Stuff Your Face(book)
with more delicious content
Sign Up Now Invite Friends

An editor's guide to drinking around town

Chicago

Given that the weather makes staying inside necessary for, like, nine months out of the year, Chicagoans have developed quite an affinity for drinking, and, of course, when it's finally nice enough to go outside, it's like, "Yay! Now we can drink outside!" As a result, there is no shortage of places to get your booze on, and Senior Editor Matt Lynch is here to recommend his favorites for any occasion.

Best Cocktails: Opened by an alum of the Violet Hour (which would certainly be in the running for this spot as well), Barrelhouse Flat has both an encyclopedic repertoire of old classics and a monthly rotating selection of intriguing innovations from the talented staff

Best Cocktails for the Decision-Challenged: Scofflaw has a tight, well-conceived, reasonably priced, gin-focused menu. Yes, they have some non-gin drinks. Yes, you should give one of the gin concoctions a shot, even if you think you aren't a gin person

Best Drink: If you're a cocktail novice, Balena conveniently rates its Amaro-heavy cocktail menu on a scale of 1 to 10 from least to most bitter. My preference lies somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, so the Francesco (Averna Amaro, Templeton rye, Carpano Antica & Cointreau), rated a 5, is right in my wheelhouse

Best Beer Bar: Bangers & Lace has 32 taps that rotate constantly, consistently offering brews you won't find many other places in the city. The most interesting stuff's usually located in the six-pack, an antique ice box with a hodgepodge of taxidermy resting on top of it

Best Brewpub: Although they've now started bottling and canning thanks to the massive brewing facility seen above, (whose taproom is also worth a visit), the original Revolution Brewing is still the place to get beers you won't find on the shelves, and pair them with bacon-fat popcorn or a burger topped with house-made pastrami

Best Brewery: North Center's Half Acre is more well-integrated into its neighborhood than any other brewery in the city, and it became even more visitor-friendly with the addition of its taproom, with 10 beers steadily pouring, plus experimental one-off casks and firkins on Fridays

Best Place to Day Drink: Though, I admit, it seems like it's reached to the point where one has to camp out to score a seat on the patio on a nice day, downing taco-accompanied margaritas and cold ones at Big Star remains well worth the effort

Best Wine Bar: Mark Mendez's Spanish menu makes Vera a worthy destination even if you aren't drinking, but his wife Elizabeth's wine program makes it equally worthwhile if you don't plan on eating. Pro tip: do both

Best Club: My personal taste tends more towards double-fisting fine craft beers (see up top), but I can say that Studio Paris is a favorite among my more club-inclined friends, and draws a pretty eye-opening list of international talent

Easiest Place to Get Laid: I've heard The Hangge Uppe described as a "late-night institution" and a "perpetual sh*t show", with the labyrinthine downstairs blasting every old song you've ever wanted to belt out after having a few too many. Full disclosure: I've had friends meet their spouses here, so that one night stand may end up being the best (or worst) thing that ever happened to you

Best Dive Bar: Happy Village's two ping-pong tables are NOT employed for drinking games, but rather for table tennis that can get surprisingly heated. But there's still plenty of drinking going on, particularly in the tented back patio that looks like someone is preparing to host a high school graduation party

Best Local Bar: Old Town Ale House has gotten love from Anthony Bourdain and the late Roger Ebert in the last several months, but that doesn't seem to have inundated it with tourists as of yet. Fine, I did see Jason Sudeikis and Olivia Wilde there recently, but Jason has Second City & Improv Olympic ties, so it's cool. And Olivia Wilde can drink wherever she pleases

Best Jukebox: It's a personal preference, but I tend to like my jukeboxes with music as old as they are, and Richard's Bar is a throwback dive with a jukebox full of classics. If you tend to like things a little more up to date, Simon's Tavern does a phenomenal job keeping theirs interesting.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
1. Barrelhouse Flat 2624 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60614

