The 18 Best
Head over any night for the ample bottled beer selection and delicious fried macaroni and cheese squares. Cap your weekend by testing your smarts at Sunday night trivia.
Find it: 440 N. Aberdeen St., 312-929-3845, theaberdeentap.com
This 48-year-old institution has a museum-like collection of city knickknacks (street signs, CTA fare boxes) so thick it threatens to engulf the trusty old jukebox. The beer menu is broad, but the jovial staff can help you out—just carry cash.
Find it: 3238 S. Halsted St., 312-813-3215, bernicestavernchicago.com
This gorgeous 1940s art deco tavern fuses dimly lit red walls with a country-western theme. Conflicting aesthetics aside, the Clipper keeps ’em coming back with cheap drinks and live country music on weekends.
Find it: 1002 N. California Ave., 773-384-2547, californiaclipper.com
The perky corner bar has finally grown up. Gone are the board games and kitschy decor of old, where Saturdays tended toward raucousness. Now candlelight and cocktails are the MO. But fret not: Charleston 2.0 can still party.
Find it: 2076 N. Hoyne Ave., 773-489-4757
The team behind Chicago Firehouse modeled this eight-month-old spot on an 18th-century New England tavern. The roaring fire in the front lounge, a long wooden bar backed by lofty mirrors, and a 14-page roster of drinks would make Sam Adams proud.
Find it: 1416 S. Michigan Ave., 312-663-1278, citytavernchicago.com
Cork and Kerry
The quintessential pub stands apart in decidedly Irish Beverly. How? Maybe the decked beer garden (heated and enclosed in the winter) and Emerald Isle brews like Smithwick’s and (occasionally) Kilkenny on tap have something to do with it.
Find it: 10614 S. Western Ave., 773-445-2675
The red neon Schlitz sign lures in so many passersby that you may have to stand in line, but the house-party vibe and esteemed roster of DJs make it worth the wait. Hit up the ATM first.
Find it: 1951 W. Dickens Ave., 773-489-6457
An unassuming exterior and out-of-the-way location conceal funky decor and an admirable microbrew list. Tuesdays in winter find a healthy local contingent nestling close to the fireplace for live bluegrass music.
Find it: 5600 N. Ashland Ave., 773-878-3343, edgewaterlounge.com
This storied tavern may be one of the city’s most famed (see its cameos in Backdraft and Ocean’s Eleven), but it’s still an Irish saloon at heart: cheap beer, good grub, and shamrocks galore.
Find it: 495 N. Milwaukee Ave., 312-563-9631, emmits.com
Bears games play on all the screens, but it’s the drinks that will keep you coming back: 40 varieties of seasonal suds (Modus Hoperandi IPA is the locals’ favorite). Making all the grub—down to the salad dressing—from scratch is impressive, too.
Find it: 1944 N. Oakley Ave., 773-276-6060, floydspub.com
Don’t let the neighborhood fool you—the crowd is more Metro buffs than Cubs fans (maybe that’s why Metro owner Joe Shanahan snapped up the site last September). But even nonconcertgoers can enjoy the beer-heavy bar and respectable poolroom in the back.
Find it: 3740 N. Clark St., 773-549-2050
While the South Side Irish sling Jameson at Cork and Kerry, North Siders head to Glascott’s, the family-owned pub (four generations!) with one of the best St. Patty’s Days in the city. Order the Glascott special: Stoli O vodka, cranberry juice, and Red Bull.
Find it: 2158 N. Halsted St., 773-281-1205, glascotts.com
Green Door Tavern
This heavily tchotchke’d groggery—erected immediately following the Chicago Fire—has weathered a later blaze, Prohibition, and even a car crash. With a friendly staff and tasty grub, it still makes for a fine spot to unwind after work.
Find it: 678 N. Orleans St., 312-664-5496, greendoorchicago.com
In the winter, ales, lagers, and Glühwein keep the friendly barflies strapped to their stools at this cozy German lodge. In the summer, seats by the street-facing picture windows—where almost all of Lincoln Square strolls by—are prime real estate.
Find it: 4721 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-561-2507, huettenbar.com
In these changing times, it’s comforting to know that, at least in this Toulouse-Lautrec-themed gay-friendly spot, the drinks are always stiff, the server always wears a tie, and the menu always adheres to the classics (martinis, Negroni).
Find it: 1511 W. Balmoral Ave., 773-454-0161, martysmartinibar.com
The clandestine Argentine bar’s lethal mojitos roll in five flavors: mango, pineapple, coconut, passion fruit, and blackberry. Snag a patio seat, order an empanada sampler, and try them all—just don’t blame us for what happens next.
Find it: 2977 N. Elston Ave., 773-866-9898, n-barchicago.com
It’s fashioned as a biker bar—the revolving life-size skeleton on a motorcycle outside is your first hint—but you’re as likely to find a hardcore cyclist as you are a motley crew. Apparently, whiskey and bourbon bring together all walks of life.
Find it: 501 N. Ogden Ave, 312-666-1500, twistedspoke.com
The local hang has somehow resisted the rest of the South Loop’s revamping—it’s still serving beer and Tots for under $6, and the pool sharks at the back tables give a welcoming nod to every visitor.
Find it: 1233 S. Wabash Ave., 312-360-9488, wabashtap.com
Photograph: Megan Dodge