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A plate of burger and fries.
Good Measure’s cocktails are accompanied by superb and eclectic bites.
Richard Shilkus

16 Chicago Bars with Legitimately Great Food

Eating doesn’t have to be an afterthought

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Good Measure’s cocktails are accompanied by superb and eclectic bites.
| Richard Shilkus

When heading out for a drink, the cocktails, wine, and beer are obviously the main priority. But isn’t it great when a bar has a great food menu too? These are those spots that have excellent curated eats for folks who want something delicious, or even a full meal, to go with their libations. So don’t fret; it is possible to sip on quality beverages while refueling with more than just frozen and fried bites.

As of June 11, Chicago restaurants have fully reopened and the city has lifted restrictions on capacity, masking, and social distancing. For updated information on coronavirus cases, please visit the city of Chicago’s COVID-19 dashboard. Studies indicate that there is a lower exposure risk when outdoors, but the level of risk involved with patio dining is contingent on restaurants following safety guidelines. The latest CDC guidance for vaccinated diners during the COVID-19 outbreak is available here; dining out still carries risks for unvaccinated diners and workers. Find a local vaccination site here.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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Hopleaf

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There aren’t many bars in Chicago that can hold a candle to the stellar and expansive beer selection at Hopleaf, and to top it off the food menu is also worth bragging about. Among the more popular options are the mussels and frites (offered Belgian-style, cooked in beer) and the CB+J (cashew butter, fig jam, and raclette cheese sandwich), but pretty much everything is solid.

Locals in the know visit this small and unassuming Korean bar for some of the most delectable late-night eats. The food menu is the main attraction at Dancen and consists of soups, stews, grilled bites, and other favorites like fried chicken and seafood pancake. The must-try dish though is the buldak, also known as “fire chicken.” Hunks of spicy marinated chicken are cooked over open fire until perfectly charred. An optional, but highly recommended, layer of melted cheeses can be added on top of it.

Ludlow Liquors

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While sipping cocktails by the ounce (or two), enjoy comforting bites as well at this Avondale bar. Currently, the menu is stocked with a killer burger, buffalo wings, and a ratatouille Parm sandwich.

Scofflaw

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Scofflaw is the quintessential bar for gin cocktails, Malort, and chocolate chip cookies at midnight. But the kitchen churns out so much more than just warm sweet treats. From charcuterie boards to burgers, plus a swath of fancier dishes, there’s plenty of choices for both bar food fiends and those who prefer something a bit more elaborate.

A plate of roasted bone marrow with bread chips.
The Logan Square hotspot impresses with both drinks and food.
Scofflaw [Official Photo]

Pub Royale

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Inspired by the pubs found across the pond, Heisler Hospitality’s West Town destination offers a modern take on Anglo-Indian classics. The beverage program offers craft beers on tap plus Pimm’s Cups while the food section complements the drinking with samosas, butter chicken, chicken tikka kati roll, a first-rate burger, and more. Online ordering is available here.

Rootstock Wine & Beer Bar

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Essential wine bar Rootstock is where Humboldt Park residents and oenophiles love to gather to share a bottle and some bites. The plates rotate regularly but one can always expect to find cheeses, charcuterie, and a fantastic burger made with dry-aged Slagel Farm beef, bacon aioli, red onion, and cheddar. Online ordering is available here.

Good Measure

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River North’s Good Measure may have the look and feel of a dive but there’s more than meets the eye. The drink list is full of well-executed classics and the food menu veers off the beaten bar path with items like Nashville hot fried duck livers, rigatoni with asparagus pesto, and pimento cheese. Of course, there’s also a great burger that can be customized with intriguing add-ons such as foie onions and truffle mascarpone. Carryout ordering is available here.

A plate of Nashville hot fried duck livers.
Good Measure produces unconventional bar bites like Nashville hot fried duck livers.
Richard Shilkus/Good Measure

Jake Melnick's Corner Tap

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Folks can watch their favorite teams in action and, more importantly, munch on terrific wings at this River North sports pub. The menu features standard bar fare like burgers, sandwiches, and salads, but the chicken wings are the true stars of the show. They’re meaty, crispy, and coated in a variety of sauces. Those who love spice and manage to finish an entire order of the XXXX wings — made with habanero, ghost, scorpion, and reaper peppers — are immortalized on Jake Melnick’s Wall of Flame. Carryout and delivery ordering is available here.

