Life is tough. You can’t pick your family, co-workers, or which kneecap your loan shark is going to crack after you decided to triple down on the Bears this season. But there is one thing that you can pick: a favorite bar. Your choice of favorite bar says a lot about you, and if it’s one of these 23 local Chicago hangs, we’ve summed up your life in a nutshell.
You go to Weegee’s because you love great cocktails and hate spending $14 on cocktails. Oh, and you love shuffleboard, so everyone needs to give you some room because you’re in the middle of a pretty serious game.
You like to get your day started at the break of noon with a nice cup of coffee and speakers blasting Pig Destroyer throughout the apartment. You only regret getting one or two of your tattoos. You didn’t go to the beach once this summer.
You’re in college and like to get wasted.
You wish you were still in college and you like to get wasted.
You usually put a lot of thought into assembling your casual-chic outfit, and your Downtown job allows you to afford the rent in the area. You like hanging out at a low-key neighborhood bar, but you don’t actually want to hang out with anyone who is, you know, poor.
You have no regard for the volume of crippling student loan debt you're accumulating. Fun is priority number one. You're trying to get more into comic books lately.
You’re either from the suburbs or just really like hitting stuff with a baseball bat, most likely both.
You have a thoughtfully decorated apartment with a spacious backyard. You generally like to chill out at home, but when you go out you hit it hard -- spilling wine on yourself, bumming cigarettes off strangers, and walking home two miles while texting exes at 4am.
You’re a cop, a dock worker, or personally know a cop or a dock worker. You’re a pro at shuffleboard and you can take down Vegas bombs like they’re sparkling water.
You have a hard deadline coming up and you need to get some food in you -- along with five or six beers. It’s a real shame what’s happened to the newspaper industry, just a real shame. Everything is Rahm’s fault. And don’t even mention Daley. Either one! They’re crooks, the lot of them.
You like to get dressed up, go out, and spend money on pricey drinks -- but only if the soundtrack to your night is composed entirely of “bangers.” You spend more than 40% of your income on rent but the view is totally worth it. You met David Schwimmer once.
“Man, 2005, that was the year. You could hear Paulie’s grand slam from here! Would love to sit in that blue seat one day. But, you know, we also had a shot in 1994. We would’ve won the series for sure in ’94.”
Your grandma makes better corned beef and cabbage than anyone else in the world. Everyone is going to see your perfectly executed Irish jig after you have one too many shots of Bushmills.
You love dance music but you hate bottle service. You’ve stayed out until 4am without buying a single drink before. You have no idea how the Cubs are doing.
You like the Downtown experience of waiting in line to get into a bar and then waiting in line to get a cocktail from the bar, without actually going Downtown to experience it.
You like Frank Sinatra and anyone who has a problem with Frank also has a problem with you. And no one wants to have a problem with you, that’s for sure. Also, your windbreaker always smells like cigarette smoke.
You like to order your first drink of the day at 3:30pm and may or may not have lost a small fortune on agricultural futures prior to ordering said drink.
You’re probably either a flight attendant or a baggage handler (aka a “thrower”). You like cheap drinks and good stories. The sound of a 747 wouldn’t wake you up even if it flew 6ft over your head.
You’ve lived in Rogers Park since the ‘90s, and boy has the neighborhood changed since then. You go to bimonthly CAPS meetings and are on a first-name basis with the circuit-court judge who lives on your block. You still go to Heartland Café for brunch on Saturdays.
You recently graduated art school and work at a bar and/or restaurant because finding a job after art school is impossible. You like to go out during the week and get your photos taken by nightlife photographers. You’re contemplating what tattoo to get next, even though you can barely afford to pay rent.
You’re a fan of free jazz and have a graduate degree in a subject that most people find as interesting as a bowling ball. Or you’ve just spent three days cramming for a test and neeeed to get wasted.
You really like craft beer but don’t like bars that pretentiously advertise themselves as craft beer bars. You always arrive to the bar with a bag of tacos, like a boss.
Quite frankly, you don’t give a damn, and you’re going to whip your finger-guns out of your invisible holsters and party with a crew of leather-clad bikers after requesting Queen from the DJ. All while still wearing your work clothes.
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1. Weegee's Lounge3659 W Armitage, Chicago
2. Exit1315 W North Ave, Chicago
3. McGee's Tavern & Grille950 W Webster Ave, Chicago
4. Schoolyard Tavern & Grill3258 N Southport Ave, Chicago
5. Charleston2076 N Hoyne Ave, Chicago
6. Headquarters Beercade213 W Institute Pl, Chicago
7. Sluggers World Class Sports Bar3540 N Clark St, Chicago
8. The Continental2801 W Chicago Ave, Chicago
9. Mugs Bunny13401 S Baltimore Ave, Chicago
10. Billy Goat Tavern430 N Michigan Ave, Chicago
11. Rockit Bar & Grill Wrigleyville3700 N. Clark, Chicago
12. Schaller's Pump3714 S Halsted St, Chicago
13. Cork & Kerry10614 S Western Ave, Chicago
14. Smart Bar3730 N Clark St, Chicago
15. Bar DeVille701 N Damen Ave, Chicago
16. Richard's Bar491 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago
17. Ceres Cafe141 W Jackson Blvd, Chicago
18. Mr. C's Midway Bar4654 W 63rd St, Chicago
19. Cunneen's1424 W Devon Ave, Chicago
20. Debonair Social Club1575 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago
21. Woodlawn Tap1172 E 55th St, Chicago
22. Harbee's1345 W 18th St, Chicago
23. Liar's Club1665 W Fullerton Ave, Chicago
One of the area’s more unsung cocktail spots is the perfect place to toast with a low-key martini and a game of shuffleboard. With the western end of the trail just a few blocks away, this place is always on the verge of being discovered.
