Edited by Carly Boers and Emmet Sullivan
From gritty holes in the wall to cutting-edge cocktail lounges, Chicago is a drinker’s dream. But what of the 1,200-plus spots are most worth a visit? Chicago magazine’s 11-reporter team tossed back beverages in every corner of the city, sizing up each bar on drink quality and selection, service, and atmosphere.
- The Best of the Best
- The 8 Best Hotel Lounges
- The 5 Best Game Day Bars
- The 12 Best Cocktail Spots
- The 5 Best Bars For Music
- The 6 Best Wine Bars
- The 10 Best Dives
- The 10 Best Bars For Grub
- The 6 Best Craft Beer Havens
- The 5 Best LGBT Bars
- The 18 Best Neighborhood Spots
- The 5 Best Drink-Time Diversions
The Best of the Best
- 1 Scofflaw
Is the best bar in Chicago really a gin joint in once-downtrodden Logan Square that has barely celebrated its first birthday? Hell yeah. For one thing, this place has serious craft cocktail cred: Co-owner Danny Shapiro apprenticed with mixology whiz Paul McGee at The Whistler (No. 5). Now he’s turned a barely marked corner spot on West Armitage Avenue into a refuge for both the blossoming creative class who live nearby and innovative-cocktail lovers who aren’t skittish about drinking outside the box (and won’t say no to a free cookie at midnight). Flush with lovingly salvaged furnishings, locally produced spirits, and a devoted staff who elevate the once-sidelined juniper berry-based spirit, Scofflaw easily tops all the taverns in the city.
Who’s there: Cocktail connoisseurs, mellow 30-somethings, every other bar’s bartenders
What to order: Swizzle #3 (Death’s Door gin, rum, Lillet blonde, passion fruit, lime, orgeat, bitters)
Find it: 3201 W. Armitage Ave., 773-252-9700, scofflawchicago.com
Danny Shapiro of Scofflaw, the best bar in Chicago
Photograph: Anna Knott
- 2 Big Star
Maybe it’s the whiskey shots talking, but there’s nothing better than a Saturday night spent gorging on pork belly tacos, guac, and margaritas—especially when the team behind standout restaurants Avec and Publican makes them. In good weather, this Wicker Park hot spot’s backyard party vibe seals the deal: If you land a stool, park there for the night. You won’t regret it (until the next morning).
Who’s there:Relaxed day-drinkers followed by a boisterous nocturnal crowd
What to order: The Big Star Margarita or $3 whiskey shot du jour
Find it: 1531 N. Damen Ave., 773-235-4039, bigstarchicago.com
- 3 The Aviary
Like tattooed, mustachioed mad scientists quarantined in their lab, mixologists gather behind an illuminated wall, where they are obscured by billows of dry ice and steam. (The Aviary’s owner is Grant Achatz, chef of boundary-pushing restaurant Next, which adjoins it). The experience—while hard on your wallet—is not to be missed.
Who’s there: Fiscally blessed foodies craving a show
What to order: In the Rocks (rye, bitters, and vermouth cocooned in a hollow ice cube)
Find it: 955 W. Fulton Market, 312-226-0868, theaviary.com
- 4 Maria’s Packaged Goods and Community Bar
Named for the owners’ mother, Maria Marszewski, who bought it in 1986, this Bridgeport anchor got spruced up two years ago with art deco accents and reclaimed materials. But it’s still an enormously appealing come-as-you-are store-slash-tavern—the best place to drink good beer on the South Side.
Who’s there: Craft brew enthusiasts from all over the city
What to order: Beer (obviously). There are 450 varieties on offer.
Find it: 960 W. 31st St., 773-890-0588, community-bar.com
Photograph: Marian Frost
- 5 The Whistler
Inventive cocktails at reasonable prices. DJs, live music that spans genres, or Movieoke (exactly what it sounds like) every night, sans cover charge. What’s not to like?
Who’s there: Artsy locals and the occasional barhopping bro
What to order: The Quill (a pseudo negroni with absinthe)
Find it: 2421 N. Milwaukee ave., 773-227-3530, whistlerchicago.com
Photograph: Robert Brenner
- 6 Rootstock
With 20 or so offerings by the glass (most under $10) and a low-key vibe, this wine bar eschews the standard stuffiness. The owners stock their pond with mostly Old Worlds but liven up the mix with nontraditionals from small family producers and biodynamic operations. Reading the list can enlighten even seasoned oenophiles.
