Anyone who’s been to a Cubs/Sox game knows that disputes happen, it’s inevitable in Chicago. But the next time some chowderhead in a fedora is yapping on about how his favorite terrible bar is the best bar in your neighborhood, promptly direct his attention to these bars, the best overall drinking spots in 27 Chicago neighborhoods.
The Best Bar in 27 Chicago Neighborhoods
Smallbar (address and info)
Smallbar loves to claim its original location is in Logan Square, even though it’s clearly in the middle of Avondale. But this doesn’t take away from the local favorite’s embarrassment of riches including a fine menu of rotating IPAs, tasty six-packs of Angus beef sliders, and a chilled-out, dog-friendly patio. With the recent closing of its Wicker Park location, the original remains a clear neighborhood standout and an elder statesman of Chicago’s exploding craft beer scene.
Cork & Kerry (address and info)
For a neighborhood synonymous with the South Side St. Patrick’s Day Parade and all the bad decisions that come with it, this famously Irish 'hood doesn’t actually have all that many great bars (Irish or otherwise) to speak of. Most are just okay, and Cork & Kerry stands a cut above the rest thanks to its reputation as one of America’s finest Irish pubs as well as its excellent back patio, which feels more like you’re hanging out in your neighbor’s backyard than sitting at a bar. Which is a good thing. Depending, of course, on your neighbor.
Maria’s Packaged Goods (address and info)
Maria’s list of accolades is long and its beer snob/hipster credibility is ironclad with a list of 450+ beers, an always expertly curated DJ playlist, and an ever-expanding clientele of rabid fans. Leading the charge of the recent Bridgeport revitalization, it’s also a central meeting place for artists, beer nerds (its co-owner also runs Marz Brewing), and colorful local weirdos. Like you.
Map Room (address and info)
Another top local beer bar and no-brainer pick for best neighborhood bar, Map Room has been setting the gold standard for everything you want in a neighborhood bar since 1992. Its beer menu is so extensive you may need to enroll in its "Beer School" to make sense of it all (which, if you are thinking of going back to school, isn’t a bad way to go). In the meantime, belly up to a table beneath the Brazilian flag, open up a National Geographic to the nudie page, and try and locate the beer you’re drinking on one of the bar’s ubiquitous maps and globes.
Moody’s Pub (address and info)
As one of Chicago’s best fireplace bars, Moody’s looks kind of like a castle and is the kind of place Medieval knights would drink in. If said knights sat outdoors on a romantic, leafy back patio drinking summer sippers like the Sunset (tequila, OJ, pineapple juice) and Jaker’s Mark (whiskey, OJ, lemonade). It's also been known to make a mean martini, if that’s your thing.
Coq d'Or (address and info)
Relax, your Gold Coast experience doesn’t have to involve elbowing over-served idiots at Mother’s. It can also involve sitting at the bar in a suit like a baller and sipping cocktails Mad Men style at one of the classiest joints in town since 1933. Situated inside the equally classy Drake Hotel, it's even got its own whiskey club (date night!) and “business power lunch” menu. So you know it’s for real.
California Clipper (address and info)
Brendan Sodikoff’s recent revamp of this longtime local institution has resulted in a few changes (burlesque shows?!), but all in all it retains the classic charm it has maintained since 1937 with live music, a ridiculous 70-deep cocktail menu, and enough dim red lighting to make you feel like you’re in on a secret. Booze Old Man and the Sea style with a Hemingway daiquiri or hit it even harder with the absinthe- and gin-packed Corpse Reviver.
Woodlawn Tap (address and info)
It’s all about the cheap booze and cheap eats at this Hyde Park favorite, known as “Jimmy’s” by local U of C and Lutheran School of Theology students in honor of its late owner. This place is about as no-frills as it gets, known for things like pitchers of beer, live blues and jazz, and heated theological debates that may or not be settled by an on-site Encyclopedia Britannica. (Yes, those still exist.) The poet Dylan Thomas is also said to have been a fan of the joint, so there’s that too.
Delilah's (address and info)
You certainly couldn’t go wrong dropping into Local Option or The Barrelhouse Flat, but Delilah’s gets the slight nod here thanks to its standout whiskey selection of 300+ varieties, one of the finest jukeboxes in the city, and the fact that it’s been open for 8,000 DAYS STRAIGHT. This beloved local punk bar is also great due to the fact that it’s one of the few bars with actual character in a neighborhood of cookie-cutter Big 10 sports bars.