This Goose Island establishment is a dive bar, through and through, with dim lighting, cheap drinks and live punk rock music.
A reliable staple in the Chicago sports bar scene, McGee's is known for a stellar bloody mary and bar food specials on Wednesdays.
The self-expressed life motto at this Lakeview tavern is "Sorry we party," so it's easy to say you can expect a good time and good food and drink. The nineteen plasma TVs are always playing the game, and you can reserve space for your own Schoolyard party.
This small corner bar is complete with a large craft beer list and quality cocktails. On weekends they have DJs and live music, but it makes for a great casual hangout any day of the week.
Cheers to never growing up. Headquarters Beercade lets you relive your childhood with all of the video games you loved and the added bonus of being able to consume alcohol while you play. There’s an extensive list of American craft drafts and games galore: whether you’re a pinball wizard looking for your next conquest, or brushing up your skills at arcade classics like NBA Jam and Mortal Combat, this bar is a gamer’s paradise. The space itself is sprawling and the vibe is convivial, making it a popular weekend destination for groups.
An enormous, classic sports bar, perfect for game days, drink specials, and of course, dueling pianos.
Head to this divey Humboldt Park bar for a great patio space, tight (but friendly) quarters, and a prime location next to a chicken shack.
This is a corner locals bar with no frills or flashing lights. The tap has standard beers and the drinks are cheap. The one unexpected fixture is one of the city's few shuffleboards, but don't expect to be surprised by much else.
The original Billy Goat Tavern opened in 1934 across from what’s now the United Center before moving to its current flagship location on Michigan Ave in 1964. Since then, the tavern has expanded with multiple locations around Chicago. It rose to fame in the ‘70s when Billy Murray and John Belushi spoofed it and its infamous “cheezborger” on Saturday Night Live. Served on a Kaiser roll, the cheeseburger is the simple union of a thin, griddled patty, American cheese, and sandwich pickles. Pro-tip: make it a double.
The Rockit Ranchers are bringing a bi-level sibling of their River North flagship to the Cubs' backyard, serving up original favorites like the ballyhooed Brie-slathered Kobe "Rockit Burger".
In continuous operation since 1881, Schaller's Pump is Chicago's oldest bar. A former speakeasy, the Bridgeport tavern changed ownership at the end of Prohibition when George Schaller bought it and changed the name to what it is now, a play on "Schiller's pump," a device used to pump beer between breweries. The beer bar is a regular hangout for an unusual mix of local politicians and White Sox fans due to it being across the street from the district's Democratic Party headquarters and a short walk from U.S. Cellular Field.
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.
Smart Bar has a great sound system, as well as frequent DJs and awesome drinks.
Craft drafts, liquor-forward libations, and hip environs -- such are the makings of a great night out at Bar DeVille. Manned by veteran bartender Brad Bolt and Chicago hospitality gurus Matt Eisler and Kevin Heisner, Bar DeVille offers expertly mixed cocktails, whether familiar classics or original favorites like The Hard Sell, made with Beefeater gin, Malort, St. Germain, and lemon. Come for the drinks, stay for the ambience: from the live DJ, pool room, and photo booth, to the Art Deco-inspired bar and refurbished Victorian sofas, this trendy neighborhood watering hole is frequented by industry folk and locals alike.
First thing's first: smoking is legal -- and prevalent -- inside the confines of West Town's beloved Richard's. That said, if smoke bothers you, feel free to stop reading, but if you like fun, don't. Yes, you'll be drinking beer from a bar studded with ash trays, but it's cheap. And yes, you'll be dancing through foggy clouds of smoke, but to the music you've selected on the jukebox. It's divey, dark, and a damn good time... just know that a shower is in your immediate future.
Where else besides a Jewish deli would you look for a manly, old-school sandwich? How about a bar and grill in the Board of Trade? No commodity meat is being bought and sold here, however, as the staff grinds their own grass-fed beef in-house for a hand-packed patty in your burger or melt.
This local sports bar is no-frills and serves up very cheap drinks. Count on plenty of airline employees and enough good stories circulating for another round or two.
Cunneen's is a relaxed neighborhood bar in Chicago's Rogers Park.
Located in the historic Flat Iron Building, Debonair Social Club is a spirited bar and “video” performance venue offering live shows by bands, DJs and burlesque dancers. A color-changing lightbox fills the wall behind a stage that doubles as a dance floor, and half dozen projectors placed around the venue constantly screen specially made videos arranged by Debonair's artistic curator. Downstairs sexes it up with incredibly low lighting and an LED light-lined perimeter.
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.
This little neighborhood bar has a surprisingly awesome selection of craft beer, a karaoke night and live music. While they don't serve food, they're happy to let you bring in whatever you'd like from the outside world.
Liar's Club is the best bar in all of Chicagoland, in my humble opinion. Should you find yourself wandering near the intersection of Clybourn and Fullerton, drop into the dark dive behind the steel door and treat yourself to a night of cheap drinks, dancing... and ghosts. It's (objectively) haunted by the ghosts of those murdered on premises, which is ironic because the '50s-style space looks like a cross between a butcher shop and an asylum (padded walls, metal doors and ceilings, black carpeted floors). But in the best way! In the back, the tiny dance floor is overflowing, lights flashing, disco ball spinning, and up a rickety set of wooden stairs is a pinball machine, but it's also allegedly where the murders took place... take it or leave it.