Nothing gets the people going like booze and arcade games. Centipede and an IPA? Yup. Donkey Kong Jr. with a Jack and Coke? You betcha. Maybe get serious with Ms. Pac-Man and a martini – shaken, not stirred.
Violet Hour is for when you want to be serious about your cocktails. There’s a hidden entrance behind a mural across the street from Big Star, and they’ve got quite the set of house rules. No phones, no hats, no reservations, no Bud Lights – you get the point. It’s a cool place to hit every now and then, particularly on a date.
Consistently one of our go-to spots in Wicker when we’re looking to hang over cocktails, possibly some food, and aren’t worried about anything on TV. Bangers and Lace is cool but not so cool that you feel out of place, and we’re all about striking that happy medium between bro bar and being judged.
A generic drink list but an anything but generic place. Happy Village is hiding in the middle of a bunch of houses and you have to know it’s there. The front area looks like a dump, but it opens up into a ping pong room on the side, and an outdoor garden area that’s enclosed in the winter and open year round. You can also bring in your own food, which is kind of a big deal.
Map Room walks that wonderfully fine line between dive bar and comfortable communal hipster joint. So basically it’s perfect. Their kick*ss beer menu is meant to take you all over the world – eh, eh? Get it? If you don’t, the maps and flags all over the walls should help fill you in.
Ever wanted to drink in an old bank vault? Well now your dreams can come true at The Bedford, which is in an old bank and Chicago landmark redesigned as a bar. The space and concept is cooler than the crowd and the vibes, but it’s a unique place.
A history of imperialism does wonders for this bar that’s British pub meets Indian-inspired food and design. England has an excellent drinking culture, and India has excellent food. Combine it all together and you’ve got a funky little spot that’s ideal for it all.
One part dive bar and two parts vegan/vegetarian restaurant. You don’t have to live a meatless lifestyle to enjoy Handlebar. Post up at the bar for a drink, hang in the beer garden when it’s nice out, and eat some fried pickles and fried avocado tacos because those are good no matter who you are.
Located up in Bucktown, Danny’s Tavern feels more like you’re drinking inside of Danny’s House if Danny was your friend. It’s basically like being at a house party if your friends charged you cash for drinks. And if your friends charge you for drinks, you’re better off at Danny’s Tavern either way.
Ideal for beers and catching a game, whether it’s the Sox (lol), Cubs (next year for real), Bears (gross), Bulls (if he’s healthy), or Hawks (!). Anthem also has quality bar food, particularly the Juicy Lucy burger stuffed with Velveeta cheese (say what?).
The Revel Room
Revel room has a bit of class, a credit card machine, which isn’t always the case for a bar like this, and some damn good cocktails. Venture to the back room which feels a bit like a fancy man’s library. Who doesn’t want to drink whiskey in a fancy man’s library?
Nick's Beer Garden
Kind of like your old sh*tty college bar in Wicker Park, but hey that’s cool at times. The bartenders aren’t winning any awards, but it’s your own fault if you order a drink that’s more complicated than booze and chaser. But there’s live music on the weekends and it’s pretty cheap. Bonus points for the nice little beer garden in the back.
Sportman’s is technically outside the Wicker Park confines in Ukrainian Village, but we make the rules here, and this is a newer spot you need to know about. It’s a pretty tiny space that’s ideal for trying new cocktails and posting up at the bar. The back patio is excellent for the summer months.
A block away from Sportman’s Club also in Ukrainian Village is The Empty Bottle, a spot for cheap drinks and up and coming bands. The Empty Bottle doesn’t look like much from the outside, because it’s not much at all, but if you’re looking for new artists it’s worth a hang.
There’s a lot going on here with a butcher shop, bar, full restaurant, and venue space. And while all may come in handy at one point or another, the bar is worth popping into for drinks and some shareable bites. There’s a great rooftop for the summer months too.
We’ll be honest, Evil Olive is a strange, strange place. Really weird. But Monday nights are “Porn & Chicken” night, where they show porn on TV and serve chicken wings. Whether or not you ever go, you need to know that Porn & Chicken night exists in the world.
Big Star is basically a big bar that serves tacos. The patio is obviously the way to go, but don’t sleep on it in the winter. The inside is still fun and you should drink more margaritas when it snows.
Jack & Ginger's
Looking to drown your sorrows with cheap beer on a patio while while Chicago sports teams continuously let you down? Perfect, you’re in the right place. This sports bar has a fantastic patio for those warm summer nights, and the bro-heavy crowd is always rowdy indoors. Plus, the namesake drink is $5 all day every day, which is a tough bargain to turn down.
Are you the songbird of our generation? Do you have the voice that’s a mix of Fergie and Jesus? Well then, hit up Louie’s for some karaoke and drinks with your crew. It’s a cool karaoke bar in the sense that there aren’t private rooms, but it’s small enough to feel like the other people there are your friends. They’re 100% judging your terrible voice, but that’s besides the point.
Fact: the same people that own Bangers & Lace and The Anthem also own the Bucktown Pub, so it should be no surprise that we are fans of all three. If Anthem is their sports bar and Bangers & Lace is their spot for food and drinks, then Bucktown Pub is the place for bare bones drinks. And free popcorn, because you can have that too.
The Charleston has gone from beloved corner bar, to a little run down, to revamped and back again. It’s definitely nicer than it used to be, but it does a good job incorporating the up and coming Bucktown vibes with the down and dirty ones that used to reign supreme. That mix makes The Charleston a good place to hang.
Maybe you’re not into all the dive and low-key bars in the neighborhood, which is totally cool. Hit up Links Taproom instead, a newer sleek looking spot with a number of craft brews on tap.
Wicker Park may have gone from bad neighborhood to gentrification to expensive property in the blink of an eye, but the Rainbo Club is having none of it. It’s been owned by the same woman for a long time, the drink prices are always low, and Rainbo Club maintains its gritty roots despite the change around it. Respect.
Geek Bar Beta
Nerds of the world unite because you now have a place to call home. Geek Bar is for geeks by geeks, so you’re in a safe place if you want to let your inner Big Bang Theory fly.