Countryside Saloon: Good Deals, Bad Service

Located at 2501 E. Ballard Rd, Des Plaines, IL.

When I went to the University of Iowa for a few years, I experienced my share of bars. Those were college bars too, often staffed by my peers and catering to hordes of horny college students who were trying to take the edge off the weekly grind of university stress. With that knowledge in mind, I can say without a doubt that those busy bars in Iowa City had better service than Countryside Saloon in sleepy Des Plaines.

I’ve been to Countryside a handful of times already and each time my friends and I have had to sit around and wait for a server to come by and hook us up with menus. Sometimes, a burger will be ordered and the condiments will come at a later time – much later.

We know better now, so we take a very proactive approach when we go there. You have to be engaged, otherwise you’re disengaged. And being disengaged means you’re never ordering your drinks and you’re ordering any food.

That’s a responsibility that shouldn’t fall onto the customer’s shoulders, especially when you’re going on weekday afternoons. The poor service at Countryside is a real killer, but it’s not a complete deal breaker either.

The saloon has been open since 1933, and the current family that owns it has been in possession for almost three decades. The interior design reflects many establishments that serve alcohol while maintaining a pretty clean reputation in terms of its patrons. Countryside is not where you go to party. It’s where you can take kids even during the weekend rush.

American nostalgia might be an appropriate description for the inside and “modernized log cabin” might be appropriate too. It’s a homely place, but it’s a dark place too and I’ve found myself losing a lot more energy and cheer than I’d like for whatever reason.

There must be a reason why people go to Countryside Saloon. I suspect it’s because their alcoholic offerings are very cheap, especially their beer of the month, which retails at only $4. What a bargain. Their food is also quite delicious as well, and their sweet potato fries are relatively thick and maintain that distinct sweet potato taste.

Trust me: it’s not that bright in real life. That’s just professional lighting/photography/voodoo.

While the interior can be a bit depressing, there is an interesting combination of nature-related trinkets – like a canoe and a stuffed bass – and sports memorabilia. It looks like the establishment is trying to cater to multiple demographics, although I’m sure they still mostly get middle-aged individuals and their kids.

There’s also an outdoor setup with bag games for people to enjoy. Music is played, like most bars, and Countryside chooses the neutral and perhaps bland genre of 1970s and 1980s classic rock – I heard a lot of overlap between the saloon’s songs and songs Walgreen’s plays at their stores. TVs are set up strategically as well and they all show sports.

The service might screw you over, although you might not mind because you’re probably going to spend less money than you would at another bar or saloon. The sweet potato fries are a must, and Thursdays offer a special on their standard burger.

But that’s delicious too, with succulent meat and fresh veggies. Countryside may have its downsides, but it isn’t a place to completely shun either.

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