By Dmitry Samarov

Bernice’s Tavern in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago would be a corner bar if it was on a corner. It sits on Halsted Street, next door to the late, lamented Healthy Food Lithuanian Restaurant, and has been run by Bernice Badauskas’s family for fifty years. Bernice herself still lives in the back, while her son, Steve, runs the place. Another son, Michael, tends bar weekends. The décor is a dense mix of artwork, old toys, retired CTA fixtures, and uncharacterizable bric-a-brac. The clientele is a mix of area old-timers and young art kids. It is a testament to the gracious hosts of the place there’s rarely any cultural clash here. Steve especially insists on a spirit of tolerance.

I had passed the place for years and years until moving in just down the block. After spending only a couple late afternoons in there I felt like I’d been coming in for decades. Steve calls bingo at the bar on Wednesday nights — re-christened “Stingo” here — and he packs ’em in every week. Sundays his girlfriend Dori, whose family’s in the meat business, cooks generous portions of food and offers it gratis to the patrons. It’s the kind of place you want to keep coming back to.

Bernice usually stays in the back but the other day she came over and introduced herself. She wanted to thank me for getting Steve to read a book. She meant the one he’d bought from me a couple of weeks back and she said it with a gleam in her eye.

I’ve finally found my neighborhood joint.

This is an ongoing series — watch this space as we bring you more Readers’ Corner selections. Additional Readers’ Corner readings can be found here.

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