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A Requiem For Puffer's

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Mar 16, 2006 4:35PM

2006_03_puffers1.jpgAs the cliche goes, "change is inevitable." It is a truth that is absolute, even if it does happen at a slower pace here on the south side. When that change involves a favorite watering hole, however, you try to sift through the reams of emotionally charged opinion, hearsay, and rumor, and take your cues from the actions of that establishment's softball team. Now that that team is newly ensconced at Bernice & John's Place up the street, Chicagoist can safely say that after fifteen years our favorite watering hole and one of the south side's - if not the city's - best taverns, Puffer's (3356 S. Halsted, 773-927-6073), will close its doors at the end of the month.

The word going around among those who care is that the Puffer family sold the bar to a politically connected contractor (and "teetotaler", in the words of one longtime customer) who plans on turning the bar into a country and western-themed establishment with no live music, no cookouts in the beer garden, and no "foreign" beers. We assume that's a reference to the Chimay, Piraat, La Fin Du Monde, Skullsplitter Orkney Ale, Stiegl, and other selections that made Puffer's an affordable option to northside mainstays like the Hopleaf and Map Room. Manager Dave Puffer was tight-lipped about the sale when we asked him point-blank last week, saying that there was talk of a sale but that "(they) weren't finished fighting for the place yet." But when your softball team abandons you, it's time to give it up.

2006_03_puffers2.jpgWriting as someone who reluctantly moved down here on a temporary basis over six years ago, our initial visit to Puffer's was an epiphany. It was the place that made us think that maybe there was more to Bridgeport than what we were seeing. Regardless of who owns the tavern or what is stocked behind the bar, it won't be the same. There are some places that you call your own, that make you feel comfortable regardless of when you last visited. Puffer's was one of those places. It's atmosphere and color will be sorely missed.

But we're not here to fully mourn; there will be some celebration, as well. The Puffers certainly aren't mourning: they're going out with a bang. Tomorrow from 4-7 p.m. they'll have a Irish bagpipe band in the house, and there are sure to see some old faces in the place all weekend. We'll definitely be there to pay our respects. This will be your last chance to visit a place dear to us. Come on down and say hello.

Shameless plug: You'll find more photos of Puffer's at our Flickr photostream.