Who’s there: Canoodling couples and neighborly wine drinkers of all stripes
What to order: 2010 Tire Pé Diem Bordeaux
Find it: 954 N. California Ave., 773-292-1616, rootstockbar.com
Photograph: Katie Stratton
- 7 Drumbar
This moody lounge in the Raffaello Hotel, with its couch-filled nooks and intimate terrace, scores high in ambiance. And it pours a stellar cocktail, thanks to the addition of Craig Schoettler (formerly of the Aviary, No. 3) behind the bar.
Who’s there: Corporate card carriers, Gold Coast glitterati
What to order: The Pineapple (green Chartreuse, pineapple juice, lime juice, mint)
Find it: 201 E. Delaware Pl., 312-943-5000, drumbar.com
- 8 Half Acre Tap Room
This 70-seater adjacent to the lauded Northcenter brewery has a singular focus: Half Acre beers. There are no TVs, no swizzle sticks, and no nibbles—but the owner doesn’t mind if you bring in food.
Who’s there: The brew equivalent of locavores
What to order: Sticky Fat (a dark ale)
Find it: 4257 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-248-4038, halfacrebeer.com
- 9 Delilah’s
Tattooed metalheads rub shoulders with spirits snobs at this underlit late-night purveyor of head-banging music, cutthroat pool playing, and more than 500 (gulp!) whiskeys.
Who’s there: Preppy locals, people with piercings
What to order: Parker’s Heritage Collection ten-year-old wheated bourbon
Find it: 2771 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-472-2771, delilahschicago.com
- 10 Joie de Vine
What started as a local wine bar with a lesbian fan base has evolved into a destination for craft beer hounds who prefer their suds without the scene. The beer tally now tops 90, and a custom cocktail program will wow your friends who appreciate small-batch distilleries and regional producers.
Who’s there: Scene-averse tipplers
What to order: Name the liquor you like and let them figure it out
Find it: 1744 W. Balmoral ave., 773-989-6846
The 8 Best Hotel Lounges
- A Allium at the Four Seasons
Allium lives up to the Four Seasons’ lofty standards: paneled walls, leather chairs, flawless service. At the same time, it also manages to be a convivial and cozy place—the Magnificent Mile’s clubby corner bar.
Find it: 120 E. Delaware Pl., 312-799-4900, alliumchicago.com
- B The Bar at the Peninsula Chicago
Warm red walls, a flickering fireplace, and a name that is simplicity itself. Sink into an easy chair and let the impeccable wait staff pamper you: Order a glass of wine and they’ll tote the bottle to your table and pour it there.
Find it: 108 E. Superior St., 312-573-6766, peninsula.com
- C Crimson Lounge at Hotel Sax
With a labyrinthine layout, dimly lit suites, lush scarlet couches, a decadent surfeit of art, and a glittering bar that makes it futile to resist overindulgence, this place will have you thinking of liaisons—dangerous or otherwise.
Find it: 333 N. Dearborn St., 312-923-2473, crimsonchicago.com
- D The J. Parker at Hotel Lincoln
This splashy rooftop bar was the see-and-be-seen alfresco destination when it debuted last summer. But with a 55-seat indoor space affording sweeping sights of the ice-capped lake and sparkling skyline—not to mention seasonal craft cocktails—it has no wintertime blues.
Find it: 1816 N. Clark St., 312-254-4747, jparkerchicago.com
Photograph: Eric Kleinberg
- E The Library at the Public Chicago
This Gold Coast spot plays Nick Carraway to the Pump Room’s Gatsby: elegant, happening, and just far enough removed from the scene to let you enjoy the panorama. With vaulted ceilings, a fireplace, faux-fur chairs, and wood walls, everything feels like the old sport’s reading room. Mind the hotel prices.
