Food & Drink

Illinois' Oldest Bars Outside Chicago

Published On 11/11/2015 Published On 11/11/2015

Now that we’ve given the rundown of the oldest bars in Chicago (drink where all our mobsters/mob-owned politicians drank!), it’s time to take that boozy history lesson on the road to discover the oldest bars in the rest of Illinois. Because some pretty interesting historic stuff exists outside the city limits. Not much, but some.

 

Hackney’s

Glenview

Opened: 1921
Today Hackney’s is known for its dark rye bread, burgers, and fried onions served at all five locations. In 1921 during Prohibition, though, Jack and Bebe Hackney were known for serving beer and burgers from the back porch of their Glenview home.

Flickr/Mike Willis

Log Cabin Steakhouse

Galena

Opened: 1937
As the name suggests, beef is the specialty of this nearly 80-year-old steakhouse owned by the Rigopoulos family since 1975, which has infused its Greek lineage into the menu with its lamb chops and famous chicken recipe. The lively locals joint also has a weekend piano bar and sports its own 16-passenger party bus for when it’s time to “opa!”

Flickr/Keith Cooper

Meier’s Tavern

Glenview

Opened: 1933
In 1927, a farmhouse-turned-speakeasy opened on a quiet road surrounded by fields. Purchased by the Meier family in 1932 and fully licensed at Prohibition’s end in 1933, Meier's Tavern served 10-cent beer, 15-cent burgers, and offered pony rides for the kids. These days it’s a cool packaged goods-style slashie with DAB on tap served in its own mug and food served on Styrofoam plates, like God intended.

Courtesy of Visit Champaign County

Brass Rail

Champaign

Opened: 1933
College dudes and old timers peacefully coexist at this local dive, which is one of the oldest establishments in Downtown Champaign and a welcome respite from the typical college bar scene. Bar games and an old-school jukebox make this an ideal spot to get weird on the dance floor after too many cans of Hamm’s and episodes of Jeopardy.

Flickr/Aimee Knight

Fast Eddie’s Bon Air

Alton

Opened: 1921
Fast Eddie’s was originally built by Anheuser-Busch so folks could enjoy their cold brews just across the Mississippi River from their St. Louis operation. But when “Fast” Eddie Sholar took over the bar in 1981, he rapidly expanded it and turned it into one of the best in the state, stocked with more than 4,000 half barrels of beer. Ninety-nine-cent bratwurst, 29-cent shrimp, and the marinated tenderloin delight known as the Big Elwood on a Stick also await.

Courtesy of John’s Restaurant and Tavern

John’s Restaurant and Tavern

Winfield

Opened: 1921
Wait, where the hell is Winfield? It’s where John’s Restaurant and Tavern is, that’s where. John’s has long been a staple of this far western Chicago suburb, serving up comfort food including its Friday fish fry, Saturday night BBQ dinners, and Sunday fried chicken special. Grab a spot on John’s beautiful outdoor patio and enjoy one of 22 tap beers including Pig Minds Always The Hard Way double IPA, as well as local offerings from the likes of Revolution, Temperance, and Two Brothers.

Flickr/Eden, Janine an Jim

Mickey Finn’s

Libertyville

Opened: 1917
Mickey Finn’s only began brewing its own beer in 1994, but it has been serving cold ones since 1917 and claims the designation of Lake County’s first brewpub. It hosts live music and events every Friday and Saturday not to mention an expansive menu of pub favorites including beer nuggets, filet mignon burgers, and Cubanos.

Courtesy of Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

Rockford Brewing Company

Rockford

Opened: 1857
Housed in the historic Prairie Street Brewhouse, the original Rockford Brewing Company had been one of the first breweries in the nation -- processing 75,000 barrels each year -- until it was turned into a storage warehouse and laundry business in 2000 before returning to its original purpose. Stop by in the warmer months for live music and outdoor dinner on the dock overlooking the Rock River, certainly one of the best things to do in Rockford.