Sheffield’s Beer & Wine Garden (address and info)
While Schubas is a standout spot for live music and PBR, Sheffield’s edges it for best-in-'hood honors thanks to its showstopper of a beer garden, where it’s pretty much impossible to have a bad time. Throw in a deep bench of daily rotating craft brews and smoked-in-house-daily BBQ and what’s not to love?
Scofflaw (address and info)
With all the hype this place gets, it’s tempting to poke holes... until you try one of its cocktails. If you think a bar is a bar and all cocktails are basically the same, you’ve obviously never been here. This place is one of Chicago’s top cocktail bars for a reason, and you’ll know it as soon as you plop down on one of its funky antique sofas and take a sip.
Cindy’s at Chicago Athletic Association (address and info)
There are plenty of places to get fancy in the Loop, but it’s hard to beat the newly renovated (and newly fancy) Chicago Athletic Association and its rooftop lounge Cindy’s, where you can pair martinis and “deceptively evil punches” with plates of meatballs and 2lb cote de boeuf steaks on picnic tables overlooking Millennium Park. If that’s not enough, head downstairs for roving cocktail carts and games of indoor bocce on courts padded with crushed oyster shells.
Old Town Ale House (address and info)
One of the finest dives around, famous for its nudie paintings of Sarah Palin and Rod Blagojevich mixed with its diverse crowd from Second City patrons to grizzled old-timers. It's mandatory post-comedy show drinking, so stake out a corner for seats and keep the pitchers flowing.
Punch House (address and info)
Punch House wins out in a competitive crop of evolving Pilsen bars thanks to its cool underground vibe, adjacent restaurant Dusek’s and music venue Thalia Hall, and, of course, its punch bowls, including the legendary Space Juice. If you imbibed some of its glory and remember having a good time but aren’t quite sure how the hell you got home, you wouldn’t be the first. In keeping with the “everything’s better served in a bowl” theme, a fondue night is a must with a pot of molten Emmentaler-Gruyere and house pretzels, crispy confit pork belly, and tempura vegetables for dipping.
Fountainhead (address and info)
It’s hard to get more legit than Chef Cleetus Friedman’s mahogany-ensconced empire of craft beer and beer-focused cuisine, which he’s been known to produce in collaboration with some of the leading lights of the local beer scene. The only thing that could make this place better would maybe be a killer, always-happening rooftop patio. Oh wait, it has that too.
Three Dots and a Dash (address and info)
While not exactly a secret, this “secret” bar can be located by a blue light behind Bub City in the alley between Hubbard and Illinois to reveal a tropical paradise of Polynesian-style island drinks mixed with 165 varieties of rum, some of them consumable from a giant treasure chest packed with dry ice and a bottle of Dom Pérignon. Perhaps most famous for its Zombie Punch communal drink with Jamaican, Nicaraguan, and overproof rums, lime, pomegranate, grapefruit, and cinnamon served in a glass skull, the Pieces of Eight is not to be trifled with either.
Rogers Park Social (address and info)
You’ve got to respect neighborhood dives like Red Line Tap and Bruno’s, but local favorite Rogers Park Social brings a classier vibe to the 'hood with expertly curated cocktails served in a friendly, inviting space perfect for getting boozy with your high school friends or making new ones. Founded and operated by neighborhood residents, the handcrafted libations include inventive summer offerings like the green chili vodka-packed Hot Benny and the egg white-infused Berry Necessary.
Underbar (address and info)
Its brief closing this winter caused us quite a scare, but Roscoe Village’s coolest bar has been reopened since spring (something that cannot be said, unfortunately, to fellow shuttered local landmark Hungry Brain). And it hasn’t missed a beat as far as the classic late-night tomfoolery is concerned. We could go on about its beer list, but who are we kidding? If you’re here, you don’t know what the hell you’re ordering. You just know you’re ordering it under an overpass at 4am and having a helluva time doing it.
