The Best Chicago Bars for Throwing a Birthday Party
Finding the right venue to host a birthday bash can be frustrating (“you only turn 26 once!”). Make the wrong choice, and you could be trapped in your own private wrist-banded Hell, where the drinks are watered down, and the karaoke machine has no music from the current millennium. We've scouted out 15 standout bars in Chicago that are conducive to throwing an epic birthday, from full-on party packages with booze-fueled laser tag to spacious dives where you can bring your own food.
Within this 50,000sqft complex, party-goers can partake in activities best paired with drinking: whirlyball (a mash-up of lacrosse, basketball, and bumper cars that can go in reverse), bowling, and laser tag. Courts and bowling lanes can be reserved for a nostalgic birthday gathering. The solid beer list, pub fare, giant leather sofas, and 60 flat-screens probably kick things up a notch from everyone's teenage glory days.
This old world bar is well-known for two key party ingredients: outdoor seating and whiskey. The corner tavern's powerful combo, in addition to its beer-focused cuisine, will keep the celebration going. Birthday patrons can head to the always-happening rooftop garden (or hole up by the fireplace in the mahogany-laden interior), and choose from 150+ whiskies or 27 beers on tap, including two hand-pulled casks. Just be sure to make a group reservation ahead of time.
Avoid the judgmental gaze of other bar-goers by instead locking your friends in a private karaoke room and reach for all the high notes you’ll never hit. Guzzle stiff, yet affordable cocktails while belting out tunes in a room equipped with disco lights, mics, an updated playlist, plasma screens, comfy sofas, and extra props and instruments like light-up tambourines. Reservations are definitely recommended, but they'll try to accommodate walk-in parties. BYO cake.
This cash-only establishment on a residential block is primed for birthday gatherings with its cheap booze, jukebox, ping-pong room, tent-topped outdoor patio area with a koi pond, and overall homey vibe. The best part of a dive-y celebration? Visits from the tamale guy and shot-and-a-beer deals like the $2 Hamm's + $3.50 for a shot of Jameson to keep the birthday boy/girl on the path to enlightenment.
This massive Restaurant Row temple caters to beer and bacon worshipers. The space regularly hosts events for 30+ people in private party rooms, but there's more than enough room for smaller groups to hang out with the other patrons in the 200-seat beer garden, 50-person sidewalk cafe, or on either of the interior two floors. Enjoy the skyline views from the top floor, and a couple rounds of brews and bacon grenades.
We'll start with this: YOU DRINK FREE ON YOUR BIRTHDAY. With no deposits, no room fees, and, for those of you with a few non-committal friends, no minimum headcount needed to book one of their all-you-can-drink party packages, this will be your go-to birthday destination. For $20-45 (depending on the package/duration) and attentive staff, it's totally worth it. The bar has an impressive retro ambiance with a pool table, darts, jukebox, photo booth, board games, and even a vintage cigarette machine. Reserving the back area will get you plenty of tables and comfy seating, and did we mention they're super cool with you bringing in food?
This community staple tends to draw the local arts scene, and is one of the best beer bars in America. Its roster of 450+ beers and classy cocktails alongside friendly staff and splendidly-curated DJ nights make it unparalleled meetup grounds for an eclectic mix of friends. Plus, it's a classic Chicago "slashie" (part bar, part liquor store), so take-home birthday treats abound.
Dana Hotel's year-round rooftop lounge/club/restaurant on the 26th floor boasts one of the city's most notorious party scenes. It's also the only rooftop ice bar in the winter, complete with nightly DJs, fire pits, and sexy plush robes to heat things up day or night. Level up with a VIP table here and enjoy the knock-out views.
The locations in Lakeview and the newer, gigantic beercade in River North aren't just kickass playlands for gamers and beer enthusiasts, they're also great spots for getting all your friends who don't know each other together. You won't have to feel awkward trying to make sure that your cool colleagues get along with your nerdy high school friends. They'll either bond over NBA Jam or you can freely roam the arcade scene from group to group.
It's never a horrible idea to pretend you're on a tropical getaway for your birthday, especially if you're a Capricorn or Aquarius in our fair city. In fact, a retreat to this tiki-themed speakeasy for a kick-you-in-the-pants, fruity beverage best served in a treasure chest with dry ice fog (and a bottle of Dom Pérignon on the side) might be the most optimal way to ring in your new age bracket with six-eight lucky comrades.
This bohemian beer hall features the requisite giant boots of birthday brews, house-made German sausages, a game room, and picnic table seating for all your friends, plus all of their friends. Prost!
The hospitable neighborhood residents helming this inviting spot sling notably inventive cocktails and craft beers. You'll likely attract some new companions to the reserved party couch after a few expertly crafted social favorites like the Sassy Ginge with whiskey, ginger beer, and aromatic bitters.
Reggies Trainwreck Rooftop Deck can legally squeeze you and 98 of your closest friends atop this multi-stage music venue/record store/restaurant. Rent out the entire rooftop deck (or just a section) to take advantage of a well-stocked bar, full menu (plus food/drink packages), picnic table seating with large umbrellas, and eight flat-screens with the game on TV, in addition to the free games of pool, bags, and Pop-A-Shot basketball. Wood stove and propane heaters keep things toasty during the off-season.
Is it truly a party if you're not circling 'round bowls of strange punch concoctions with your friends in a basement? The underbelly of Dusek's specializes in a variety of punch-y goodness (and grown-up Sno Kones!) with cicerone-curated ingredients to help you forget another year of your life has passed. Snag a horseshoe-shaped booth for the imbibing and pop over to the adjacent Thalia Hall for a show later.
Skee-ball, tamales, a photo booth, and a giant, dim, red-lit dance floor already put this fine two-story establishment on our bar bucket list. They also serve up Frito Pie, which is pretty much like birthday cake, right? Let the good times roll where the beer is cheap, the wine is boxed, and the cocktails are bottled.