Find it: 1301 N. State Pkwy., 312-787-3700, publichotels.com/chicago
Sour cherry old fashioned from the Library
Photograph: Anna Knott
- F Lockwood Bar at the Palmer House
Snare one of the 17 stools at the lobby bar and savor, along with your cocktail, scenes from Greek mythology on the frescoed ceiling and the pleasing buzz of the bustling crowd—a quintessential urban hotel experience.
Find it: 17 E. Monroe St., 312-917-3404, lockwoodrestaurant.com
- G Rebar at Trump International Hotel & Tower
Classy without being ostentatious—everything the Donald is not—this mezzanine-level lounge at the Trump serves up chic cocktails and unparalleled visual treats: the Chicago River, the DuSable Bridge, and Lake Michigan.
Find it: 401 N. Wabash Ave., 312-588-8034, trumphotelcollection.com
- H Roof at theWit
This 7,000-square-foot rooftop may shift from swanky postwork destination to glitzy nightclub in a matter of minutes, but the simple yet strong drinks—and unobstructed views of nearly the entire Loop—remain. Word to the wise: Get there before 10 p.m. on weekends, when the lines start forming.
Find it: 201 N. State St., 312-239-9501, roofonthewit.com
The 5 Best Game Day Bars
- A Anthem
Casual sports watchers, this is the bar for you: Two mammoth screens are dutifully tuned to the day’s games, but Guns N’ Roses blasts from the speakers. Inexpensive brews, lollipop wings, and a Juicy Lucy (hamburger stuffed with oozy Velveeta cheese) make for a satiating Sunday.
Find it: 1725 W. Division St., 773-697-4804, theanthemchicago.com
Photograph: Anna Knott
- B Lincoln Tap Room
With its five massive TVs and 100-inch projection screen luring patrons, this neighborhood bar could just serve up cheap beer. It doesn’t. The local and international tap selection is exceptional; so are the prices. Bears fans welcome—unless the Steelers are playing.
Find it: 3010 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-868-0060, lincolntaproom.com
- C Schaller’s Pump
A Chicago institution since 1881 (Schlitz was literally pumped in during Prohibition), this tavern plays host to die-hard Sox fans and 11th Ward Democrats (the HQ is across the street). Its age shows, but the owners keep things buzzing with cheap Old Style cans and home-cooked grub.
Find it: 3714 S. Halsted St., 773-376-6332
- D Tripoli Tap
Boston sports followers swarm the well-worn wooden tables on weekends at this wicked awesome watering hole, although any dive lover can enjoy the $3 beer specials and no-nonsense vibe. For the love of God, leave the Yankees gear at home.
Find it: 1147 W. Armitage Ave., 773-477-4400, tripolitap.com
- E Will’s Northwoods Inn
The scent of grilled brats wafting on Packers’ and Badgers’ game day. Cabiny decor that evokes thoughts of bygone summers. Leinie’s flowing like water. If this homage to all things Wisconsin can’t make you Cheesehead-friendly, nothing can.
Find it: 3030 N. Racine St., 773-528-4400, willsnorthwoodsinn.shutterfly.com
The 12 Best Cocktail Spots
- A Bar Deville
Haunt this moody den for its cozy front room, DJ-fueled dance parties, and the delish classic cocktails.
What to order: The Last Word: Beefeater gin, green Chartreuse, maraschino, lime
Find it: 701 N. Damen Ave., 312-929-2349, bardeville.com
- B The Barrelhouse Flat
An old upright piano sets the speakeasy tone, while a noteworthy beverage list and friendly patrons carry the lively melody.
What to order: Purple Fizz: Sloe gin, soda, grapefruit, lemon, simple syrup
Find it: 2624 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-857-0421, barrelhouseflat.com
- C The Drawing Room
The carefully crafted drinks speak for themselves. If you need help, the knowledgeable staff complies without imparting guilt.
What to order: The Old Man Monk and the Sea: Old Weller 107, Lustau dry oloroso, benedictine
Find it: 937 N. Rush St., 312-266-2694, thedrchicago.com
- D The Grafton
At this Celtic haven, partake in an assortment of Irish, American, and Scotch whiskeys, a rotating selection of craft beers, and a folksy Sunday sing-along.
