Must-Visit Bars

Recommended Must-Visit Bars

  • A10
    Contemporary/Regional
    A10 Hyde Park
    Elegantly conceived and designed, A10 is divided into a tasteful, dimly lit bar side and a warmly bright (and comparatively cacophonous) dining side. My suggestion is to eat on the former, but I might be a little biased—I had a »
  • Alice's Lounge
    Karaoke Bar
    Alice's Lounge Avondale
    One of the best worst decisions you can make on a Saturday night at 3 AM, Alice's is quite probably the city's best late-night karaoke spot. Filled with laser lights, fog, and the clever and off-color quips of karaoke keeper »
  • The Aviary
    Bar/Lounge
    The Aviary West Loop/Fulton Market  1
    There are plenty of cocktails to marvel at while visiting Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas’s cocktail lounge—now under the supervision of former Drawing Room bartender Charles Joy—and in general they’re well balanced and delicious. But that’s not why you came. »
  • The Bad Apple
    Bar/Lounge
    The Bad Apple North Center
    This spacious three-room bar always seems to be at least a little crowded, even at what ought to be dead hours, and it's not hard to see why—it has great burgers (I've heard it described as "Kuma's without the wait"), »
  • Berlin
    Music venue
    Berlin Lakeview
    Off the Boystown path you’ll find Berlin, the longtime pancultural late-night institution frequented by queer folks, straight singles and couples, fetish fiends, drag queens, and everyone in between. Celebrated for its eclectic mix of alternative electronic music and video as »
  • Bernice's Tavern
    Music venue
    Bernice's Tavern Bridgeport  2
    Bernice's is a low-ceilinged little hangout that looks like it's been here about a hundred years and has the tchotchkes to prove it: an old CTA fare machine, for instance, and a Wurlitzer, on which the oldies are golden. The »
  • The Betty
    Craft Cocktails
    The Betty West Loop/Fulton Market
    Situated next door to the Publican, this spot from Footman Hospitality (Bangers & Lace, Sparrow, the Anthem) takes on the old-school Chicago tavern concept—but the sheer enormity of the space mostly swallows that approach right up. That’s not »
  • Billy Sunday
    Bar/Lounge
    Billy Sunday Logan Square
    A craft cocktail joint from Matthias Merges (Yusho), Billy Sunday is dark, charming, and right at home here in the overstuffed heart (or stomach) of Logan Square. The chief surprise and pleasure of it is bartender Alex Bachman's creative and »
  • Crown Liquors
    Bar
    Crown Liquors Avondale
    Late last year, the folks behind Dante's Pizza and the Rocking Horse took over Crown and turned a dumpy liquor-store/dive bar into a less dumpy liquor-store/dive bar with lots of charm—and foosball and that really fun Addams Family pinball machine. »
  • Danny's Tavern
    Classic Bar
    Danny's Tavern Wicker Park/Bucktown
    There's vinyl on both the seats and the record player at this neighborhood bar; DJs spin nightly and there are regular dance parties, plus a reading series. Early in the evening the place is usually fairly empty, and you can »
  • The Drifter
    Craft Cocktails
    The Drifter River North
    This tiny subterranean space beneath the Green Door Tavern—itself once an actual speakeasy—puts on a carny, speakeasy vibe with burlesque and musical performances and a rotating cocktail menu dealt out on tarot cards. In the running for least douchiest »
  • Green Mill
    Music venue
    Green Mill Uptown  4
    Classic Chicago in bar form, Uptown’s Green Mill isn’t unlike a pricey glass of champagne with a fleck of cigarette ash floating near the rim. In operation since 1907 and once a haunt for Capone and showbiz personalities, the lauded »
  • Hideout
    Classic Bar
    Hideout West Town/Noble Square  35
    The Hideout's location, just off Elston in the middle of an industrial corridor, seems like an unlikely one. But that doesn’t stop lines from forming outside for the dance parties, live music shows, theatrical performances, and soup nights it hosts. »
  • Jeffery Pub
    Gay Bar
    Jeffery Pub South Shore
