Depending on who you ask, The Offbeat, a retro-fitted mod bar in Highland Park, is either the best or worst thing to happen to 6316 York Boulevard. The bar sits on the former spot of Dusty’s Sports Bar, a long revered and often feared local establishment with a reputation as the diviest dive around. Drinks at Dusty’s were mixed with an element of danger, whether it was the probability of getting into a brawl or of contracting something from the bar’s reinterpreted standard of hygiene.
When the old Dusty’s sign came down, reactions ranged from relief to despair. “There goes the neighborhood,” some said, no doubt anticipating another yuppie bar moving in to replace the last shred of the “real” Highland Park. The sign now reads “The Offbeat: a bar on York,” and that is exactly what The Offbeat is—no frills, no nonsense, just a straightforward place to drink.
Aside from the mod motif, nothing about The Offbeat indicates that it’s a concept bar. Behind the bar, there are bartenders, not mixologists. The pool tables are gone, but so is the imminent threat of a beatdown with a pool cue. There’s still the casual feeling of a local watering hole, but now with working toilets and an exponentially reduced risk of stabbings. It’s time to pour one out for Dusty’s and raise a glass to The Offbeat.
Good for: A casual, affordable night out in Highland Park, which is becoming something of a rarity these days. Former Dusty’s patrons may lament the slight jump in price, but well drinks and beers will only set you back about $6 each, which is small change compared to our usual $12 craft cocktail reality. There’s no pretension here either, so come as you are.
The scene: A mixed-age crowd of locals, newcomers and curious ex-Dusty’s skeptics nurse drinks at the red-lit, zig-zag bar, one of the location’s original features that fits in with the rest of the decor. Vintage light fixtures, retro wallpaper and a screen showing '60s cinema classics accent the otherwise sparse black concrete walls, with red tufted leather couches providing plenty of extra seating. There’s a noticeable abundance of space where the pool tables once were, but once The Offbeat gets its bearings and starts hosting DJ nights, that’ll be prime territory for drunk dancing.
The playlist: '60s tunes from The Beatles, The Stones, Bowie and the like play from a jukebox in the corner, which apparently came with the building lease, but future plans and pending permits could see live bands playing at The Offbeat further down the road.
Bartender says: Both owners used to bartend at Little Cave (before it became La Cuevita), and The Offbeat is the result of a dream to open a bar together. They’re keeping things simple for the moment and still ironing out some details, but one thing will remain the same: The Offbeat is a bar by the people, for the people.
Drink this: The bartenders make a mean Old Fashioned ($7) the old fashioned way, with well bourbon and a maraschino cherry. There’s also a decent selection of beers out of the seven on tap with something for everyone, from your standard Stella or Trumer Pils ($6) to a pint of Guinness. During Happy Hour (5-9pm daily), there’s $5 Palomas and Gimlets and $1 off all other drinks, which is enough to at least make you crack a smile.