Review of our Saturday Big Shoulders Food Tour with Bars

This past Saturday, Elizabeth and I took two busses full of guests to Bridgeport as a public preview our newest private group food and beer tour of Chicago, the Big Shoulders Historic Bar and Food Bus Tour. We originally planned to just offer this special experience to one 40-passenger bus. A second tour had to be added after we sold out in early November.

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A Brunswick Bar at Shinnick’s Tavern in Bridgeport.

schallers pump chicago bar history food tour

What We Saw in Bridgeport

Guests ranged from our Chicago Detours community of past tour guests to those who read about it in the Daily Herald. We also hosted hotel partners from the Peninsula, Hotel Lincoln, Loews Hotel, and the Gwen, among others.

The tour focused on the area’s history in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. We talked about the saloon and its role as the living room for the working class. After touring through the old Union Stock Yards area, we drove by the crumbling ruins of the Central Manufacturing District. Many Bridgeport residents did back-breaking labor in one of these two massive industrial areas.

A Last Stop at Shaller’s Pump

Our second drink stop was at Schaller’s Pump. This cozy establishment was once part of the long-gone Ambrosia Brewery. I was happy to see that the owner, 91-year-old Jack Schaller was there. His family has been in the business for three generations, and Jack can always be spotted wearing his veteran’s cap and a smile. UPDATE AS OF 5/8/17: JACK SCHALLER PASSED AWAY IN 2016 AND THE FAMILY JUST PERMANENTLY CLOSED THE BAR.

The way to do it at Schaller’s Pump is pitchers of beer. For private group tours, we have an even more filling option of food for the tour, which has an entire entree of corned beef and cabbage here.

On Lituanica Street, we looked at regular Bridgeport homes that were once Lithuanian taverns that lined this now-residential area. I hopped off the bus to grab a loaf of Lithuanian rye from Bruno’s Bakery, which you can get at the local Whole Foods Markets.

Old-Fashioned Fast Food at Johnny O’s

Our third stop, and the highlight of the food and drink tour portion of our evening, is Johnny O’s. I don’t want to ruin the surprise of the secret bar, but I will tell you that this was where we had hot dogs, mother-in-law sandwiches, fried veggies, French fries, local beers, and even got to hear a song from Johnny’s stint as a 60’s lounge singer with the name “Johnny Powers.”

A trip down Morgan Street showed us remnants of even more taverns, as well as the neighborhood’s turn from working class to hipster class, with art galleries and Maria’s Community Bar. Then I hopped off the bus to grab delicious chocolate lace oatmeal cookies from Pleasant House Bakery.

We rode down Archer Ave., once the commercial hub of the neighborhood and now a weird mix of buildings from the late 1800s, the ’50s, and more recent. We also get Polish cookies from Bridgeport Bakery, another Bridgeport institution. Then a drive by the new and old parks along Halsted Street leads us to the conclusion of the tour.

Thanks for joining us!

At the end of any Chicago Detours event or tour we ask guests to reflect on the experience and share something with the group – be it a place we went to, something we saw, or an idea or story from history. With full busloads it isn’t so efficient to have everyone verbally share, so instead we asked people to write them down. You can tell they were written on a moving bus!
food tour reflections chicago history bars
It looks like people enjoyed the  the history of the stockyards and the drinking history, as well as the stops we went to. The food is appreciated, from the mother-in-law sandwiches (a South Side specialty) to the cookies. Whoever wrote “history of Bridgewater” indeed shows that the beer was flowing!

In the spirit of the holiday season, we are donating 100% of the guide gratuities to Benton House, which has a food pantry in the Bridgeport neighborhood. We got about $175!

Please keep in touch to hear about our next one-off event to the public. We have another historic bar tour in the works!

–Amanda Scotese, Chicago Detours Executive Director


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Private Tour Coordinator and Tour Guide

There is no shortage of things to discover in Chicago—I love being an urban explorer and uncovering its hidden places. I have an MA in Public History from Loyola University Chicago, and I have worked as a museum educator and kindergarten teacher. My desire to learn new things fuels my passion for educating others, which I get to experience every day as a Chicago tour guide. I live in the northern neighborhood of Rogers Park.

“Our guide Ellen was exceptional and gifted with a great personal touch.”


Tour Guide

Whether you are a first-time visitor or a lifelong resident, the vibrant history and modern majesty of Chicago never ceases to amaze. I’m a graduate of Columbia College with an M.A. in Interdisciplinary Art. I’ve worked for many years as an educator at City Colleges of Chicago. As tour guide at Chicago Detours, I integrate my enthusiasm for culture and architecture with my passion as an educator. West Town/Noble Square area is home for me.

“Jen was a perfect storyteller and kept us spellbound for hours.”


Tour Guide

With our Chicago neighborhoods, vibrant cultural institutions and nearly two centuries of larger-than-life stories, there’s never a dull moment here! I’m a fifth generation Chicagoan and a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis. In addition to guiding tours, I’m a creative writer and amateur genealogist. I also enjoy the city’s dynamic theater scene. You can also read overlooked stories from 19th-century newspapers on my “Second Glance History” blog. I live in River North.


Tour Guide

Chicago is unique as it always evolves into the future while holding on to the past. I’m fascinated by how people latch on to old architecture but happily pave over others. My background is in theater and performance and I’ve been a tour guide here for more than 10 years. Currently I’m finishing my Master’s in Public History at Loyola University because I love to teach the history of this scrappy city. I’m in the Edgewater neighborhood.


Operations Coordinator and Tour Guide

Chicago’s history is so fascinating, you could spend a lifetime uncovering its secrets…I’m willing to give it a try! I have an M.A. in US History from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and then pursued doctoral studies in Urban History at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I love to learn new aspects of Chicago’s rich history and then share my knowledge as a tour guide with Chicago Detours. I live in Ravenswood.

“Marie was a bubbling fountain of information and contagious enthusiasm.”


Operations Coordinator and Tour Guide

As a fourth generation Chicagoan, I have been living and loving Chicago by bike, on foot, public transit or automobile. I am a graduate of UIC where through the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, began my eagerness to understand the nature, history and impacts of urban planning and development. It is incredibly rewarding to give back to this wonderful city by helping out in the office of Chicago Detours. I live in the incredibly diverse neighborhood of Albany Park.
“Sonny was extremely knowledgeable about all things Chi-town.”
Wade K


Content Manager and Tour Guide

Chicago has so many neighborhoods, buildings, and by-ways that it’s hard to go long without seeing something new, or something familiar from a new angle. I studied Cinema History for my M.A. from the University of Chicago. I’ve worked as a culture writer for various publications and as an educator of the humanities at the City Colleges of Chicago. I’m thrilled to share my love of this city’s busy past and unique architectural spaces with Chicago Detours. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of Lincoln Park.

“Alex was fascinating to listen to. He clearly knows his history and it shows.”
Katie K

Amanda Scotese

Executive Director and Tour Guide

I’m an interpreter of personal stories from the past and the city’s landscape. I love to imagine what originally happened inside old unmarked buildings, and what forces have shaped their design. I studied Chicago history, architectural history, and anything Chicago-related through my M.A. in the Humanities at the University of Chicago. My love for stories was enriched by my B.A. in Literature from the University of Michigan. I’ve written travel articles for publications like Rick Steves’ Italy best-selling travel guides, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and The Chicago Food Encyclopedia. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of West Avondale.
“You can TELL Amanda is hyper-passionate about doing the research and getting the story that nobody’s heard before.”
Shelby F

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