Reggie’s (address and info)
What’s the number one reason to visit the South Loop? It’s not to hang out with your married friends in their condo and order Chinese takeout. It’s Reggie’s, the glorious music venue/record store/bar/restaurant where you can embark on a wide range of activities from live band karaoke, to boozy bus rides to Bears games, to underground art shows. If that’s not enough to convince you, the always-on “Reggie’s Trainwreck Rooftop Deck Bar” should just about do the trick.
Innertown Pub (address and info)
In a neighborhood overflowing with amazing local dives including Happy Village, Bar DeVille, Goldstar, and Phyllis’, picking Innertown here was perhaps the toughest call on this list. But once you step inside and get a whiff of its life-giving aroma, it’s love at first sight. With stiff drinks, a laid-back charm, and an always-lively scene of people shooting pool, shooting the shit, shooting shooters, or smoking butts outside, every bar should be this cool.
Maude’s Liquor Bar (address and info)
Whether you’re going shaken with a French gimlet or stirred with a rye Sazerac, you can’t go wrong at this sexy and sleek cocktail emporium in Chicago’s number one 'hood for food and drink. You can also get escargot, foie gras pâté, and a $175 seafood tower while surrounded by exposed brick and soft amber lighting. Yet its diverse clientele makes it an equally appealing place to take clueless out-of-towners, impress dates and/or clients, or just hang with friends.
Twisted Spoke (address and info)
While Matchbox makes a strong case here,Twisted Spoke gets the nod thanks to its excellent whiskey selection, rare reserve beers, and laid-back rooftop beer garden. Its biker vibe is the stuff of legend and it does bar food about as well as anybody (fried jalapeño poppers), while also slinging breakfast food and porn during its weekly Smut & Eggs event.
Violet Hour (address and info)
Violet Hour is one of the best speakeasies and overall cocktail bars in America. Navigate the colorful mural across the street from Big Star to find the small door handle and unlock a fancy-pants mixology temple hidden behind curtains with equally fancy-pants “dealer’s choice” cocktails, like the porter/Malort/whole egg-based Five Times Fast.
Gingerman Tavern (address and info)
In a neighborhood of terrible bars, finding a decent place to plop down for a pint in Wrigleyville can be as challenging as departing the bleachers sober. But Gingerman Tavern gets the job done with a laid-back cool that borrows its vibe from its next-door neighbor/top Chicago music venue Metro. The crowd is friendly, the pool tables are open, and the jukebox is refreshingly free of Katy Perry. Someone (okay, us) once called it “an eclectic oasis in a desert of douche” -- which pretty much sums it up.
1. Hopleaf5148 N Clark St, Chicago
2. SmallBar2956 N Albany Ave, Chicago
3. Cork & Kerry10614 S Western Ave, Chicago
4. Maria's Packaged Goods & Community Bar960 W 31st St, Chicago
5. The Map Room1949 N Hoyne Ave, Chicago
6. Moody's Pub5910 N Broadway St, Chicago
7. Coq D'Or140 E Walton Pl, Chicago
8. California Clipper1002 N California Ave, Chicago
9. Woodlawn Tap1172 E 55th St, Chicago
10. Fischman Liquors & Tavern4780 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago
11. Delilah's2771 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago
12. Sheffield's Beer & Wine Garden3258 N Sheffield Ave, Chicago
13. Cindy's12 S Michigan Ave, Chicago
14. Old Town Ale House219 W North Ave, Chicago
15. Punch House1227 W 18th St, Chicago
16. Fountainhead1970 W Montrose, Chicago
17. Three Dots and a Dash435 N Clark St, Chicago
18. Rogers Park Social6922 N Glenwood Ave, Chicago
19. Underbar3243 N Western Ave, Chicago
20. Reggies Rock Club2109 S State St, Chicago
21. Innertown Pub1935 W Thomas St, Chicago
22. Green Mill Cocktail Lounge4802 N Broadway St, Chicago
23. Maude's Liquor Bar840 W Randolph, Chicago
24. Twisted Spoke501 N Ogden Ave, Chicago
25. The Violet Hour1520 N Damen Ave, Chicago
26. The Gingerman Tavern3740 N Clark St, Chicago
27. Scofflaw3201 W Armitage Ave, Chicago
This Andersonville beer bar is known for its rotating selection of draft beers primarily from the Midwest and Belgium. More than just a bar that serves food, Hopleaf has an outstanding menu of Belgian-inspired food like mussels from Prince Edward Island, charcuterie, and steak frites. The place is casual and laid-back, just like a neighborhood bar should be.