    A venerable old south-side institution, the Jeffery Pub is a gay bar just off the tail end of Lake Shore Drive. We stumbled into the middle of what might’ve been a birthday party, on a Sunday afternoon, when the place »
  • Jimmy's Woodlawn Tap
    Classic Bar
    Quintessentially Hyde Park, and frequented by an eclectic mix of locals, students, game watchers, and professors, Jimmy's is a dive with a dim, cavernous interior and a quirky soul. The businesslike bartenders make their martinis strong, and the burgers and »
  • J&R Cocktail Lounge
    Bar
    Factoring in the crimson color and the coziness, sitting at this bar is like being in some especially big birth canal—a bit more crowded, I suppose. (But to each their own natal experience.) You’ll further relax with drinks we adjudged »
  • Kaiser Tiger
    Bar/Lounge
    Kaiser Tiger Near West Side
    This beer, bacon, and sausage emporium is not as refined or as interesting as its Randolph Row neighbors. And it’s definitely not as popular, at least judging from the number of empty seats on a recent Friday night in the »
  • L&L Tavern
    Music venue
    L&L Tavern Lakeview
    Call the L&L a dive if you like; I'll call it one of the best places in town to set your behind on a duct-taped bar stool. Its best amenity is that it eschews amenities. An unpretentious glorious oasis amid »
  • Local Option
    Bar/Lounge
    Local Option Lincoln Park  1
    With a handwritten sign inside reading "Welcome Nerds (You Know Who You Are)," custom neon for Mikkeller and Evil Twin above the bar, and a huge skull-and-crossbones mural whose German motto translates to "Shit beer will kill you," Local Option »
  • Long Room
    Music venue
    Long Room Lakeview
    As the name would indicate, the Long Room is a shotgun-style bar, with tables along the facing wall allowing a thin walkway to a back room with a couple more tables and a few booths. It's always been a welcoming »
  • Lost Lake
    Bar
    Lost Lake Avondale
    Chicago has become something of a modern tiki mecca, thanks to Paul McGee, the cocktail visionary who previously helmed River North's Three Dots and a Dash, where I learned that midwest winters are best handled with strong (never cloying) rum »
  • Map Room
    Music venue
    Map Room Wicker Park/Bucktown
    The Map Room honors its name with a huge relief map painted on the wall, flags of the world hanging from the ceiling, and an impressive draft list—26 taps and one firkin—that's roughly half imports, with regular appearances by Stiegl »
  • Maria's Packaged Goods & Community Bar
    Bar/Lounge
    In August 2010 arts raconteur Ed Marszewski transformed his mother's packaged-goods bar into one of the city's premier watering holes for international craft beers and whiskeys. The bar offers more than 450 brews in bottles and on tap, along with »
  • The Matchbox
    Corner Tap
    The Matchbox River West
    To say that the Matchbox is cozy would be an understatement. Wedge-shaped, it's 15 feet across at its widest point and about three and a half feet at its narrowest. It can be tricky to squeeze past seated patrons to »
  • Oasis
    Bar/Lounge
    Oasis Rogers Park/West Rogers Park
    This large two-roomed bar is showing its age, but no one seems to mind or care—the crowd ranges from Loyola students to Alderman Joe Moore. There's pool, but darts are the bigger draw; Oasis hosts regular tournaments, and the competition's »
  • Old Town Ale House
    Bar/Lounge
    Basically, the bar that Second City players go to after a performance (for proof, check out the caricatures on the walls: look familiar?). Filling pitchers of Old Style until 5 AM on Saturday, this is one of the liveliest dives »
  • Punch House
    Craft Cocktails
    Punch House Pilsen/Little Village
    This concept from the team behind Longman & Eagle is even more ambitious and impressive than Michelin-starred L&E itself. Here they've transformed Pilsen's historic Thalia Hall into a restaurant, Dusek's, and an upstairs concert venue as well as this basement »
  • Rainbo Club
    Dive Bar
    Rainbo Club Ukrainian Village/East Village  1
