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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


REGGIE’S MUSIC JOINT Along with its adjoining sister spots—Reggie’s Rock Club, a full-scale concert venue, and Record Breakers, a record shop—RMJ fills a void in the South Loop. Music runs from metal to reggae to live-band karaoke, while the bar itself is rooted in a rockabilly vibe, with vintage concert posters and more than a dozen flat-screen TVs. The 70 beers (25 on tap), extensive bourbon and whiskey options, and eclectic mix of people are good reasons to stay south of Madison Street. 2105 S. State St.; 312-949-0120, reggieslive.com food available | outdoor seating | cover charge | live music

THE SHRINE This comeback act from Joe Russo (Funky Buddha, Sinibar) is the South Loop’s only full-fledged nightclub; the Afrocentric décor and a music lineup heavy on soul, R & B, and hip-hop offer a refreshing change of pace. Everyone from Ludacris to the Roots has dropped by since the club’s open­ing last June, and though bottle service is part of the game plan, it’s possible to simply pay the cover and let loose with a cocktail or two on the main dance floor. For big shots, there is an attached VIP lounge, The Coup d’etat. 2109 S. Wabash Ave.; 312-753-5700, theshrinechicago.com cover charge | live music | dj


SIMONE’S With a funky décor grafted together from vintage pinball machines, church pews, and bowling alley flooring, this haunt feels a little like the set of a Tim Burton movie. Sensory overload aside, habitués appreciate the creative cocktails, uncommon craft beers, and hard-to-find cans such as Big Sky Moose Drool and Ska Brewing Modus Hoperandi IPA. 960 W. 18th St.; 312-666-8601, simonesbar.com food available | outdoor seating | dj (See “Budget Beat.”)

SKYLARK Before there was Simone’s, there was Skylark, a no-frills rec room of a bar from the owner of Rainbo Club, among others, for folks like him: aging hipsters who had fled Wicker Park’s suburban invasion in favor of Pilsen. And thus, the gentrification began. But when we’re happily wolfing down plates of pulled pork and $4 pints of Rogue Juniper Pale, it’s hard to point fingers. 2149 S. Halsted St.; 312-948-5275 food available | live music (Sun.)


BERNICE’S TAVERN One of the last “buzzer bars,” this Bridgeport spot has been ringing in patrons since 1965; lately that includes the neighborhood’s new breed of hipsters. The appeal is décor (old bourbon jars and street signs, a CTA fare box) that wouldn’t be out of place in your great-uncle’s basement, cheap drinks (including Jeppson’s Malort and a wide array of Czech pilsners), and a killer jukebox (doo-wop to Irish folk to old-school R & B). 3238 S. Halsted St.; 312-907-1580, bernicestavern.com

COBBLESTONES BAR & GRILL White Sox fans flock to this handsome hangout during baseball season for the relaxed vibe, quality food, and cost-conscious drink list—but the place merits a visit any time of year. Sip from the assortment of microbrews and imports at the beautiful in-the-round oak bar with polished brass trim. 514 W. Pershing Rd.; 773-624-3630, cobblestonesmenu.com food available

SCHALLER’S PUMP The word “Pump” recalls this historic establishment’s long-ago connection to a nearby brewery, which pumped its beer into the bar. During Prohibition, the place became a speakeasy. Going back even further, Schaller’s served its first meal in the 1880s, making it Chicago’s oldest restaurant. Today the place teems with White Sox fans, along with colorful regulars who never left Bridgeport. 3714 S. Halsted St.; 773-376-6332 food available


WOODLAWN TAP With its B-plus beer list, edible food, and patchy ventilation system (thank you, smoking ban), Jimmy’s, as it’s universally called, is nothing special on the surface. But thanks to its U. of C.–ish clientele, talk to—or eavesdrop on—your unassuming neighbor and you may hear the birth of a new exegesis of Nietzsche. 1172 E. 55th St.; 773-643-5516 food availabl


LEE’S UNLEADED BLUES This tiny corner bar, huddled near the Chicago Skyway, is popular with neighborhood regulars and U. of C. students for its cheap drinks. But it’s also one of the best spots in the city to hear free blues in a disco-dive setting of mirrored walls and dazzling lighting. The crowd that packs in on weekends can’t resist moving to the hot licks. 7401 S. South Chicago Ave.; 773-493-3477 live music

NEW APARTMENT LOUNGE This spacious spot has dive written all over it, right down to its powder-blue Formica bar and gray carpeting (a renovation is planned for early 2010). But on Tuesdays it transforms into something special when the saxophone master Von Freeman takes over the shoehorned-in stage for no-cover jazz jam sessions. With its late-night liquor license, the bar attracts wee-hours revelers who keep the party going. 504 E. 75th St.; 773-483-7728 open late | cover charge (occasionally) | live music


CORK & KERRY A visit to the Far South Side isn’t complete without a pilgrimage to the best Irish pub in town. In fact, we’d say it deserves its own trip for the beautiful oak bar, spacious beer garden (heated and enclosed in bad weather), and impressive lineup of drafts, Irish whis­key, and single-malt Scotch. 10614 S. Western Ave.; 773-445-2675, corkandkerrychicago.com food available | outdoor seating | live music (occasionally)

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