Food & Drink

The Chicago 4am Bar Challenge

Jennifer Bui & Oscar Nillson/Thrillist

You can read books about Chicago. You can watch movies about Chicago. But the only way to truly know Chicago is to know Chicago at 4 in the morning.

That’s why we came up with this list of the 24 of the most notorious late-night haunts in the city. Some great, some terrible, all entertaining, all Chicago. Your job? To experience the city as only a true local can by hitting ALL 24 SPOTS by the end of the year.

Stop freaking out and click HERE to see the whole map/checklist -- you’ve got work to do. Oh, and keep us posted on your progress on Instagram with the #4amBarChallenge hashtag (the more scandalous, the better). See you out there, and Godspeed.

Jennifer Bui & Oscar Nillson/Thrillist

1. Berlin (address and info)
Lakeview
Hours: Closed Mondays; Tuesdays, 10pm-4am; Wed-Fri, 5pm-4am; Saturdays, 5pm-5am.
Bar features: DJs, drag queens, people with pink mohawks, uncomfortable yuppies
 
2. Big City Tap (address and info)
Lakeview
Hours: Open 'til 4am every day; 5am on Saturdays
Bar features: Bros, shotskis, shame, regret
 
3. Smart Bar (address and info)
Wrigleyville
Hours: Wed-Fri and Sundays, 10pm-4am; Saturdays, 10pm-5am
Bar features: A dance floor where you think you look awesome... but you don’t

4. Old Town Ale House (address and info)
Old Town
Hours: Mon-Fri, 3pm-4am; Saturdays, noon-5am; Sundays, noon-4am
Bar features: Nudie paintings, jukebox, fun crowd from grizzled old-timers to Second City patrons, Chicago history
 
5. The Barrelhouse Flat (address and info)
Lincoln Park
Hours: Sun-Thurs, 6pm-2am; Fridays, 6pm-4am; Saturdays, 6pm-5am
Bar features: Actually good cocktails (try the Pisco Sour), actually good bar food like lobster macaroni (kitchen open 'til 3:30am Saturdays), actually a not-annoying crowd
 
6. The Beaumont (address and info)
Lincoln Park
Hours: Wed-Fri, 6pm-4am; Saturdays, 3pm-5am
Bar features: Rude bouncers, watered-down drinks, people who haven’t learned how to party yet
 
7. Kingston Mines (address and info)
Lincoln Park
Hours: Open 'til 4 am every day; 5am on Saturdays
Bar features: Blues bands, bleary-eyed tourists, interestingly random crowd from old-timers to college kids
 
8. The Store (address and info)
Lincoln Park
Hours: Noon-4am
Bar features: Terrible bands, terrible drinks, terrible people, lesson learned 
 
9. Underbar (address and info)
Roscoe Village
Hours: 9pm-4am; 5am on Saturdays
Bar features: Good music, good people, one of the best late-night bars in the city, under new ownership from Subterranean/Beat Kitchen owners
 
10. Alice’s Lounge (address and info)
Avondale
Hours: Mon-Fri, 7pm-4am; Saturdays, 7pm-5am; closed Sundays
Bar features: Karaoke 'til 4am, bar snacks, pool table, friendly laid-back crowd
 
11. The Continental  (address and info)
Humboldt Park
Hours: Open 'til 4am daily; 5am on Saturdays
Bar features: Hipsters, decent drinks, close quarters that force you to make friends with strangers
 
12. Nick’s Beer Garden (address and info)
Wicker Park
Hours: Open daily 'til 4am; 5am on Saturdays
Bar features: Live bands, trivia, lively back patio, $2 beers on Sundays
 
13. Boss Bar (address and info)
River North
Hours: Mon-Thurs, 2pm-4am, Fridays & Sundays, 11am-4am; Saturdays, 11am-5am
Bar features: Divorcees, cougars, dudes in suits… you know, River North
 
14. Burton Place (address and info)
Old Town
Hours: 11am-4am; Saturdays, 11am-5pm
Bar features: Multiple levels of bad decisions, people from high school you forgot existed
 
15. Hangge-Uppe (address and info)
Gold Coast
Hours: Open 'til 4am daily; 5am on Saturdays
Bar features:Where to even begin? 
 
16. Tai’s Til 4 (address and info)
Wrigleyville
Hours: Sun-Fri, 7pm-4am; Sat 8pm-5am
Bar features: $9.50 Coors Light 40-ouncers on Saturday nights, Pop-A-Shot machine, dudes who look like they want to fight you
 
17. Underground (address and info)
River North
Hours: Daily, 10pm-4am; Saturdays, 10pm-5am
Bar features: DJs, hot chicks in tight shirts, dudes trying to pick them up and failing miserably
 
18. The Mid (address and info)
Fulton Market
Hours: Daily, 10pm-4am; Saturdays,10pm-5am
Bar features: Solid DJ acts, bottle service, Blackhawks players taking their shirts off after winning the Stanley Cup
 
19. Estelle’s (address and info)
Bucktown
Hours: Sun-Fri, 6pm-4am; Saturdays, 6pm-5am
Bar features: People drinking PBR, people in line to order PBR, people waiting in line for the comically tiny bathroom to urinate PBR
 
20. Exit (address and info)
Noble Square
Hours: Sun-Fri, 9pm-4am; Saturdays, 9pm-5am
Bar features: Punk music, punk rockers, chain-link fenced-in dancing cage, one of Chicago’s craziest parties 
 
21. Estate Ultra Bar (address and info)
River West
Hours: Open 'til 2am daily; 4am on Fridays; 5am on Saturdays
Bar features: Awesome rooftop deck, the place to board a pontoon booze cruise
 
22. The Flat Iron (address and info)
Wicker Park
Hours: Open daily 'til 4am; 5am on Saturdays
Bar features: Pinball, cool murals, cheap drinks, cool people
 
23. The Owl (address and info)
Logan Square
Hours: Sun-Fri, 7pm-4am; Saturdays, 7pm-5am
Bar features: Solid beer list, minimal lighting, weird fountain/waterfall behind the bar, hipsters (of course)
 
24. Carol’s Pub (address and info)
Uptown
Hours: Open 'til 4am daily; 5am on Saturdays
Bar features: Live country music, questionable bathrooms, good people, good times

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Jay Gentile is a Thrillist contributor and he has spent a lifetime doing this bar challenge. Buy him a beer @innerviewmag.