Ubaa Oo Ra Ra: A Modern Romance With Skokie's Past
Ubaa isn't your father's pub - it's your grandmother's and the place has been showing Skokie how to have a good time for more than 70 years.
There are a couple of ways to experience time travel in Skokie and the surrounding area. One is to turn off your smart phone, stop using 4Square or checking Yelp reviews and just start wandering along Dempster Street. Stop in New York Bagel or get a haircut next door at Kings Cuts, and you'll get a glimpse of Skokie as it used to be.
Another way is to hop on the Kennedy and take it north until it becomes the Edens. There, as you approach Wisconsin, outlet malls and car dealerships soon give way to fireworks stands and cheese shops. Most of them are tourist traps but the good ones have a tavern attached.
In these bars, time seems to have stood still starting from a certain point in the late 70's or early 80's. The signs are everywhere: the bar may have a hint of a 'German castle' theme, with lots of heavy, blond wood furniture. Old posters and knick-knacks line the walls and shelves, sharing space with signed photographs of local celebs who have come and gone. It's almost as if, at one point, the owners decided that the place had reached kind of a perfect moment, and the bar froze in time to hold on to that moment forever.
That's Ubaa Old Crawford Inn. The charming bar is operated by the granddaughter of the original owner. With the bar having opened as a fine dining establishment in 1939, she's old enough to be a grandmother herself. That's exactly what's great about Ubaa - stopping in here is like paying a visit to your grandmother, if she were the type to cook you up some wings, put the game on for you, and pour you a beer.
Visting on a quiet weekday afternoon, we found that for a Skokie bar the beer selection here was pretty good. Spaten Oktoberfest was on tap, and we ordered a pint apiece of the amber, lightly carbonated beer.
Knowing that we were in for a bar food extravaganza, we started with the fried mushroom appetizer, $6. The hot little mushrooms were pretty on par with fried mushrooms you could get anywhere, but were served with a house made sauce that was a mayonnaise with a bit of an extra kick.
Moving on to the entrees, I'd heard good things about the sandwiches, but the honey friend chicken, $10, caught my eye. I was disappointed to learn that the 'honey' component was merely a side of honey, but the chicken was tasty nonetheless.
We had a choice in fries, and I went with the skinny fries. My friend had a buffalo chicken sandwich, $8 and went with the waffle fries. Both options were pretty decent, though they left us wishing we had gone instead with the tater tots.
Like any good grandmother, the staff at Ubaa made sure we were full of food. We weren't able to try any dessert, but we vowed to return when they were a bit busier. We felt that grandma knew how to take care of us well when the restaurant was quiet, but we knew we wanted to see her and the staff of Ubaa take care of their larger Skokie family, just as they've been doing for years, practicing their own form of time travel by bringing beer, bar food and good times to people in eight different decades now.