As part of our ongoing series on neighborhood bars, we recently spent an evening at Goldy’s. Goldy’s, for those not in the know, is located in the Country Fair Shopping Center in west Champaign. A self-proclaimed “neighborhood bar & grill that serves up good food and fun times,” Goldy’s seemed like a natural second stop on our boozy tour of neighborhood watering holes in C-U.
Of course, there are arguments to be made about this particular location, and Goldy's qualifications as a "neighborhood bar" — and what we'd immediately say to that is the following:
- Goldy's is located basically by no other bar in West Champaign.
- It's very accessible within walking distance of many residentail areas along Mattis Avenue.
- There's very cheap beer and food, alongside the shotgun-style infrastructure, with plenty of entertainment to be had indoors.
We could go on about the definition of the neighborhood bar as this series moves on, but let's get to the review, shall we?
The TL;DR Part
Goldy’s has a little something for everyone: lots of pool tables, video gambling, a performance space for live music, a classic wooden bar, dart boards, TVs with sports on, food, and a small smoking area/beer garden out back. The space is surprisingly huge, and since it’s basically one long, narrow room, you might feel like you’re walking through two or three different spaces as you’re making your way toward the bar in back. This is a great spot for a quick lunch and beer, pool and other games, or getting up close and personal with a screen of your choice (video poker, TV, or smartphone at the bar while nursing a drink).
While we wouldn't go as far as making points about the establishment having similarities to one's local bowling alley, there are certainly similarities: cheap food, beer, and a very blue collar atmosphere. You know, a real a hole-in-the-wall type place, but without feeling like a place you are uncomfortable visiting. Really nice wait staff, and welcoming hospitality.
The décor of Goldy’s is unpretentious in every way. Most of what you’ll see on the walls is functional. One of the only exceptions is a collection of flags from various Big 10 schools (though Illinois' flag is mysteriously missing). Seriously, where the hell is that Illinois flag? We didn't ask questions when we were there, but it most certainly made us curious.
As you walk through the bar, you make your way to the back third — you hit the bar (as pictured above), and realize there's a beer garden in the realm of the establishment. Not to say this is anything to write home about, but it most certainly serves a purpose: go outside, take a breather, smoke a cigarette if you need to, and make your way back inside to watch the game, play more poker, drink your drink, or finish up your game of pool you're probably getting killed at currently.
What we're trying to say is, there's no need to spend a lot of time out there, but it exists, and there should be some credit given for such a thing.
We also spotted some old photos of the space in its original incarnation on the walls. We heard some stories about the history of the space, and what has existed in the strip-mall-ish area of West Champaign:
We sat down at the corner of the bar, drinking our cheap draft beers — and as we mentioned, much like the bowling alley type place, with a bit more of a versatility about it.
Of the many advertisements for beer and liquor on the walls, the most enticing was the enormous, alluring, oval-shaped sign urging us to purchase a $4 mini-beer. Four words: we’re glad we did. Mini-beers, it turns out, are shots of Licor 43 with heavy whipping cream on top, served in a tiny beer mug. The flavor hit that perfect balance of sweet-but-not-too-sweet, kind of like candy for grown-ups.
We also quenched our thirst on gargantuan glasses of Hamm’s, which were on special for $3. We visited on a weekday — so cheap drafts are the thing. Basicaly, you can get 24 oz. of brew for the afforementioned $3. Pouring one or more of these back seems, to us, like an especially cheap and therefore awesome way to spend an evening in C-U.
And then there was the food. We ordered fried mushrooms, which decent but, to be honest, couldn’t hold a candle to what you’ll find at Esquire. There's a varied menu, but as our visit was to taste some cold drinks and soak it up with some warm and fried foods — there are some vices for you to explore.
We also tried these loaded waffle fries, which featured generous portions of nacho cheese, bacon, and sour cream. The fries flirted with the “too salty” end of the bar food spectrum, but overall we were quite pleased with the taste, and especially with the amount of nacho cheese they wore. Nacho cheese is, of course, at the base of the Drunk Food Pyramid, a fact that we were happy to find Goldy’s understands.
Goldy’s eclectic atmosphere made room for a pretty constant stream of folks who were there for different reasons. When we first arrived, a large group was finishing up what appeared to be a pool league at the tables near the front of the bar. A five-piece band with driving rhythms and an upright bass finished up their set about an hour after that. A few people were making the most of their Thursday night in the beer garden out back; by the time we left, we had seen one person fall (not trip) onto the floor. But inside, things stayed pretty calm. We heard the sounds of the TVs and video gambling machines hum; calm conversation from the patrons around the bar; and had a really pleasant conversation with our bartender, who had been at Goldy’s for a long time.
Goldy’s is easy to get to by car and has tons of parking outside. The establishment knows, however, that driving isn’t for everyone, especially keeping in mind their cheap-as-sin drink specials. On their Facebook page, Goldy’s advises that other means of transport to and from the business include MTD, a taxi, or “‘hoofin' it' as my Mother would say.”
This sums up what’s great about Goldy’s, and what makes it an all-star neighborhood bar, in our view: it’s designed to welcome in and be a space for all sorts of people, especially those that might “hoof it” there from the residential areas near Country Fair in west Champaign.
Overall, Goldy’s has a lot to love. We’ll be back for entertainment, beer, and mini-beer (the last of which is a trend we hope catches on elsewhere in town).
Goldy's is open Sundays and Mondays from 11 a.m.-12-a.m., and Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m.-2 a.m.
Writing by Rebecah Pulsifer and Patrick Singer. Photos by Sam Logan.