What to order: Fireside Old Fashioned with Buffalo Trace bourbon
Find it: 4530 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-271-9000, thegrafton.com
- E Longman & Eagle
The dark paneling, healthy sprinkling of plaid, meat-heavy menu, and nearly 60 bourbons on hand qualify this restaurant, bar, and inn as the city man’s hunting lodge.
What to order: 1-2 Punsch Swedish: punsch, Leather-bee gin, apricot liqueur, bitters
Find it: 2657 N. Kedzie Ave., 773-276-7110, longmanandeagle.com
- F The Matchbox
A claustrophobic’s nightmare and a cocktailer’s dream, this 18-seater spins out stiff, cheap, and superb drinks.
What to order: Margarita with egg white and lemon-lime juice
Find it: 770 N. Milwaukee Ave., 312-666-9292, thesilverpalmrestaurant.com/themachbox.php
- G Maude’s Liquor Bar
This sexy space approaches “refined” in eccentric ways: mismatched chandeliers, tiled walls, wood tables, a $165 shellfish tower, and Miller High Life.
What to order: Maude’s Punch Smith & Cross: rum, egg white, angostura bitters
Find it: 840 W. Randolph St., 312-243-9712, maudesliquorbar.com
- H Sable
Award-winning tipples from Violet Hour vet Mike Ryan are reason enough to go, but add in a sprawling 40-foot bar and proximity to the Loop theatres, and why spend Thursday night anywhere else?
What to order: War of the Roses: Pimm’s, Citadelle gin, Chase elderflower, mint, lime
Find it: 505 N. State St., 312-755-9704, sablechicago.com
- I Tiny Lounge
This swanky drink haven crafts a true whiskey sour (with an extracreamy egg white), along with myriad martinis and, as a bonus, to-die-for desserts (order the caramel-ized bananas with créme anglaise).
What to order: Goliath North: Shore Gin 11, green Chartreuse, lime
Find it: 4352 N. Leavitt St., 773-463-0396, tinylounge.com
- J The Violet Hour
Little has changed at this candlelit date spot since its fawned-over opening in 2007: consistent menu and staff, cozy quarters, and long lines.
What to order: First Snow: Herbsaint, aquavit, egg white, lemon sugar, peppermint water
Find it: 1520 N. Damen Ave., 773-252-1500, theviolethour.com
- K Watershed
The drinks at this decidedly un–River North faux speakeasy include mainly Midwestern spirits, while the overstuffed leather couches add to the windowless parlor’s intimate appeal.
What to order: Natty Gann: FEW gin, lemon cordial, Leopold Alpine liqueur, bitters
Find it: 601 N. State St., 312-266-4932, watershedbar.com
- L Weegee’s Lounge
The low-lit space specializes in classic cocktails. Its dark corners and hushed tones are perfect for an intimate date—or you can always play some shuffleboard in the back.
What to order: Aviation: City of London gin, creme de violette, maraschino
Find it: 3659 W. Armitage St., 773-384-0707, weegeeslounge.com
The 5 Best Bars for Music
- A Empty Bottle
Option 1: Get close enough to practically shred the guitar yourself. Option 2: Linger by the bar or pool table. Either way, the vastness of this nightly alt music venue makes for a surprisingly accommodating outing for all. The cheap beer doesn’t hurt.
Find it: 1035 N. Western Ave., 773-276-3600, emptybottle.com
- B The Green Mill
This history-laden jazz lounge (the small booth just past the bar was Al Capone’s favorite) specializes in intimacy—especially since loud conversation is a no-no. Cozy up in a booth, order a dirty martini, and pretend that it’s Dizzy Gillespie on the stage.
Find it: 4802 N. Broadway, 773-878-5552, greenmilljazz.com
Photograph: Nuccio Dinuzzo/Chicago Tribune
- C The Hideout
Go for the extensive beer list and stay for the show: Jack White, Billy Corgan, and Wild Belle have all played—and imbibed—in these sacred halls.
Find it: 1354 W. Wabansia Ave., 773-227-4433, hideoutchicago.com
- D Honky Tonk BBQ
A veritable grab bag of live sets—from a Patsy Cline cover band to a bluegrass trio—and Old Style served with a slab of candied bacon keep this joint of Food Network fame buzzing.
