Dive Bar Digest

3 minute read

John's Famous Stew Dive Bar Dive Header

Let’s get the most burning question out of the way first: Who is this John fellow? He was the son of Mother Dapa Strangeff, which is a seriously badass name.

Another question, albeit one without a ready answer: How many other menus in the United States reference 1800s Macedonia? Thinking about that…probably half in Brooklyn do. 
In any case, according to restaurant lore, that is precisely where these varieties of now-famous stews originated.

Though the menu lists six stews, it seems that there are in essence only two. There’s the stew, yet you have choices: Mild, Medium, Hot, Goulash, or Hot Minced Pit. But this is important: those last two options are toppings. Goulash means butter beans and mixed vegetables, while the Pit means butter beans and hot peppers.

The gang's all here at John's Famous Stew John's table setting

The other said stew is one Stuffed Pepper—ground beef, rice, and then “stew sauce,” which one presumes is the same base as the aforementioned the stew.

The stew itself is loaded—loaded—with beef, carrots, and green beans. The sauce can be described perhaps as “jiggly.” You know: thick, gelatinous, might bounce off the floor like a rubber ball if given the opportunity. But be warned. This isn’t just any old beef stew. This is Mother Dapa’s Macedonian stew, and you will pay it its rightful respect.

That is to say: it’s damn good. 

John's Famous Stew lunch Stew for days

Some like it mild.

To some of us, “hot” comes as a challenge. So when one sees “Hot Stew” on the menu, one orders it. One is also reminded by a surly (and delightful) waitress that “what goes in must come back out.”

So, how hot is hot? If you’ve got a low tolerance, it’ll break you. It didn’t get to our toughest (and most heat-loving) food critic until near the end of the bowl. A slow build that was only moderately extinguished by the loaf of white bread each bowl is served with.

Not feeling stew? Okay, you crazy counter-culturalist. The Beef Manhattan comes highly recommended. The not-a-real-Indiana-dive-unless-you-have-a-Tenderloin is also served in its traditional bun-swallowing glory.

Plus, there’s beer. High Life goes great, if you were wondering. (Plus a full bar and a number of bottled beers, if you choose not to live said High Life.)

“The minute you walk in the door, you’re fending for yourself.” – Libby Boulais
Christmas in John's Famous Stew Wrestling barn

Advice to Stewbs.

(That’s a stew + newbs portmanteau. And it works, thank you very much.)

John’s Famous Stews (and other non-stew foods) sits notably across from a seemingly otherwise-abandoned-looking building with a large painted sign advertising WCWO Wrestling, which piques every bit of interest that exists within our creative souls. Maybe plan dinner on a night that coincides with a show.

This place starts hopping at lunch. If you show up with a crowd of 10, there’s a decent chance you won’t get to sit together. Just make sure the odd-two-out like one another. Who knew stew was so revered?

Our advice? Live life. Order it hot. Sop it up with as much bread as you need to. But go big, like a Macedonian in the 1800s would most certainly do.

Next up in the DBD queue: Indy’s Historic Steer In.

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