Edgewater’s Moody’s Pub thrives with solid formula

Categories: Chicago Tribune

Chicago burger-beer joint has low-key, shadowy ambience and affordable menu

By MARK GUARINO | Special to the Chicago Tribune

Pam Brownie remembers being picked up as a teen at her parents’ home in the Budlong Woods neighborhood on the Northwest Side by a potential suitor who took her to a restaurant that was new to Edgewater, Moody’s Pub.

Sitting in the same spot about 40 years later, Brownie realized that while she got older, there was little evidence the dimly lit burger-and-beer joint with the outdoor garden three times the size of the bar had aged at all. The only visible change was that the poplar trees are taller and wide enough to shade the outside building and help cool the steamiest summer nights.

“It’s the same,” said Brownie, 57, who lives in Edgewater. “This is still the greatest.”

Moody’s Pub, at 5910 N. Broadway, is a landmark in Chicago’s Far North Side community in which it has resided since 1969. With its low-key, shadowy ambience and affordable menu, the bar’s reputation grew. But it may be the simple philosophy of owner John Kahoun that helped it keep a loyal following over the years.

“There’s something in my heart that says, ‘Let’s make people happy,’ ” said Kahoun, who recently celebrated his 76th birthday among a stream of diners from the past and present, as well as former employees, who came to help mark the pub’s 50th anniversary.

Moody’s earliest roots date back to 1959 in Old Town, where Kahoun opened the first location. He said he wanted to open a business that didn’t particularly feel like one.

Chris Veech, Kahoun’s daughter, said the pub is a direct reflection of her father.

“My dad is a man of very simple needs. He always drove an old car. [Moody’s] stayed the same over 50 years for the most part because he feels keeping prices low will always keep people in,” said Veech, who was a Moody’s waitress while in college.

Veech said she and her brother were not really fans of the shadowy ambience and have tried to get their father to “lighten it up a little bit.” But “he likes it that dark,” she said.

Kahoun said he wanted to create “a feeling of intimacy, where people could talk to each other in confidence.”

After the two successive Moody’s locations burned down, Kahoun decided to try his luck north, where real estate was more affordable. He purchased three lots: one to reserve for a parking lot and one to build the restaurant. The third was to open a beer garden like the ones he admired in Germany, where he did a tour of duty in the Army during peacetime. The business became such a hit that he paid off his loan in six months, he said.

Veech said her father describes it as a recession-proof business. “When the economy gets crummy, you won’t go out for steak but you will go out for burger,” she said.

Kahoun and his wife, Katie, live in the apartment he designed above the restaurant. His only son, Jake, has taken over the managerial duties.

Each inch of the restaurant is a reflection of his life, Kahoun said.

“I see things in such a primitive way. People seem so sophisticated and distant from the way my grandparents led their lives, its shocking to me even at this moment,” he said.

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