Sandwiched in the middle of a residential block, Small Bar has somehow stood the tests of time as a hip neighborhood bar. As the name would suggest this isn't the place to come looking for 50 taps, but even the most cynical beer nerd will inevitably find something that makes him or her say, "Oh damn, I really want to try that." Slip through the kitchen and into the laid-back patio, order a burger and you'll feel like you're in a friend’s backyard.
Cork & Kerry is an Irish sports bar on Western Ave where the draft beer is always flowing and the TVs are always on. The food is decidedly more American than Irish, with burgers, wings, and Chicago faves like hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches dominating the menu. If you aren’t there to watch the game, the backyard beer garden will do just fine when the weather’s right.
Maria's is an awesome dive bar with eclectic selections and friendly staff.
With flags and world maps decking the walls, Bucktown's The Map Room is a self-described "traveler's tavern." Appropriately so, it's a drinking destination for any beer geek passing through Chicago. Since opening in 1992, the bar has struck up deep ties in the brewing community, and the rare and varied brews on its insanely long beer list are proof of its status as a beer mecca. The Map Room takes tastings to the next level with "Beer School," a 20-plus year tradition hosted by various brewmasters that will teach you everything you need to know about beer.
Moody’s probably looks as medieval today as the day it opened in 1959 (or is it 1459?). And we mean that as a compliment. The Edgewater pub basically feels like a castle’s basement, assuming you know a castle basement that also does excellent burgers and pitchers of sangria, alongside a sweet ass fireplace.
As one of the oldest establishments in our fine city, the Drake Hotel’s Coq d’Or offers the kind of throwback cocktails that railroad tycoons probably drank while they sat around comparing their dodo-hair suits and monocles. Case in point: its Executive Pour Manhattan packs so much booze (4oz, to be exact) that it actually has to be served in two glasses. And any shameless capitalist will tell you that two glasses are better than one.
If you're looking for a true hipster bar in Humboldt Park, it doesn’t get much more hipster than taking a toke from a Rusty Nail (Scotch, Drambuie) served at this 1937 Brunswick bar surrounded by dim red lighting, and filled with board games and kitschy lamps.
This bar is popular with local college students, who know it as Jimmy's (in honor of the late owner). The space isn't just for college kids though, they have live blues and jazz music on occasion, and no one ever really outgrows pitchers of beer. Plus if you get in an intellectual argument, the Encyclopedia Britannica is kept on location to settle debates.
Most well known for its huge warehouse of rare craft brews, this slashie is also noteworthy for its bi-monthly food trucks outside (including the in-house Chi Town Chow Down, formerly Wagyu Wagon) and events in the parking lot with live bands. It remains both a neighborhood staple and a destination for beer geeks, especially because Fischman Liquors throws ticketed events that feel like amazing mini-beer fests (because that's basically what they are). No matter when you visit, come prepared to spend more time than you anticipated and drop some money in the bottle shop on some selections you just couldn't bear to go home without.
Delilah's is a neighborhood bar with over 400 whiskeys, located in Chicago's Lincoln Park.
Head to Sheffield's for many a fine beer and smoked-in-house-daily BBQ. The beer garden is legendary, as is the beer selection. Pros know that the best action can be found at "Beer School”—the bar-within-the-bar inner sanctum offering its own particularly eclectic tap list and particularly knowledgeable barkeeps.
Cindy's is a killer seafood/brunch spot atop the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel with amazing views of Millennium Park, Maggie Daley Park, and sailboats throughout the harbor. They even have fire pits on the terrace to keep things going when it cools down. P
The Old Town Ale House is an iconic Chicago dive bar whose crowd varies between comedians from nearby Second City, celebrities, hipsters, tried-and-true regulars, and tourists (due in no small part to the bar's feature on Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown ). The jukebox, which is usually playing jazz, rules the show, and don't be surprised if one of the bartenders puts on some opera to water down the crowd. The wall is covered with funky paintings of everyone from longtime regulars to celebrities and politicians...case in point: a portrait of a naked Sarah Palin holding a rifle.
