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Scenes from some of our top bars and clubs

These spots merit some hang time even if you don't stay for the food

Bars we're thirsting for at presstime, either yet to open or too new to review

Best spots for $2 Guinness pints, judgment-free dancing, White Sox sightings, and more


CAL’S 400 LIQUORS To the left at this all-in-one dive and liquor store: bike messengers, regulars, and young professionals grabbing drinks at the bar. To the right: A local band sets up onstage while punk rockers wait for the show to begin. No glitz or glamour—but therein lies the charm. 400 S. Wells St.; 312-922-6392 live music

POTTER’S LOUNGE The grand lobby of the Loop’s Palmer House Hilton makes for one of the city’s best people-watching spots. Directly off it is this quiet, cozy room lined with overstuffed leather couches and vintage celebrity photos. The private feel encourages date-night nuzzling, and the service has luxury-hotel flair. A convenient stop for pre- and posttheatre cocktails and small plates. 17 E. Monroe St.; 312-917-4933, potterschicago.com food available

ROOF With its sexy décor, sleek terrace umbrellas, seasonal cocktail menu, and South Beach vibe unmatched in Chicago, this hot spot on the 27th floor of the Loop’s new Wit hotel makes a lasting impression. The crowd—a mix of afterwork traders, fashionistas, industry bigwigs, and visiting Euros—looks as good as the space. 201 N. State St.; 312-239-9501, roofonthewit.com food available | outdoor seating | dj


ANGELS & KINGS The Chicago outpost of this New York import is part-owned by Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz, who occasionally shows up with his wife, Ashlee Simpson. The narrow River North rock lounge’s walls are lined with celebrity mug shots; law-abiding patrons can snap their own jailbird photos against a backdrop inside the front door. Music is the focus here, with DJs spinning most nights and the occasional surprise concert. 710 N. Clark St.; 312-482-8600, angelsandkings.com live music | dj

THE BAR AT THE PENINSULA Trends come and go, but the Peninsula hotel’s main bar always feels like home, with its roaring fireplace, deep couches, gleaming wood, and impeccable service. A 30-and-up crowd of local sophisticates and well-dressed travelers lines the bar and sinks into scattered seating for nightcaps of top-shelf port, Scotch flights, and expertly mixed martinis. 108 E. Superior St.; 312-573-6766, chicago.peninsula.com food available

CRIMSON LOUNGE The namesake hue pervades the sumptuous décor at this lounge inside the Hotel Sax: Night­lifers perch on tufted stools and velvet couches amid gathered drapes and flickering candles, all in deep shades of red. Portraits in heavy gold frames and faded Oriental rugs add to the Victorian vibe, counterbalanced by a young, done-up crowd and thumping DJ-spun tunes. 333 N. Dearborn St.; 312-923-2473, crimsonchicago.com food available | dj

DOUBLE A It helps to know someone—or to e-mail the manager and promise to drop a substantial chunk of change—to gain access to this exclusive 65-seat hideaway beneath the River North restaurant Mercadito. The owners’ collection of rare tequilas is on display; DJs spin danceable mixes; and groups with table reservations spread out in comfortable leather booths. But the craft cocktails—and their preparation at a freestanding, counter­like bar—take center stage. 108 W. Kinzie St., lower level; rsvp@doubleachicago.com dj

MANOR/STAY A hit with the sexy, deep-pocketed, see-and-be-seen crowd, Manor (and its “hidden” late-night sibling, Stay) caters to bottle-service customers with perks like VIP hosts and private lock boxes for storing personal belongings. The look is Old-World estate, with iron lanterns, stone and wood-paneled walls, and tufted leather banquettes. Go-go dancers, singles on the prowl, and visiting celebs abound. 642 N. Clark St.; 312-475-1390, manorchicago.com open late (Stay only) | cover charge | dj

MURASAKI Trust this lounge’s knowledgeable staff to guide you through the impressive selection of sakés and saké cocktails, offering precise descriptions of fragrances and flavors. The limited food menu includes tasty takoyaki—Japanese dump­lings with Worcestershire sauce. The retro Asian décor, with anime on the flat-screen TVs, complements the libations like white on rice. 211 E. Ontario St.; 312-266-2280, murasakichicago.com food available | dj (Fri.-Sat.)

POPS FOR CHAMPAGNE Drawing a more mature clientele than most of the surrounding River North nightclubs, Pops packs in crowds eager to try one of the 100-plus spark­ling wines or to hear live jazz in the downstairs lounge. Tall arched windows, a sleek octagonal bar, and champagne-colored walls give the place an airy feel, though low lighting lends romance for dates. 601 N. State St.; 312-266-7677, popsforchampagne.com food available | outdoor seating | cover charge (downstairs) | live music (downstairs)

ROSSI’S The quintessential neighborhood dive in an unlikely ’hood: River North. The wood-paneled walls are covered in flags, signs, and holiday lights; a jukebox blares old favorites (patrons are not ashamed to sing at the top of their lungs); and a cooler comes stocked with classic beers. Grab a brew, then pay at the bar—but don’t expect the antique cash register to accept credit cards. This place is cash only. 412 N. State St.; 312-644-5775 food available

SECOND STORY This gay dive is just steps off bustling Michigan Avenue but the look is authentic Wisconsin’s Northwoods—or any small town. Cheap, stiff drinks poured by sassy yet friendly bar­tenders make up for the ramshackle décor. It all adds up to charming seediness. 157 E. Ohio St.; 312-923-9536

THE TERRACE/REBAR AT TRUMP On a balmy night, the jaw-dropping view from the Trump’s 16th-floor Terrace makes it easy to forget the building is owned by a man with a comb-over. When the weather turns cold, it’s easy to remember there’s another excellent cocktail spot on the property: the mezzanine-level Rebar, where patrons sip punch bowls of fruity concoctions while gazing at the river through floor-to-ceiling windows. 401 N. Wabash Ave.; 312-588-8034, trumpchicagohotel.com food available | outdoor seating (The Terrace)

THE UNDERGROUND Bright young things rub elbows with visiting celebs at this bomb-shelter-chic River North club, where utilitarian concrete, backlit maps, and the servers’ short khaki jump ­suits suggest a military bunker. VIPs typically skip the line when making their way to the basement lair, where the least-inhibited partyers dance on dividers between tables while high-profile DJs spin rock and hip-hop. 56 W. Illinois St.; 312-644-7600, theundergroundchicago.com food available | open late | cover charge | live music (occasionally) | (dj)

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