“When is a bar more than a bar?
“Jimmy’s Woodlawn Tap turned 75 this year. During its lifespan it has had only three owners: Jimmy Wilson, brothers Bill and Jim Callahan, and Matt Martell, AB’95, who bought it in 2021. And little else has changed much: the decor, the amount of sunlight filtering through the windows facing 55th Street season to season, the cost of a hamburger, the clientele. In a neighborhood that has seen significant change, Jimmy’s is a remarkably stable presence. Some of that is intentional—for instance, Jimmy’s continues to open every morning before lunchtime, unlike many bars—but outside forces have steadied it as well.
“Jimmy’s serves a larger function in the community. It’s not just a place to blow off steam, meet friends, and escape the pressures of school or work, but a place to celebrate the values of Hyde Park and the University—which include a certain aversion to hype or grandness. For those lucky enough to be in the know, Jimmy’s has always simply been, as Saul Bellow, EX’39, once explained to an interviewer, “our local haunt … a joint I had known in earlier times.”
“Jack Spicer: It always had a peculiar culture. All kinds of people felt comfortable there—White, Black, young, old. Not a lot of bars are like that.” (Howe, The University of Chicago Magazine — Summer/23)