Three baskets of wings, sauces, and veggies plus pints of beer on a table.
Many consider Jake Melnick’s wings to be the best in Chicago.
Jake Melnick’s [Official Photo]

Gilt Bar

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For classic cocktails and appetizers, Gilt Bar in River North is an excellent choice. But it also fits the bill for those looking to grab dinner in a cozy, sophisticated atmosphere with comforting dishes. Appetizers like steak tartare and roasted bone marrow make for elegant light bites. A lineup of salads and pastas start the larger plates, followed by meat and seafood entrees and family-style sides to share. Online ordering is available here.

The Aviary

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Finding oneself at the Aviary is far from an accident and almost certainly planned for ahead of time. That being said, and with the Alinea Group at the helm, the food is obviously a main draw. Best bets are to eat a fuller meal before or after, but leave room for smaller dishes such as the truffle explosion (first featured at Alinea) and over-the-top snacks like beautifully presented crispy pork skin. And if a trip to the Office — an intimate speakeasy located beneath the Aviary — is in order, get the enormous sundae, a dessert that will leave anyone feeling luxurious.

A plate of tartare next to a cocktail and a cup of pickled veggies.
The Aviary is an adventure in molecular gastronomy.
The Aviary [Official Photo]

Known for its omakase bar with cocktails made to order, Kumiko also has a top-notch Japanese food menu. Those looking to stop in and grab a fancy bite can choose from a small menu of upscale snacks like nigiri topped with caviar and Japanese milk bread. Although Julia Momose’s cocktails are absolutely the draw, the expertly prepared dishes help make a compelling case for spending an an entire evening here. Kumiko is temporarily closed but plans to reopen for indoor dining in August.

MONEYGUN

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Good ambiance and quality cocktails make MONEYGUN one of the most popular watering holes in the West Loop. The intimate and understated bar recently reopened with more space as it took over the dining room next door that belonged to sibling restaurant St. Lou’s Assembly. New chef Stephen Finney has added some fresh bar snacks to the fun menu so guests can now look forward to waffle fries, wings, ribs, chilled seafood, and more.

Punch House

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Tucked away in the basement underneath Thalia Hall, this ‘70s-themed bar is dripping with nostalgia. Punches — available by the cup, carafe, or bowl — are the focus and to help soap up all that alcohol, the kitchen offers delicious items such as raw oysters, barbecue pork rinds, beer pretzels, wings, sandwiches, and a Slagel Farm cheeseburger.

Beloved Bridgeport bar Maria’s got a major upgrade when ownership added a Korean-Polish restaurant right next door. Smoked-then-fried chicken wings and a Polish sausage with soju mustard and kraut-chi are headliners on the creative fusion menu, and everything can be enjoyed at Kimski or taken over to Maria’s. There’s also a lovely back patio when weather permits.

Marz Community Brewing Company

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Order a pint and some irresistible sandwiches, noodles, and snacks at Marz Community Brewing. The Bridgeport brewery and taproom is currently home to Mom’s, a Japanese-inspired restaurant that previously operated out of Politan Row food hall. On weekends, chefs Kelly Ijichi and Randi Howry whip up comfort fare like katsu sandos, ramen, chicken karaage, Spam musubi, and a short rib and brisket burger on milk bread bun.

Rock Island Public House

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There’s some creative bar food at this tavern in the south suburbs. Rock Island Public House provides delicious hot chicken sandwiches, oddly-named-yet-addictive Korean BBQ Balls, and gourmet hot dogs with toppings like duck confit, elotes, and fried pickles. The bar boasts 12 taps and was recently renovated.

Hopleaf

There aren’t many bars in Chicago that can hold a candle to the stellar and expansive beer selection at Hopleaf, and to top it off the food menu is also worth bragging about. Among the more popular options are the mussels and frites (offered Belgian-style, cooked in beer) and the CB+J (cashew butter, fig jam, and raclette cheese sandwich), but pretty much everything is solid.

