CJ’s Pub is undeniably a Notre Dame bar. And I’m not talking about a family pub in the Elkhart area where they hang a couple of Notre Dame posters and watch the game 13 days out of the year in the corner of the room on a 19-inch screen.
This is a 21-and-over-only bar where actual students hang out at night. The last time I went to one of these college places at night was a couple years ago, at age 30. I was in Clemson, SC and a couple of us decided to check out the night scene. I hated it. It was too loud, there were too many people, nothing to do but drink … I felt so old.
I spent many a night and early morning hanging out at these types of bars in West Lafayette in my younger years. It’s amazing how much fun I had in that day and age, and now I can’t stand even being there.
But, that is only at night. During the day and evening, these places can be fine establishments to eat and even hang out to have a few beers…in quiet.
CJ’s Pub wasn’t always located in the heart of downtown South Bend, on South Michigan Street. It used to be farther up the street, by the hospital and closer to campus.
I went to the old building once to get a burger and a few beers when I first moved out here. It was a little hole-in-the-wall spot and was pretty deserted on that Thursday evening. They later closed that location because a building fell on top of it. It reopened next to The Heartland…I mean Club Fever…a few years ago.
These days it is a nice, spacious establishment. Various Notre Dame memorabilia grace the walls, there’s a pool table in the back, the plastic pitchers for the “kids” are probably used for cheap beer nights, and there’s a pretty good selection of burgers. But, I’m not here to talk about the burgers.
CJ’s serves Jumbo Chicken Wings. I’ll agree with them there — they certainly were jumbo sized. The wings are served without breading and covered with the hot CJ’s Pub Sauce.
The menu states that you can’t get the sauce “anywhere but here,” but I’m pretty sure I’ve picked this up at Martin’s a couple of times. They do taste similar.
The sauce is very hot and has a lot of sweetness to it. I wouldn’t go as far as to call it a barbecue sauce — more like a hot pepper sauce with a lot of sugar in it. I give it a 3 out of 4 on the heat scale.
The chicken, although large, was a little dried out. It may have been just from overcooking a little, but the crispy skin makes up for it.
The price was 12 for $11.79. That yields a CPW of 98 cents. It’s on the high side, but when you consider you are in the downtown area of the commercial district in a medium sized city, it’s not too bad. They do have lunch specials on certain days of the week that bring down the CPW.
Overall, CJ’s is a cool place to hang out if you are in the downtown South Bend area. There are many fancy places to eat out there, but if you are just looking for a casual place to hang out and get some bar food, this is the place to go. The wings are a little sweet for my taste, but they do bring a unique flavor if you are looking for something different.