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The Garland District 

Where the hip and working-class hang out. Separately, a block apart.

click to enlarge Jason Anderson sips at Bon Bon - Y
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  • Jason Anderson sips at Bon Bon

The soul of Garland is broken, cracked in two.
On one end of this brightly-lit strip of Spokana, a pub serves wet pints sloshing with cheap, domestic beer. A block away, hip young ones gingerly sip arcane cocktails from snifters and flutes.

And never the twain shall meet, which is what makes Garland so very Garland.

You know the neighborhood. It’s only like six blocks long. It has the theater that plays second-run flicks, most catering to families. It has a building shaped like a milk bottle. Strangely, it’s going for a Wizard of Oz thing.

But it’s after the sun falls when Garland wakes up. From the old-school haunts Rick’s Ringside Pub (921 W. Garland Ave.) and the Brown Derby Tavern (808 W. Garland Ave.), to the newer Garland Avenue Drinkery (828 W. Garland Ave.) and Revolver North (633 W. Garland Ave.), this place has enough barstools, pool tables and pitchers for everyone.

But the nighttime epicenter of this old ‘Kane ‘hood, is Bon Bon (926 W. Garland Ave.), a fairly new, upscale cocktail bar adjoined to the Garland Theater, that has already become a mainstay for the city’s cocktail connoisseurs.

If you want to join them, bring your iPhone. First, because everyone else has one brightening up their faces. And, second, because half the ingredients in their cocktails are unknown to common folk. Order “The Gredo” and see if you know even half of what goes into that strange, delicious drink. It’s a mouth-puzzler.

You’ll also need that smartphone because bar manager Kelli Green and her army of tattooed, retro-chic bartenders take their craft seriously, squeezing fruits, eyeing jiggers and burning orange rinds over their concoctions. Pull that phone out and text someone. Getting your drink may take a while.

A block west and a world away is the Garland Pub and Grill (3911 N. Madison St.). Though the space is three times as large, it’s just as packed as Bon Bon. Instead of hipsters, the grizzled, middle-aged congregate. And forget the pretense. Asked what draft beer they had, a list of domestics came readily from the bartender. After “Pabst,” a pause then, “IPA.” Who actually brewed the IPA escaped the bartender. As the bartender left to fetch this nameless IPA, the karaoke man with the gray ponytail wandered by, with a steak and a baked potato.

One can only wonder how that steak would taste washed down with the Gredo.



If you’ve got a big night ahead of you, first stop by Porter’s Barber Shop (614 W. Garland Ave.) to get your mug shaved. With a straight razor. And a hot towel. Call ahead, men. They scrape your face by appointment only.


It’s closed at night, so just look through the windows at Cole Music Company (816 W. Garland Ave.), which has some of the most beautiful guitars in town. From a 1953 Epiphone Zephyr Regent to a 1959 Silvertone to a remake of the angular ‘59 Airline yes, Jack White’s ax Cole’s has the eye-candiest of six-string, triple necks, banjos and basses around.


Yeah, yeah, you’ve heard of the Garland Theater (924 W. Garland Ave.). But have you gone there recently? Grab a quick one at Bon Bon before heading into the cavernous interior of the mid-century Art Deco theater. All shows are $3.50. Bottomless popcorn is $5. And, yes, children’s movies are very entertaining when you’re a little buzzed.

A Neighborhood Guide

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