This past Saturday saw the Illinois Cross Country 1A Sectional meet in Oregon, Illinois. The Mendota Girls Cross Country Team qualified, so MLW and I were there to cheer them on. This also left us with a little free time afterwards, so we took a little time with friends to explore the Cork & Tap in downtown Oregon.
This is a place that catches your eye as you drive in to Oregon from the East on Route 64. The sign is large and bright, and one notices that there appears to be a blues brother at a piano in the front window. When I first drove by it a couple of weeks ago for another meet in Oregon I didn’t have a chance to look closely, and I wasn’t certain from the name whether it was a liquor store or a bar. It proves to be the latter.
Oregon is a small town - about 3700 people, according to Wikipedia (which is never wrong). But if you are expecting a typical small town bar when you enter the Cork & Tap, you can expect to be surprised. While they do carry the standard national fare - you can get a Bud Light if that’s how you roll - the Cork & Tap offers a long line of tappers (10+) with a variety of styles, and with a delightful mix of brands that are not your typical fare for the area. For example, on our trip they had beers by Pig Minds, a brewery located in Machesney Park, on tap, as well as others. For myself, I enjoyed a Dirty Bastard - a tasty, smoky Scottish ale from Michigan, as well as Bell’s Octoberfest. MLW enjoyed a WakeFire by Blake’s Hard Cider Company.
As the name implies, in addition to beer and cider, the Cork & Tap also offers a variety of wines. They offer tasting flights so you can sample and enjoy (flights of beer are available as well). As with the beers, local and regional options are present - if you’ve wanted to try a wine by August Hill, the winery located in Utica, Illinois, for example, here’s your risk-free opportunity. They offer a variety of mixed drinks as well, and those sampled by our group were pronounced quite tasty.
The bar is in an old store front downtown, and the space is used to good effect. The bar area is comfortable and modern in a rustic setting, with a comfortable loft area and a second floor as well. Cards and board games are available to allow for an old-school pub atmosphere. There are screens, but they aren’t everywhere and aren’t overwhelming - you’ll want to carefully select your seat if you want to watch the game (and you can easily position if you don’t want to see it). They have event areas if that’s what you are looking for as well. They don’t do food, but there are multiple options nearby that will deliver there for you.
Places like this in our little towns are few and far between, and they are wonderful to find. If you are in the area - say you are cycling or canoeing or kayaking - or you are just looking for a spot to head out to and have a nice time, this place is a regional gem. Check it out!