Find it: 1800 S. Racine Ave., 312-226-7427, honkytonkbbqchicago.com
- E Hungry Brain
The acoustic-set-loving regulars hear indie on the weekends and jazz on Sundays. The offbeat decor and mismatched furniture might be a bit perplexing, but that’s what gives this eclectic spot its charm. An excellently stocked jukebox and a nice craft beer list add to the allure.
Find it: 2319 W. Belmont Ave., 773-709-1401
The 6 Best Wine Bars
- A Ada St.
This upscale small-plate spot thrills with its craft cocktail program, but the massive wine library at the entrance is truly the most enchanting part. Stop by during summer and check out the industrial outdoor patio, complete with Ping-Pong tables situated between the brick walls. Just be careful—the exterior is so unassuming that you may wind up in one of the warehouses next door.
Find it: 1664 N. Ada St., 773-697-7069, adastreetchicago.com
- B Bar Pastoral
Last November, the quintessential wine and cheese shop debuted the quintessential wine and cheese bar, with Top Chef’s Chrissy Camba in the kitchen and carefully selected wines from both near and far. Predictably, the place hit the ground running.
Find it: 2947 N. Broadway, 773-472-4781, barpastoral.com
Photograph: Anna Knott
- C The Bluebird
It’s true that the ambitious craft beer menu eclipses the wine list in both size and scope at this cozy wood-paneled resto-bar. But in this case, sharp editing is a good thing. So are staffers who listen nonjudgmentally while you stammer through nondescript wine adjectives, then deliver palate-pushing choices.
Find it: 1749 N. Damen Ave., 773-486-2473, bluebirdchicago.com
- D RM Champagne Salon
The team behind Nellcôte brings the bubbles—more than 280 labels, ranging from $35 to $1,500—at this hidden Parisian gem. (Hint: Head down the alley just south of Randolph Street.) The charming courtyard full of strung-up lights is just a bonus. Cocktail attire and a healthy paycheck are both useful.
Find it: 116 N. Green St., 312-243-1199, rmchampagnesalon.com
- E Telegraph
Jeremy Quinn, picked by Food & Wine as one of its eight top sommeliers of 2012, approaches wine selection the way a curator would: He takes seasonal scouting trips to Europe to meet producers on their turf and shares his observations and notes on flavor and terroir on Telegraph’s blog. Suddenly the act of choosing what you’re going to drink seems way less mysterious—and considerably more fun.
Find it: 2601 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-292-9463, telegraphchicago.com
Photograph: Anna Knott
- F Vera
The Spain-obsessed wine bar boasts 15 sherries in addition to its eclectic 100-bottle-deep wine list, which is quartered into “Old School Spain,” “New School Spain,” “Neighbors,” and “Americas.” Warning: After trying the zesty Sicilian Etna Rosso, you may never go back to house pinot noir.
Find it: 1023 W. Lake St., 312-243-9770, verachicago.com
The 10 Best Dives
- A Archie’s Iowa Rockwell Tavern
The 69-year-old family-run tavern (now manned by Archie’s granddaughter Katrina) still offers some of the best deals anywhere: $3 monthly craft beer special, $2 Hamm’s, and free pool and cheese puffs all night. Dogs welcome, too.
Find it: 2600 W. Iowa St., 773-486-2626
- B Carol’s Pub
It’s not quite Texas, but it’s certainly not Chicago. The late-night honky-tonk joint is beloved for the country crooners who take the stage in the wee hours, baskets of fried stuff (indistinguishable, but satisfying nonetheless), and cheap beer. If you want to impress a date, trek on. But if all you want is sloppy fun in a cowboy hat, few places can beat Carol’s.
Find it: 4659 N. Clark St., 773-334-2402
- C Cole’s
How the fave spot of boho Logan Squarers stays so clean is one of the city’s great mysteries, but it’s a reason—along with the impressive bottled beer selection and chummy bartenders—to keep going back. Owner Coleman Brice hosts weekly concerts and comedy sets, if you’re looking for more than just drafts.
Find it: 2338 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-276-5802
- D Galway Bay
With comfy couches and every Nintendo game under the sun, you might swear you walked into your childhood rec room. But the free popcorn, jovial bartenders, and $2 PBRs remind you you’re in Chicago’s homiest basement hideaway.
