The Chicago Bar Hit List: Where To Drink Right Now
The best new bars in Chicago.
To help you figure out which new restaurants are worth going to, we created The Hit List, our guide to recently opened spots that we actually enjoy. We check out all of these places ourselves - even if a place is being hyped up everywhere, it’s not going to make our cut unless it delivers.
Now, we’re doing the same thing for bars. Chicago has a lot of places to drink and argue about sports and politics, with new spots popping up all the time. Some are okay and some are flat-out terrible, but occasionally, there are some great ones. From relaxed speakeasies to high energy places where you can dance, these are the best new bars in Chicago.
After being on hiatus for months, Slippery Slope in Logan Square has finally reopened, complete with skee-ball and their signature red lights that make it seem like someone should be developing film in the corner. There aren’t really many places to sit here (aside from some bleacher-style seats), but sitting is not why you're waiting in Slippery Slope's long line at midnight. The booming DJ sets and packed dance floor are why. But if you just want to enjoy a more low-key lounge experience, they have an excellent cocktail bar on the second floor called Heavy Feather.
photo credit: Jude Goergen
The Heavy Feather
Just above Slippery Slope is its chiller, retro-themed lounge, The Heavy Feather. And though they do have a disco ball, this is more of a place to just hang out and chat. Unlike its sibling, The Heavy Feather has plenty of standing tables, leather booths, and comfy 70’s-esque leather rolly chairs that will definitely tempt you into trying out a spin move. The focus here is on cocktails, and they’re all great—from well-balanced espresso martinis and mezcal Old Fashioneds, to a grasshopper that’s everything you want in a boozy milkshake. They don’t serve food, but if you’re lucky, there might be a midnight appearance from a guy selling tamales (though it’s not the Tamale Guy).
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photo credit: Megan Stone
Revolver’s comic book-style exterior and display window with a life-size cutout of Spiderman, action figures, and old issues of Superman don’t exactly scream cocktail bar. But inside is a dark, cozy space with a long bar and vintage touches like leather booths, marbled floor tiles, and an ornate tin ceiling. And whether there's a DJ or Spotify is curating the playlist, the music is always on point—usually a blend of throwback R&B jams and current hip-hop. On weeknights, the atmosphere is more relaxed, ideal for a chill hang while sipping on their namesake drink, a boozy-but-balanced take on an Old Fashioned with coffee liqueur. But on the weekend the space takes on a clubbier atmosphere.
photo credit: Michael Muser
After in the West Loop is a cocktail lounge from the same team behind Ever, the fancy tasting menu spot next door. As would be expected, the place is luxurious—the sleek interior has a glowing bar that looks like an Apple-designed energy core, and a private fireplace area with couches that you can reserve in advance. The drinks are all great, from classic cocktails to options like the smoke blossom made with top-shelf scotch, whiskey, and hints of pear and apricot. We’d also gladly walk in just to snack on their Vietnamese duck wings glazed in a sweet and savory fish sauce. They have crackly skin and buttery meat that made us double-check that we weren’t actually eating ribs. Drinks are pricey (hovering around $23) but it’s perfect for a special occasion.
You could walk into Consignment Lounge just for drinks, but end up leaving with a commemorative mug from some random person’s wedding or an old light-up painting of ducks. That’s because this cozy bar in Avondale doubles as a resale store. But in case you’re not trying to be featured on Hoarders, the drinks alone are great. They have fantastic draft cocktails like the refreshing Ricardo Yuzu (a play on gin and tonic but with yuzu and yellow chartreuse) as well as classics like an Old Fashioned. And whether you’re at the bar watching WTTW reruns on retro TVs, or hanging with friends in their back room, the relaxed atmosphere is the ideal place to temporarily ignore your unread emails.