This two-floor throwback cocktailery in Lincoln Park churns out classic tipples like Sazeracs, Old Fashioneds and Manhattans alongside lesser-known imbibables like the Jimmie Roosevelt, a blend of cognac, green chartreuse and Champagne. Choose from 60+ varieties of shaken or stirred drinks.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
2. Scofflaw 3201 W Armitage Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

Logan Square's Scofflaw offers up a long list of gin-focused cocktails alongside small bites and craft beers.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
3. Balena 1633 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

Balena features high ceilings, a leather-adorned bar and large arched windows that allow a peek into the kitchen dishing out Italian-leaning menu items like burrata with radish, fennel and white balsamic; orecchiette with kale, lemon, breadcrumbs and chile; and roasted porchetta with polenta and red onion salad.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
4. Bangers & Lace 1670 W Division St, Chicago, IL 60622

Wicker Park's craft beer and sausage haven Bangers & Lace serves up just that: delicious craft suds from the US and abroad, like Great Divide's Barrel-Aged Old Ruffian and St. Feuillen's Grand Cru, and sausage creations including kielbasa skewers and Louisiana-style hot links. The extensive food menu features build-a-biscuit breakfast sandwiches, too.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
5. Half Acre Tap Room 4257 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60618

Half Acre's tap room can house nearly 100 suds enthusiasts in a lodge-like drinking nook sporting Douglas fir tables, weathered walls re-purposed from a Wisconsin grain elevator, and a painting of a brew-swilling bear.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
6. Big Star 1531 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

The heavy whiskey/tequila/cocktail/beer menu stands out at this Mexican joint in Wicker Park, which also serves street food-esque fare like tacos al pastor and queso fundido.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
7. Vera 1023 W Lake St, Chicago, IL 60607

This Spanish-leaning wine bar offers seasonally rotating vinos alongside shareable plates like bacon-wrapped dates, ceviche, paella, and charcuterie.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
8. Studio Paris 59 W Hubbard St, Chicago, IL 60654

French-inspired fare headlines this bistro in Chicago's River North neighborhood. Get Francophilic with a selection of fine French Champagnes, updates on classics like chicken paillard and short rib bourguignon, and tons of shellfish, including Le Grand Plateau with lobster, oysters, snow crab claws, shrimp, and king crab.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
9. The Hangge-Uppe 14 W Elm St, Chicago, IL 60610

Getting lost in a bar may never have been so fun. As a Chicago staple for more than 30yrs, this massive dual-level dance haven offers five differently themed bars, three dance floors, and a variety of '50s through '80s rock and disco on one floor and modern hits on another. With drink specials galore and a pair of all-request DJs, we dare you not to break a sweat at the Hangge-Uppe.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
10. Happy Village 1059 N Wolcott Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

Happy Village might be very unassuming from the outside, but the interior features a flurry of paddles and balls -- a Ping-Pong room (what'd you think we meant?). Additionally, this cash-only establishment features a friendly small-town atmosphere, cheap booze, and a pleasant patio area to enjoy some fresh air while sipping suds.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
11. Old Town Ale House 219 W North Ave, Chicago, IL 60610

The first and last memory you'll have of Old Town Ale House is the painting of a naked Sarah Palin holding an automatic rifle. But somewhere in between, you'll also recall jazz on the jukebox, cheap prices, and the intensely dive-y atmosphere, complete with a multitude of scandalous political portraits (painted by the the owner) hung on the dimly lit walls of this Chicago pub.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
12. Simon's Tavern 5210 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60640

This Swedish-centric joint in Andersonville is decked in Viking swag and serves up warm winter drinks like Glögg, a hot mulled wine.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
13. Revolution Brewing Company 3340 N Kedzie Ave, Chicago, IL 60618

Chicago-brewed suds from Revolution Brewing in Logan Square include year-rounders like the Anti-Hero IPA and Eugene Porter, while seasonals and specialty brews count the Fistmas holiday and Rose Hibiscus ales.

Other Stories You Will Like

More From Around the Web

Like what you see?

Grab seconds on our Facebook page.