Jan 13, 2015

A Black Diamond in the rough

If there’s anything I’ve learned from the last six months of blogging, it’s how my nine faithful followers (as well as many, many more who’ve stumbled upon my posts) share with me a love of hole-in-the wall dive bars.  Whether it’s a cherished dive bar in a large blue collar town like Decatur, a local hangout in a small farming community like Eldred or the best and only thing happening at a wide spot in the road like Buckhart, these places resonate with people. 

So, it’s no wonder when my girlfriend and I decided to take the two-lane roads down to St. Louis last month for a Bob Seger concert, we dedicated some time to making a few pit stops at some small town bars along the way. 

And that’s how we discovered the Black Diamond Sports Bar & Grill in Gillespie, Ill. 

I’d be lying if I told you I was very familiar with Gillespie.  I guess that’s why they invented Wikipedia.  The town is located in Macoupin County on Ill. Hwy. 4, which also happens to be one of the older alignments for historic U.S. Route 66.  All I know is the highway seems to amble and zig-zag though the town, but if you come in from the north, it won’t be long before you see the Black Diamond on the left side of the road. 

The Black Diamond is also a very appropriate name for a bar in a town that survived for so long on the coal industry (the town’s annual festival is called Black Diamond Days).  The bar’s name also works well then you factor in the biker clientele it appears to draw.  And, given the apparent absence of a website and the dust gathering on the bar’s Facebook page, the owners seem to be satisfied to maintain a relatively low profile.  

It’s easy to fall in love with the place the first time you walk in. I know I did.  And honestly, when the first thing you see is this U-shaped bar, how can you not feel like sitting down?

You can't drink all day if you don't start in the morning, and you might as well start with a Stag!
Once we did grab bar stools, we were greeted by a very friendly bartender who, although a little camera-shy herself, was more than happy to talk about the place and let me take pictures.  She set us up with a couple of Stags and showed us around. 

I was especially impressed with the back of the bar, particularly the stained glass on the door panels, which according to our host are remnants from the building’s speakeasy days.       

The bar also had a spacious pool room, which I suspect is quite busy on weekends and whenever the poker runs come through town.  Additionally, the girlfriend noted the women’s restroom (not pictured, of course) was one of the cleanest and nicest smelling she had ever encountered in a dive bar.  So, ladies, the Black Diamond has that going for it. 

Before we left, the bartender asked to turn the tables on us and take our picture.  That only seemed fair, given her hospitality.  And given the festivities we had planned ahead of us, we probably looked as good as were ever going to that day.

On this day, the Black Diamond Bar & Grill was proof that you can find gems in the rough anywhere you go if you just take time to stop.  I plan to visit the Black Diamond again the next time I'm in Gillespie ... whenever that is.  

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