Find it: 500 W. Diversey Pkwy., 773-348-3750, galwaybaypub.com
- E Happy Village
With daily specials like $2 PBR and Old Style, an all-season beer garden, and free Ping-Pong, it’s no wonder this place draws a crunchy crowd. It’s cash only, but with those deals, you won’t need more than $20 in your pocket.
Find it: 1059 N. Wolcott Ave., 773-486-1512, happyvillagebar.com
- F Monk’s
Peanut shells strewn across the floor guarantee this is not the place to meet a date. But that’s OK; the after-work set that packs the tables is only looking for a lively scene with good burgers and brews, and Monk’s has those in spades.
Find it: 205 W. Lake St., 312-357-6665, mmonks.com
- G The Old Town Ale House
A modestly grungy joint in slick Old Town, this Chicago classic is famous for its R-rated paintings of the famous and infamous (Blago, Sarah Palin). But the real draw is the jazz-heavy jukebox, which features giants like Coltrane along with locals Josh Berman and Jason Adasiewicz and a smattering of country and classical tunes.
Find it: 219 W. North Ave., 312-944-7020, theoldtownalehouse.com
- H Simon’s Tavern
Simon’s wears its Nordic roots on its glögg-stained sleeve: Viking artifacts, Swedish flags, Pripps lager, deer-hunting murals. And the weathered mahogany bar, bookended by bronze cherubs, is a tribute to the Andersonville that once was.
Find it: 5210 N. Clark St., 773-878-0894, myspace.com/simonstavern
- I Skylark
From the famous late-night Tots and the free jazz on Mondays to the 20 beers on tap, this is a neighborhood haunt better than most. And there’s no finer marker of Skylark’s devoted following than the constant clutter of parked bikes just outside its doors.
Find it: 2149 S. Halsted St., 312-948-5275, skylarkchicago.com
- J Woodlawn Tap
Where else does bar chatter include discussions of Nietzsche, postmodernism, and hyperbolic geometry? This standby, popularly known as Jimmy’s, may be a dive, but there’s nothing lowbrow about it. Tote your best academic armor: The Hyde Park watering hole is a University of Chicago favorite.
Find it: 1172 E. 55th St., 773-643-5516
The 10 Best Bars for Grub
- A Bavette’s Bar & Boeuf
There’s no finer way to pass a blustery evening than chasing shrimp cocktail with old fashioneds in the man-cave-esque lower-level lounge of Brendan Sodikoff’s buzzy steak joint.
Find it: 218 W. Kinzie St., 312-624-8154
Photograph: Anna Knott
- B Cortland’s Garage
This magazine has already voted the Cortland Street burger (white cheddar, smoked bacon, crispy onion strings, and more) one of the best in Chicago, but the pulled pork sandwich and short rib chili nachos are just as mouthwatering. Twelve beers on tap, too—and Bud is not one of them.
Find it: 1645 W. Cortland St., 773-862-7877, cortlandsgarage.com
- C Dancen
This Korean dive looks pretty bleak, but at 1 a.m., with fried pork skins and bek se ju rice wine warming your insides, it’s downright heroic. If you order the fire chicken, you may need one of the $14 beer pitchers just for yourself.
Find it: 5114 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-878-2400
- D McGill’s
At this charmingly relaxed pub, the smiley guy working the grill does a yeoman’s job with fried cheese cubes and spicy chicken wings. Go on Thursday for $3 craft beers.
Find it: 4453 N. Pulaski Rd., 773-478-6096, mcgillsbarandgrill.com
McGill's spicy chicken wings taste best with the craft beer special
Photograph: Anna Knott
- E Moody’s Pub
Two steps above a hole in the wall (note the crackling fireplace and enchanting tree-lined beer garden), Edgewater’s legendary tavern still stuffs its patrons with scrumptious burgers, heaps of fries, and cold beers.
Find it: 5910 N. Broadway, 773-275-2696, moodyspub.com
- F Old Town Social
A sports-bar-seeking clientele chest-bumps over $15 Miller Lite buckets while discerning gourmands wax poetic over Jared Van Camp’s outstanding housemade charcuterie: Though this three-year-old bi-level haunt has an identity crisis, it somehow manages to work.