Punch House specializes in, well, punch, and is located in the basement of Dusek's in Pilsen. They've got a bunch of different punches, with cicerone-curated ingredients ranging from reposado tequila to black tea. The bar itself has a rec room-themed atmosphere, so expect to feel relaxed as if you were hanging out in your best friend's basement drinking. Fun fact: the bathroom walls are all covered in chalkboard paint, so leave a message or laugh at what others have written while you do your business.
This Ravenswood tavern is a mahogany-ensconced destination for craft beer and beer-focused comfort cuisine (burgers, fried chicken, steak frites). The beer list, which features a mix of local gems and international brews, is always fantastic, and there's an equally robust selection of whiskey if you're looking for something a little stronger. During the warmer months, the rooftop garden is always happening.
Three Dots and a Dash is a tiki-themed speakeasy in the back of Bub City that's pouring out crazy tropical cocktails in vessels like glass skulls and treasure chests.
Rogers Park Social epitomizes the idea of a "neighborhood" watering hole, because it's actually founded and operated by neighborhood residents, who serve up inventive cocktails and craft beers inside a homey, industrial space. There's also a retro lounge where you can play games like Monopoly while you sip on bar favorites, such as the Socialite (St. George California Citrus Vodka, agave, lime, cranberry, Napoleon Mandarine Orange Cognac) or the Super Rad (CH Key Gin, Stiegl Grapefruit Radler, Pür Likor Elderflower Liqueur). It's a social spot, so bring plenty of friends, or go alone and get to know some of the locals.
This bar's late night hours and eclectic crowd make it a noteworthy spot in Roscoe Village. The laid back vibe and inexpensive drinks make it worth returning to.
This combo music venue/record store/bar/restaurant/rooftop deck has something for everyone. The restaurant serves a long list of beers and bar food, and the music venue brings in up & coming artists for frequent live shows.
Innertown Pub is home to one of the best hipster dives in Chi. Sidle up with a cold brew, cheap 'tail, or hit some pool and darts in the back.
Famed for being Al Capone's favorite bar during the heyday of Prohibition, Green Mill Cocktail Lounge is now known as one of the finest jazz clubs in the country. The Uptown bar hosts live performances every night of the week, and the acts range from contemporary jazz bands and quartets to swing orchestras and solo guitarists. The cover charge is usually between $4 and $15, depending on the band. Note: Green Mill is cash-only.
A second installment from the Gilt Bar folks, Maude's is a two-level gastro-tavern that feels like a lived-in Parisian dive, with mismatched chandeliers, candles in vintage jars, and weathered, "electric blue" metal chairs, fortunately the type of electri
In case the exterior motorcycle art and bike handlebars on the front door didn't tip you off, Twisted Spoke is a biker bar. The West Town hangout is beloved by Chicagoans of all stripes thanks to a massive selection of whiskey and beer, legendary Bloody Mary menu, rooftop garden, and sinister bites like barbecue nachos and fried jalapeño poppers. Of all the things that make Twisted Spoke stand out though, it's the weekly Saturday night "Smut and Eggs," when you can order breakfast food and watch porn. Um.
The first clue that this Wicker Park cocktail lounge is different from its neighboring bars is the house rules, the first of which forbids cellphones. The second is the James Beard Award-winning cocktail program. The drink menu is organized by alcohol type, and though you'll find vodka, brandy, tequila, gin, and rum cocktails, The Violet Hour's speciality seems to be whiskey, and a sip of the eponymous Old Fashioned confirms it. This is your Chicago destination for a night of refined, expensive drinking -- there is a dress code, and it's fancy.
This is not a sports bar. Yes, there's a TV in the front but, you'll never see ESPN or catch any game. What you will see is local news because at it's core, this is a local's tavern. Perfect place to pop into for a beer(either by the bottle or from one of the 15 on draft) away from the circus surrounding Wrigley Field games. Best way to burn those stray bills in your pocket? Cheap PBR.
This classy bar in Logan Square will make a gin lover out of even the most gin-averse of clientele. It's one of Chicago's top cocktail bars because it proves that the versatility of gin extends far beyond the usual G&T and because it's outfitted with antique sofas that are palatial AND comfortable. Scofflaw also serves a menu of better-than-basic small bites, and the kitchen is open until 1am daily.