    The gorgeous Rainbo is hallowed ground for successive generations of musicians, artists, writers (Nelson Algren among the earliest), and hangers-on, all of whom vie for position on the annual photo-booth calendar—the nonconformist's equivalent of the high school yearbook, issued every »
  • Rootstock Wine & Beer Bar
    Wine Bar
    Dark and comfy, with an outdoor patio that in the warmer months brightens an otherwise stark intersection, this is a fine spot to take a sip or two from an intriguing list of small-batch beverages, including a passel of interesting »
  • Sable Kitchen & Bar
    Craft Cocktails
    Sable Kitchen & Bar River North
    Sable opened under Violet Hour vet Mike Ryan, and the drinks program gives classic cocktails a workout with concoctions like the War of the Roses, a perfect balance of Pimm's, St-Germain, Tanqueray, mint, and house-made grapefruit bitters. Even the Bridal »
  • Second Story Bar
    Gay Bar
    Second Story Bar Gold Coast/Mag Mile/Streeterville
    Second Story's reputation preceded it. I'd heard for years about a North Michigan Avenue bar, perhaps mythic, that was proximate to but untouched by the Mag Mile's hypercapitalist excess, its Burberried masses, its clog of traffic and light and iParaphernalia. »
  • Simon's Tavern
    Classic Bar
    Simon's Tavern Andersonville
    This popular longtime Andersonville mainstay ("Your home for gløgg in Chicago") has a solid selection of beers on tap and more than 25 in bottles, along with a number of ciders. It can get packed on weekend nights, but it's »
  • Skylark
    Bar/Lounge
    Skylark Pilsen/Little Village
    Fitting nicely into its rather desolate industrial surroundings, Skylark is a relatively no-frills neighborhood bar delivering something much more than a neighborhood-bar experience. The spot—co-owned by the same principals as the Ukrainian Village institution Rainbo—serves better-than-average bar food, including its »
  • Slippery Slope
    Bar
    Slippery Slope Logan Square
    This place couldn't be more accurately named. With its red-lit interior, loud DJs, slightly too-drinkable prebottled cocktails, and absurdly cheap Hamm's pours, this charmingly dingy joint run by the people behind Scofflaw is an easy place to lose track of »
  • Smart Bar
    Music Bar
    Smart Bar Wrigleyville  3
    The club tucked beneath the Metro Cabaret is also the most popular dance destination in the city, booking cutting-edge DJs locally (Derrick Carter, Frankie Knuckles) and internationally (DJ Harvey, Omar-S, Ben Klock). The interior's a bit clubby, but the dance »
  • Sportsman's Club
    Craft Cocktails
    Sportsman's Club Humboldt Park
    Heisler Hospitality's revamp of an old Polish dive, featuring craft beers and "spirit-forward" cocktails from barmen Wade McElroy (Trenchermen, Barrelhouse Flat) and Jeff Donahue (Barrelhouse Flat, the Aviary). Sporting the occasional dead animal head, the bar is cash only, with »
  • Tac's Lounge
    Corner Tap
    Tac's Lounge Washington Park
    "Who you looking for?" I was asked upon stepping into this dimly lit Washington Park establishment, the first sign that it doesn't attract too many outsiders. But after I said I just wanted a beer, I was welcomed in, and »
  • The Lighthouse Tavern
    Dive Bar
    The Lighthouse Tavern Rogers Park/West Rogers Park  1
    Is the Lighthouse Tavern the vaguest bar in Chicago? I'm not even sure it's a bar—it's more like a student lounge in a college dormitory, or a prank (the bathroom was stocked with aftershave bottles and shaving cream cans, all »
  • The Violet Hour
    Bar/Lounge
    The Violet Hour Wicker Park/Bucktown
    Wicker Park's pioneering Violet Hour is a dark, sumptuously appointed retreat from the harsh world outside, attended by nattily dressed barkeeps who exhibit a balletic facility with jigger, shaker, and glass. Under the remote guidance of "head intoxicologist" Toby Maloney, »
  • Ward Eight
    Craft Cocktails
    Ward Eight Evanston
    At this craft cocktail bar from Anne Carlson and Cody Modeer, formerly of In Fine Spirits, there's a full spectrum of expertly mixed potions, from light effervescences like the gin-and-sparkling-wine French 75 to bitter boozers like the rye-Fernet Toronto, all »

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