Find it: 455 W. North Ave., 312-266-2277, oldtownsocial.com
- G Simone’s
Black bean and banana empanadas with cranberry aïoli, vegan quinoa burgers, yummy sweet potato fries—the funky Pilsen grill may be known for its bowling alley floors and exotic craft beer selections, but its vegetarian-friendly fare is just as delightful.
Find it: 960 W. 18th St., 773-666-8601, simonesbar.com
- H Small Bar
Soccer fans frequent it. Beer aficionados appreciate it. But foodies don’t seem to have realized that you can take the chef (Justin White, formerly of the Bristol) out of high-end restaurants, but you can’t take away his fine-dining chops. More chicken liver mousse for everyone.
Find it: 2049 W. Division St., 773-772-2727, smallbardivision.com
Photograph: Anna Knott
- I Three Aces
The red-sauce neighborhood restaurants had better watch their backs: Some of the most inspired food in Little Italy hails from this rock-themed hangout, where tatted-up patrons indulge in locally sourced bites that have no business being on a bar menu. There’s also craft beer, of course, along with live music, the occasional Bondage Bingo night, and a sprawling outdoor patio.
Find it: 1321 W. Taylor St., 312-243-1577, threeaceschicago.com
- J Tuman’s Tap & Grill
This decade-old pub reemerged with a much-needed face-lift in early 2012. What had begun to lapse into another nostalgic corner spot now teems with microbrews and darn good seasonally rotating eats.
Find it: 2159 W. Chicago Ave., 773-782-1400, tumanstapandgrill.com
The 6 Best Craft Beer Havens
- A Fischman Liquors & Tavern
A primo craft beer menu (all are available for sale at the attached liquor store), live tunes, weekly food truck gatherings: Sprint to this so-unhip-it’s-charming “slashie” (bar/liquor store) before the beer snob invasion.
Find it: 4780 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-545-0123, fischmanliquors.com
- B Fountainhead
Stocking 190 beers (and 420 whiskeys!), the three-year-old woodsy corner bar prides itself on its comprehensive drink menu (incuding gluten-free beer) and hearty nosh. It also boasts the best rooftop garden north of the Gold Coast.
Find it: 1970 W. Montrose Ave., 773-697-8204, fountainheadchicago.com
- C Hopleaf
The perennially packed Belgian beer haven expanded last summer, adding more draft lines for your imbibing pleasure and a kitchen five times the size of its predecessor. That means more skin-on frites and Montreal brisket to accompany your pints.
Find it: 5148 N. Clark St., 773-334-9851, hopleaf.com
- D Map Room
This international café brims with maps (no surprise) and rotating beers, including cask-conditioned and gluten-free varieties. With more than 200 brews from 36 countries on hand, you might actually need a GPS.
Find it: 1949 N. Hoyne Ave., 773-252-7636, maproom.com
Photograph: Anna Knott
- E Quenchers Saloon
Some come to this nearly 35-year-old watering hole for the live bands, others for the beer (250-plus ever-changing options), and still others for the kitsch (a photo booth and a collection of obscure books). Whatever their reasons, two-thirds of them arrive wearing plaid.
Find it: 2401 N. Western Ave., 773-276-9730, quenchers.com
- F Sheffield’s
With its tree-shaded garden and proximity to Wrigley Field, the Lake View joint could pack ’em in with a couple of flat screens and Coors Light. Instead, the beer nerdiness runs deep: This is often the spot to nab the newest seasonal brew before other bars get their taps on it.
Find it: 3258 N. Sheffield Ave., 773-281-4989, sheffields.com
The 5 Best LGBT Bars
- A Big Chicks
A’ville and B’town residents flock to this Uptown hipster dive’s dance floor on the weekends. Cure your hangover with a Sunday brunch and Bloody Mary next door at partner establishment Tweet.
Find it: 5024 N. Sheridan Rd., 773-728-5511, bigchicks.com
Photograph: Christine Forster
- B Elixir
A far cry from its rowdy neighbor Hydrate, this intimate bar serves up impressive signature cocktails well worth the probable wait for a seat. The diverse clientele and helpful bartenders make non-Boystowners feel more than welcome.