photo credit: Clayton Hauck
This Logan Square spot is perfect if you want to hang out in a bar that feels like a secret clubhouse. With an entrance on a quiet side street and only a discreet sign with a bird silhouette to show it exists, Meadowlark is easy to miss. But once inside, you’ll find a dark wooden space, comfy leather couches, and some great small plates and drinks—which isn’t too surprising considering this comes from the team behind Union and Lardon. We like snacking on their smoky grilled jerk chicken hearts or turkey empanadas made with bacon fat pastry, especially while sipping on something from their rotating, themed drink menu. Currently, it’s full of cocktails named after birds, like the boozy-yet-refreshing Cedar Waxwing with gin, sotol, amaro, and green chartreuse plus some lime and mint. Seating in their cozy interior is limited, so make sure to book a reservation in advance.
photo credit: Marisa Klug-Morataya
Hidden behind Moon Palace Express’ “kitchen door” is Chinatown’s first speakeasy, Nine Bar. Its dark, neon-lit interior has a futuristic feel that makes you wonder if the bartenders are Bladerunner replicants. This spot has enough lively energy, but it’s also relaxed enough that you don’t have to worry about the table next to you drunkenly rapping along to the upbeat hip-hop music. While you sit at the bar or hang out on their comfy couches, you can sip on a variety of great Asian-inspired drinks with ingredients like Chinese five spice or Thai basil. And if you want something to eat, their small food menu has great options like crispy hot mapo fries or a juicy fried pork sandwich with tangy tonkatsu sauce.
Moonflower is a dimly lit, spacious Portage Park bar that works great for a lowkey group hang or date. The cocktail menu has a mix of solid classics like Old Fashioneds and negronis, along with creative drinks like a play on a White Russian made with vodka, soju, matcha, and condensed milk. Foodwise, they have snacks like garlicky chorizo and cheese pockets or french fries topped with bolognese, parmesan, and pickled jalapenos. The space is full of plants, and they’re usually playing a great mix of funky jams. Luckily the music isn’t so loud that you have to default to the old “smile and nod” while pretending to hear what your date is saying.
This underground bar located in Moonflower’s basement is its brooding, emo sibling. But instead of blasting My Chemical Romance, Nightshade plays an eclectic mix of everything from classic jazz to a steel drum version of 50 Cent’s P.I.M.P. Unlike Moonflower, this place is much more intimate, with only a handful of tables, a smaller bar area, and significantly darker lighting. They also have a completely different cocktail menu, which includes a drink made with poblano and tortilla chips, and one that's inspired by the Korean dessert, bingsu. The food menu is pretty small with only a few things like olives and parmesan fries, so if you’re looking for something more filling, we recommend snacking upstairs before making your descent.
Walking into Quality Time in Logan Square is like wandering onto a set for That 70’s Show, thanks to the rustic wooden interior and vintage leather seating. The front area is fairly small, but they also have an additional back area with extra booths perfect for when it starts to get crowded, or during weekend DJ sets. But even at its busiest, it doesn’t feel like a nightclub—it’s still a great place for a low-key hang. Their solid drink menu includes originals like the Back To Life, a sweet and spicy rum-based drink with honey and chile. And if you need a second wind, there’s no better choice than their frozen Red Bull-infused Vegas bomb. They also have tamales from the Tamale Guy, and we can’t think of a more ideal 12am snack.
photo credit: Clayton Hauck
The California Clipper
After closing in 2020, this historic Humboldt Park bar reopened earlier this year under new ownership with a new menu, new DJ lounge, and a new sound system. But despite these changes, we’re happy that this dark bar maintained the same old-timey atmosphere—complete with its signature red light that makes you feel like you should be processing camera film. They also have a regular schedule of DJ sets and live music, and is still a fantastic place to hang out and dance. The California Clipper’s new cocktail menu is shorter, but has a great selection of drinks like a refreshing highball with coconut and Pimm’s Cup, as well as some non-alcoholic options, too.
Mother's Ruin in Avondale is great for meeting up for drinks when you don't want to commit to a full dinner, but still want the option to grab some food. This casual cocktail bar has tasty snacks like pimento cheese with fried saltines, a very good smash burger, and deep-fried red velvet Oreos. The food is way better than it needs to be, the cocktails are all $12, and the space is busy without feeling chaotic. Plus the kitchen is open until at least 2am 365 days a year.