Coors Lite, Miller High Life, Miller Lite and Pabst Blue Ribbon. Lakefront IPA and Fixed Gear are $5 with Strongbow and seasonal offerings from Three Floyds and Sam Adams for $6.
A few days later, I met my friend Mandi for happy hour as I was in need of drink or two after a bearish day at work. By the time I found a parking spot and fell victim to a pay station that wasn’t working, it was already 5:47 p.m. (There are few reasons I’d pull out my jogging skills in public – missing out on happy hour is one of them.) After hustling through crosswalks and maneuvering past slow walkers, we bellied up to the bar with less than 10 minutes to spare.
My physical exertion was well spent as from 3-6 p.m. Ugly’s happy hour includes $3 tap beer, two-for-one glasses of wine and rail drinks, and half-price appetizers. When scanning the wine list during my first visit, I thought the wine prices were a bit steep, but happy hour made it much easier on my pocketbook.
When he finished serving a couple other patrons, the bartender asked what we’d like. Given we had only moments before the clock struck six, Mandi and I blurted out our wine orders: Sauvignon Blanc (Delta Luna) for me and Cabernet Sauvignon (Casa L’Angel) for her. The pours were healthy – very healthy – and we both were content with the flavor.
The ambiance of Ugly’s really shines during the evening hours and made for a nice setting to catch up with my friend. From the looks of the happy hour crowd, I’d have to guess others would agree.
During my visits there were a couple hiccups, including the manager getting in the way of the bartenders as he stomped around the bar and a table complaining about the vastly different pours of their shots.
All things considered, Ugly’s Pub has a great vibe and nice adult beverage selection. I’ll certainly be back for happy hour, but will leave the late-night visits to the early 20s crowd.
Bloody Mary photo by Kaitlin Corner.