Katz on Merchant and The Winery: these two bars could not be more different but both are great places to while away the evening.
Katz is the downtown martini bar with nice seating, bartenders with flourish and flare, and drink prices to match. Going to Katz is a special occasion for me. The first time I took Millikin grads there who had moved away they were floored that this sophisticated bar was making a go of it in Decatur. Young professionals flock here on special event nights, like Mardi Gras.
It's a very nice place but perhaps it lacks a certain soul, which you can find in spades at... The Winery. No it's not a winery, perhaps you shouldn't even order wine here.
The Winery is the living definition of a dive bar. It is located catty corner from Millikin and though Decatur and Millikin do their best to spruce up that intersection, the Winery continues to chug along in all its dingy red booth, one menu item, Shlitz drinking glory. And this is part of what makes Decatur so special in my heart.
I have such fond memories of eating the best burgers in Central Illinois, maybe in all of Illinois, watching the Cubs lose, having the waitstaff know my diet drink of choice, having grill outs with the staff who became friends and friends who became staff, babies in the bar, listening to the stories of 90 year old regulars, shooting the breeze with professors, listening to my husband's band on the jukebox, so many darts games and homecoming weekends and raunchy jokes. (Yes, I have always had an issue with run on sentences, especially when I wax nostalgic.) I know a lot of people feel this way about The Winery. I had a co-worker in Springfield who requested Winery burgers be refrigerated and brought for lunch the next day. Friends who have travelled the world insist the best burger is the Winery burger.
Oh, and the burgers and drinks are so inexpensive there you can have 2 beers and 2 burgers for the price of one martini at Katz.