Flickr/PhotoBobil

The Village Tavern

Long Grove

Opened: 1849
Claiming the title of oldest restaurant and tavern in Illinois, The Village Tavern offers live entertainment six nights a week as well as fantastic weekly specials such as all-you-can-eat roasted chicken on Wednesdays, a Friday night fish fry, and a famous prime rib special on Saturday nights. Adding to the historic vibes is a vintage 1893 World’s Fair grandfather clock and the elegant mahogany bar, which reportedly survived the McCormick Place fire of 1967.

Courtesy of York Tavern

York Tavern

Oak Brook

Opened: 1843
Not only is York Tavern one of the best bars in the suburbs, it’s also the oldest freaking bar in the state. The tavern was built in 1843 by Benjamin Fuller, known as The Farmer's Home, and was first licensed by the county in 1846. Originally serving as the community grocery store and tavern, it’s now your go-to spot for home-cooked favorites like baked mostaccioli and homemade ravioli… paired with that old historic classic known as Patron on tap.

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Jay Gentile is a Thrillist contributor and fan of history when booze is involved. Follow @innerviewmag.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
1. Hackney's 733 S Dearborn St, Chicago, IL 60605 (South Loop)

Founded in 1939, Hackney’s is an iconic family-run tavern chain known for its burgers. Made with beef ground by the in-house butcher, the Hackneyburger is served on dark rye bread and tastes best when ordered with a towering side of the signature deep-fried onions. The rest of the menu features an array of classic American comfort food and a rotating selection of draft beer.

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2. Log Cabin 201 N Main St, Galena, IL 61036

As the name suggests, beef is the specialty of this nearly 80-year-old steakhouse operating since 1975. The lively locals joint has a weekend piano bar and sports its own 16-passenger party bus for when it’s time to “opa!”

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3. Meier's Tavern 235 E Lake Ave, Glenview, IL 60025

A farmhouse-turned-speakeasy-turned-legit tavern when the Meier family purchased it at the tail-end of Prohibition, Meier's is the kind of timeless dive every town should have, with cheap booze, greasy burgers, no credit cards, and no frills, whatsoever.

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4. Brass Rail 15 E University Ave, Champaign, IL 61820

College dudes and old timers peacefully coexist at this local dive, one of the oldest establishments in Downtown Champaign. Bar games and an old-school jukebox make this an ideal spot to get weird on the dance floor after too many cans of Hamm’s and cheap cocktails.

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5. Fast Eddie’s Bon Air 1530 E 4th St Alton, Alton, IL 62002

On the cusp of St. Louis territory is this Alton dive bar, serving up seriously reminiscent oddities and cheap brews.

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6. John's Restaurant and Tavern 27W482 Jewell Rd, Winfield, IL 60190

Wait, where the hell is Winfield? It’s where John’s Restaurant and Tavern is, that’s where. John’s has long been a staple of this far western Chicago suburb -- grab a spot on John’s beautiful outdoor patio and enjoy one of 22 tap beers including Pig Minds Always The Hard Way double IPA, as well as various local offerings.

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7. Mickey Finn's Brewery 345 N Milwaukee Ave, Libertyville, IL 60048

Mickey Finn’s only began brewing its own beer in 1994, but it has been serving cold ones since 1917. It hosts live music and events every Friday and Saturday, not to mention an expansive menu of bar food favorites including beer nuggets, filet mignon burgers, and Cubanos.

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8. Rockford Brewing Co. 200 Prairie St, Rockford, IL 61107

Housed in the historic Prairie Street Brewhouse, the original Rockford Brewing Company is one of the first breweries in the nation. Stop by in the warmer months for live music and an outdoor dinner on the dock, certainly one of the best things to do in Rockford.

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9. Village Tavern 135 Old McHenry Rd, Long Grove, IL 60047

Claiming the title of oldest restaurant and tavern in Illinois, In addition to brews, the Village Tavern offers live entertainment six nights a week as well as fantastic weekly specials such as all-you-can-eat roasted chicken on Wednesdays and a famous prime rib special on Saturday nights.

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10. York Tavern 3702 York Rd, Oak Brook, IL 60523

Not only is York Tavern one of the best bars in the suburbs, it’s also the oldest freaking bar in the state. Today, it serves as your go-to spot for home-cooked favorites like baked mostaccioli and homemade ravioli… paired with that old historic classic known as Patron on tap.

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