Find it: 3452 N. Halsted St., 773-975-9244, elixirchicago.com
- C Second Story
If you can find the unassuming stairwell off Michigan Avenue leading up to this tiny taproom that delights in its own seediness, be ready for (super) stiff drinks, blaring pop tunes, and a mixed crowd of middle-aged professionals and young boozers looking for a cheap highball.
Find it: 157 E. Ohio St., 312-923-9536
- D Sidetrack
A neighborhood mainstay for 30 years, sleek, multilevel Sidetrack boasts a busy summer roof deck that buzzes with drunken camaraderie every show-tunes-themed night. Don’t let the cavernous rooms fool you—they get packed.
Find it: 3349 N. Halsted St., 773-477-9189, sidetrackchicago.com
- E T’s Bar & Restaurant
Above-par food and daily beer specials distinguish T’s—sister to the Glenwood and Sidecar—as the go-to haunt for Andersonville’s lesbian community, but Gs, Bs, Ts, and more are welcome at this self-described “bar for everyone.”
Find it: 5025 N. Clark St. , 773-784-6000, tsbarchicago.com
The 18 Best Neighborhood Spots
- A Aberdeen Tap
West Town: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
- B Bernice’s Tavern
Bridgeport: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
- C California Clipper
Humboldt Park: 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
- D Charleston
Bucktown: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
- E City Tavern
South Loop: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
- F Cork and Kerry
Beverly: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
- G Danny’s Tavern
Bucktown: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
- H Edgewater Lounge
Edgewater: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
- I Emmit’s
River West: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
- J Floyd’s Pub
Bucktown: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
- K GMan Tavern
Wrigleyville: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
- L Glascott’s
Lincoln Park: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
- M Green Door Tavern
River North: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
- N Hüettenbar
Lincoln Square: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
Photograph: Megan Dodge
- O Marty’s
Andersonville: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
- P Ñ
Avondale: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
- Q Twisted Spoke
West Town: 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
- R Wabash Tap
South Loop: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
The 5 Best Drink-Time Diversions
- A Alice’s Lounge
For the Rihanna Wannabe: This endearingly trashy karaoke joint ditches the private singing rooms for a public stage where a karaoke jockey takes tune requests (ruined on a recent Saturday: “Hand in My Pocket,” “Baby Got Back,” and even opera). It’s a birthday and bachelorette party bonanza, but you knew that as soon as you saw the word “karaoke.”
Find it: 3556 W. Belmont Ave., 773-279-9382
- B The Globe Pub
For the Jeopardy! Junkie: On Tuesday nights, a crowd of brainiacs with clever team names (the Childbearing Hipsters had a solid showing on a recent visit) convenes in a back room at this soccer-loving spot. If you enjoy a challenge, brush up on explorers’ names and obscure films.
Find it: 1934 W. Irving Park Rd., 773-871-3757, theglobepubchicago.com
- C Guthries Tavern
For the Monopoly Maven: With a rotating list of craft beer specials for about $5 and more than 50 board games on hand, Guthries is perfect for midweek unwinding. Order from your favorite delivery place and listen to full albums of CSNY and the like.
Find it: 1300 W. Addison St., 773-477-2900, guthriestavern.tripod.com
- D Headquarters
For the ’80s-at-Heart Kid: Craft beer, classic arcade games, and outgoing staff make for good vibes at this roomy beercade. And perhaps to ward off hipster takeover, the sign above the bar reads: “No Miller, No Bombs, No Bud, No Energy Drinks, No PBR, No Attitude.”
Find it: 950 W. Wolfram St., 773-665-5660, hqbeercade.com
- E Mary’s Attic
For the Dancing Diva: Cheap drink specials and sassy tunes flow freely at this A’ville spot. On Wednesdays, friends without hang-ups can show off their best frontman moves on a raised stage, complete with a glittering disco ball and encouragement from salacious host CeeCee LaRouge.
Find it: 5400 N. Clark St., 773-784-6969, hamburgermaryschicago.com/attic.php
This article appears in the February 2013 issue of Chicago magazine.