Bar food in Chicago is pretty solid, but sometimes you want to be in total control of what you’re eating while you drink. And not all bars that allow you to bring in outside food are the best places to actually eat outside food - you don’t want to deal with balancing a pizza box on the edge of a pool table or inhaling a cloud of cigarette smoke with each bite. So we put together a list of the 11 best bars in Chicago for BYOF, whether you bring something along, order takeout while you’re there, or cross your fingers for a visit from the tamale man.
Guthrie’s is one of the best first date spots in the city, with a solid beer list, a screened-in porch, and a ton of board games that every single table is busy playing. Another big plus is that you can bring your own food in - the tables are set with checkered tablecloths like a small-town bistro, and they have a stack of delivery menus you can flip through as you lose to your date at Stratego.
Nighthawk is open 19 hours a day and serves everything from coffee to cocktails to cheap beer. That (along with their spacious booths) makes it an excellent place to bring food, whether you’re working on a freelance assignment at 10am or you’re six Hamm’s deep at 10pm. It’s also just around the corner from Great Sea, and when it comes to their delicious lollipop wings, the shorter the travel time, the better.
Hopewell is a brewery taproom that doesn’t feel like one. The space is brightly lit, which makes it a much easier place to bring messy food like spaghetti or curry than a typical shadowy taproom. Plus, it’s right near a cluster of great Logan Square restaurants, so if you’re feeling a burger from Mini Mott and your friend wants a salad from Lula Cafe, this is the perfect place to make that happen.
Larry’s is a microbar in the lobby of the Lawrence House, a space that feels like a university reading room complete with gold lamps, a stained glass ceiling, and plenty of table space. But unlike students sneaking lo mein into the library, you won’t get any strange looks for bringing in takeout to pair with your drinks here. We recommend the pho from nearby Tank Noodle, as long as you don’t spill broth on your laptop.
Beermiscuous is a beer drinker’s paradise dressed up as a European cafe. There are coolers filled with just about every style of beer, and the bartenders are always happy to give advice - if you’re not sure what to pair with your pizza, they’ll probably have a few thoughts. It’s unclear if they accept slices of pizza as tips, but if we were them we’d definitely go for it.
The Cove Lounge is one of our favorite dives in the city, and it’s low-key enough that you can bring in a meal without some drunk person’s elbow landing in your mac and cheese. The wooden tables are so long that you could lay out a continental breakfast and still have room for your drinks and a game of cards, and just down the street is Morry’s Deli, a classic spot that serves massive sandwiches perfect for eating while drinking.
Revolution is a massive taproom with some of our favorite beer in Chicago. It’s a great place to hunker down for hours during the winter, but since they don’t serve any food, it’s important to plan ahead for sustenance. Luckily, the brewery is a five-minute walk from Honey Butter Fried Chicken, which means you can improve on one of the world’s best combinations (fried chicken and beer) by adding honey and butter to the mix.
Archie’s is a neighborhood corner bar that’s within walking distance of some of our favorite restaurants in Humboldt Park. It also happens to be dog-friendly. If you’re the type of person who already sneaks scraps to your dog under the dinner table, bring them to Archie’s and feed them jibaritos as you drink.
This taproom from Off Color Brewing has a front patio that’s great for eating and drinking, and the wild and funky beers here pair perfectly with the equally wild and funky pizzas from Pizzeria Bebu just around the corner. Bebu is close enough to Mousetrap that you can easily walk back over there when you’ve decided you need another pie or two.
Gold Star, right off the Division Blue Line stop, is just divey enough without being unpleasant to eat in. Along with cheap beer, they serve the type of extra-boozy drinks that awaken a primal post-midnight hunger in the best of us. They do have $9 frozen pizzas available to microwave, but you’re much better off ordering from one of the many pizza, BBQ, or sushi spots lining the block.
A comfortable spot with tons of great beer, the Map Room is the perfect place to bring food. The maps and flags hanging around the bar might remind you of all the countries you haven’t visited yet, but there are enough international food options nearby to make up for it. There’s Costa Rican from Irazu, Italian from Club Lucky, and, uh, French fries from Small Cheval. The point is, you can’t go wrong with whatever you BYOF here.