How many times have you found yourself wondering what you should do tonight?
Chicago is an incredibly city, full of world-class nightlife options, yet we’ve all struggled to figure out what to do on a given night. Whenever you feel stuck, give this list a good once through and you’re sure to end up with at least a few viable candidates for any night out.
1. The Violet Hour
The Violet Hour serves artisanal cocktails in the heart of Wicker Park. Rooted in pre-prohibition style libations, the James Beard Award-winning bar program features a seasonally rotating cocktail list, as well as an extensive selection of approachable and sought-after spirits.
Divided into three salons, the interior features high-backed blue leather chairs clustered around small white tables that are illuminated by candlelight. A marble bar spans the length of the room and features cornflower-blue walls, white crown molding, crystal chandeliers and hardwood floors, giving the space an elegant feel.
- A Chicago institution – you’re not doing Chicago right if you haven’t been to the Violet Hour
- Super hip, popular, and LOUD speakeasy
2. Bangers & Lace
A bar/restaurant with the feel of a Midwestern lodge, Bangers & Lace offers drinkers 32 draft beers from around the world, in addition to an extensive bottle selection.
- Great selection of craft beers
- Truffled Grilled Cheese & Tomato soup is to die for
- Nice after work spot or for catching up with friends
3. Danny’s Tavern
Address: 1951 W Dickens Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
Phone: (773) 489-6457
Yelp (4 stars 300+ reviews)
Danny’s Tavern is one of our favorite hidden gems. It’s small, their drinks are strong and cheap, their dance floor is always packed and the crowd is friendly. Be forewarned – there will likely be a line, the bar is cash only and finding a place to sit can be hard – especially if you come with a large group.
- Small/intimate & dark – like a houseparty meets speakeasy
- Bring cash – no cards here (but the drinks are CHEAP)
- Great if you’re in the mood to dance
4. Headquarters Beercade Lakeview
A beercade (that’s beer+arcade folks) that offers nostalgia-inducing arcade games alongside craft beers and cocktails.
- Arcade games are free (with a few exceptions like Pinball)
- The game selection is great – all the classics like Mortal Kombat, etc
- Nice selection of craft beers, but a bit pricey
5. Nacional 27
Swing by on Wednesday nights for complimentary salsa lessons at 7:30pm. Then come back to eat, drink & dance throughout the weekend with DJ-X spinning new beats on Social Fridays (11p-2a) and all Salsa, Merengue, Bachata every Saturday (11p-3a)!
6. Suite Lounge
The Suite Lounge is underground, kind of like a cross between a cave and a secret fort. Great service, and always a fun time.
- The drinks were strong – their martinis were on point
- The 90s music draws a fun, friendly crowd
Located below Pops for Champagne—the wildly popular champagne bar going strong in Chicago for more than 30 years now—Watershed is a parlour room dedicated to the ever-growing field of craft beers, artisanal spirits, and even a few fine wines, all from the Great Lakes region and surrounding areas.
- Great cocktails, some with a fun twist
- Very chill, laid back, speakeasy vibe
8. The Mid
- Phenomenal House & Techno DJs
- Be careful when getting a table
- Ignore the service and just enjoy the scene, crowd & music
9. Smart Bar
- LGBTQ Friendly
- One of the best sound systems in the city
- EDM + Dance music & popular DJs
- Downside: Cover + expensive drinks
10. Forbidden Root
- Chicago’s first botanic brewery
- Some of the best beers you’ll find in Chicago
- Food is good too – we could drink here for hours
11. Brando’s Speakeasy
We’re fans of Brando’s – a vintage chicago tavern with on-demand karaoke.
- There is karaoke with stage in front and then another bar in the back where it’s not as loud
- $5 martinis everyday – worth a try
12. Vertigo Sky Lounge
Ranked in the Top 3 of Hotel Bar of the Year Awards 2012 by the Nightclub Bar Awards, and one of what Thrillist calls a “jaw-dropping location with a view”, VSL, soaring 26 stories above the city, is one of Chicago’s premiere party lounges.
- The first year-round, indoor/outdoor lounge in Chicago
- Live DJs nightly and an outdoor fire-pit for added ambiance
- In the colder winter months the have the city’s only Outdoor Rooftop Ice Bar
13. The Map Room
A bar with a traveler’s theme – with maps, nat geos, international beer selections and a friendly, beer-savvy staff
- No food, but an extensive beer list
- Tons of international choices too
- Decorated with maps and other travel-related decor
- Laid back vibe, great service (their owners Marc & Laura get major credit)
14. Three Dots and a Dash
Love it or hate it, you will definitely have strong feeling about this place after visiting. Known for their beautiful, tropical-vacation-esque drinks
- Pricey, sweet/sugary drinks with a fun tropical style (but still strong)
- Tiki decor and friendly staff and crowd give this spot a laid-back vibe
- Their giant drink bowls for groups to share are a blast (and tasty)
15. The Whistler
The Whistler is a bar, gallery, record label, and venue that hosts live music and DJs seven nights a week. Their award-winning cocktail program features an always-changing menu of classics, contemporary favorites, and Whistler originals. Their stage hosts an eclectic mix of jazz, punk, rock, electronic, country, and soul, along with Movieoke, film screenings, literary readings, and other artistic endeavors.
- Great bartenders, great jazz, great vibe and (but?) very hipster
16. The Victor Bar
A cocktail bar that’s killin it in a beer dominated part of the city – cheers to that. We’re huge fans – the Victor Bar is great for dates, catching up with friends or just a fun night out. Great drinks, great atmosphere – everything is just on point. Two thumbs up.
- If you are looking for expertly executed cocktails this is what you’ve been looking for
17. Mezcaleria Las Flores
- Huge selection of Mezcal
- Popular drinks include Unknown Death and Illumanti Handshake
18. The Barrelhouse Flat
- Upstairs is dimly lit and great for dates and conversation
- Downstairs is lively, a little bro-y but fun
- Food & drinks are both great
19. Queen Mary Tavern
Opened in November 2015, the time capsule bar explores British maritime drinking traditions, highlighting the finest gin, rum and scotch available.
- Nautical theme (but not overdone / cheesey)
- $12 cocktails are good, not great, but good
- Gets packed, for good reason – definitely a cool, fun spot
Over the years, Sidetrack has grown from one room with less than 1000 square feet to a collection of spaces spanning more than 8 storefronts and multiple levels that can host more than 1000 people at a time. A popular LGBTQ bar where you can enjoy the music and still hold a conversation.
- LGBTQ Friendly
- Huge venue with multiple rooms, each having it’s own vibe
21. Emporium Arcade Bar
Old-skool arcade games & booze – count us in. Always a fun night. Our only gripe is that the games aren’t free here. Drinks are reasonably priced and overall a great spot to have fun with friends and dates alike.
- Dive bar
- YUUUUUGE selection of Whiskeys
- You can shoot pool upstairs
23. Green Mill
- Excellent jazz speakeasy with reasonable cover ($5-15)
- Cash only & bartenders can be a little standoffish – but hey maybe it’s part of the charm
- Come here for the music – one of the best, jazz venues we’ve been to anywhere
24. Spy Bar
Literally underground, Spybar is 4500 square feet located directly below street level in the heart of the city’s nightlife epicenter, featuring minimal chic decor and mod cluster seating for the ultimate table experience. Rolling Stones calls Spy Bar a “River North party Paradise. We might not be as generous with our words, but enjoy a night here every so often
Quickly rising in the ranks – a rising star of the Chicago nightlife scene, Arbella won us over with their creative, well executed cocktails. Our favorites include: Chicago Fire Extinguisher and Chilicano