Nothing like a little post-work, post-train porch beer.
Finding a great dive bar in a Chicago suburb is an enjoyable mission, every neighborhood offering up its own unique corner spot to grab a beer and a burger. Punky’s Pub is Lombard’s entry, a local dive bar just off of the Lombard Metra train stop that serves as a collection point for those commuting to or from Chicago proper each day. As such, the crowd at Punky’s Pub is a mixture of locals, travelers and everything in between, a perfect spot with a generous patio that offers pre- or post-work diversion.
The model for Punky’s Pub is a familiar one, the classic corner neighborhood spot, in this case an anchor to Lombard’s downtown center. Owner Brendan Fitzharris took over the business after previous owner Betty Shissler passed away in 2017, adding the Lombard dive bar to a stable that includes a number of other nearby drinking destinations in Villa Park, Elmhurst, Glendale Heights and elsewhere. But despite the bar’s addition to a stable of other businesses, standardization has yet to alter what is an organic piece of the Lombard community.
Out front, metal chairs and tables create a patchwork patio with viewing of the train tracks as well as travelers talking to and from the dispersed parking that supports the nearby station. When Chicago weather cooperates, the patio is the clear choice for locals and happy hour visitors, a series of umbrellas playing well with towering nearby trees to create the required amount of shade. As with most great Chicagoland dive bars, an Old Style sign hangs above the door, this one inscribed with the phrase “Bottles & Cans” underneath. A green awning that includes “Lunches” on one side stretches across the front wall over two small rectangular windows.
While it may still be fair to label Punky’s Pub a bit of a dive bar, the surfaces inside have seen clear renovation, almost every area touched by new flooring, new wall coverings and fresh paint. String lights hang over head and some faded decorations can still be found throughout the space but it’s clear that work has been done here to elevate the interior. Not to lose its dive bar credibility in total, Punky’s Pub does feature a trademark Budweiser Clydesdale lamp suspended from the ceiling just above a massive airplane propeller because why wouldn’t there be a propeller inside a Lombard dive bar.
A long bar stretches through the space, winding a bit to create some nooks and crannies to the drinking proceedings as well as maximum access to roaming bartenders. The kitchen opens up at noon each day, offering up what looks to be an improved lunch menu that on this reviewer’s visit certainly attracted plenty of business. Burgers and other staples make up the majority of the menu, most of the items well reviewed online. Merchandise is displayed behind the bar in spots, allowing for a little Punky’s Pub pride out in the real world.
As far as other elements go, a gaming section runs along the wall opposite the bar providing Chicago-sanctioned video gambling. A digital dart board nestles into a small spot along the bar’s short wall, packed in among other signs and overflow seating. The rest of the space is filled in with hightop tables, all of it under a drop ceiling to create a look very representative of a classic corner pub.
Punky’s Pub exists as a dive bar in the sense that it occupies a comfortable neighborhood corner, attracting train travelers and locals as a natural collection point. But this is an updated space too, fresh surfaces and clean bathrooms creating less a divey feel and more a lightly modernized vibe. With better-than-expected food and frequent community events, Punky’s Pub creates a small town vibe despite Lombard’s proximity to Chicago’s considerable center of gravity.