Dancen

Locals in the know visit this small and unassuming Korean bar for some of the most delectable late-night eats. The food menu is the main attraction at Dancen and consists of soups, stews, grilled bites, and other favorites like fried chicken and seafood pancake. The must-try dish though is the buldak, also known as “fire chicken.” Hunks of spicy marinated chicken are cooked over open fire until perfectly charred. An optional, but highly recommended, layer of melted cheeses can be added on top of it.

Ludlow Liquors

While sipping cocktails by the ounce (or two), enjoy comforting bites as well at this Avondale bar. Currently, the menu is stocked with a killer burger, buffalo wings, and a ratatouille Parm sandwich.

Scofflaw

A plate of roasted bone marrow with bread chips.
The Logan Square hotspot impresses with both drinks and food.
Scofflaw [Official Photo]

Scofflaw is the quintessential bar for gin cocktails, Malort, and chocolate chip cookies at midnight. But the kitchen churns out so much more than just warm sweet treats. From charcuterie boards to burgers, plus a swath of fancier dishes, there’s plenty of choices for both bar food fiends and those who prefer something a bit more elaborate.

A plate of roasted bone marrow with bread chips.
The Logan Square hotspot impresses with both drinks and food.
Scofflaw [Official Photo]

Pub Royale

Inspired by the pubs found across the pond, Heisler Hospitality’s West Town destination offers a modern take on Anglo-Indian classics. The beverage program offers craft beers on tap plus Pimm’s Cups while the food section complements the drinking with samosas, butter chicken, chicken tikka kati roll, a first-rate burger, and more. Online ordering is available here.

Rootstock Wine & Beer Bar

Essential wine bar Rootstock is where Humboldt Park residents and oenophiles love to gather to share a bottle and some bites. The plates rotate regularly but one can always expect to find cheeses, charcuterie, and a fantastic burger made with dry-aged Slagel Farm beef, bacon aioli, red onion, and cheddar. Online ordering is available here.

Good Measure

A plate of Nashville hot fried duck livers.
Good Measure produces unconventional bar bites like Nashville hot fried duck livers.
Richard Shilkus/Good Measure

River North’s Good Measure may have the look and feel of a dive but there’s more than meets the eye. The drink list is full of well-executed classics and the food menu veers off the beaten bar path with items like Nashville hot fried duck livers, rigatoni with asparagus pesto, and pimento cheese. Of course, there’s also a great burger that can be customized with intriguing add-ons such as foie onions and truffle mascarpone. Carryout ordering is available here.

A plate of Nashville hot fried duck livers.
Good Measure produces unconventional bar bites like Nashville hot fried duck livers.
Richard Shilkus/Good Measure

Jake Melnick's Corner Tap

Three baskets of wings, sauces, and veggies plus pints of beer on a table.
Many consider Jake Melnick’s wings to be the best in Chicago.
Jake Melnick’s [Official Photo]

Folks can watch their favorite teams in action and, more importantly, munch on terrific wings at this River North sports pub. The menu features standard bar fare like burgers, sandwiches, and salads, but the chicken wings are the true stars of the show. They’re meaty, crispy, and coated in a variety of sauces. Those who love spice and manage to finish an entire order of the XXXX wings — made with habanero, ghost, scorpion, and reaper peppers — are immortalized on Jake Melnick’s Wall of Flame. Carryout and delivery ordering is available here.

Three baskets of wings, sauces, and veggies plus pints of beer on a table.
Many consider Jake Melnick’s wings to be the best in Chicago.
Jake Melnick’s [Official Photo]

Gilt Bar

For classic cocktails and appetizers, Gilt Bar in River North is an excellent choice. But it also fits the bill for those looking to grab dinner in a cozy, sophisticated atmosphere with comforting dishes. Appetizers like steak tartare and roasted bone marrow make for elegant light bites. A lineup of salads and pastas start the larger plates, followed by meat and seafood entrees and family-style sides to share. Online ordering is available here.

The Aviary

A plate of tartare next to a cocktail and a cup of pickled veggies.
The Aviary is an adventure in molecular gastronomy.
The Aviary [Official Photo]

Finding oneself at the Aviary is far from an accident and almost certainly planned for ahead of time. That being said, and with the Alinea Group at the helm, the food is obviously a main draw. Best bets are to eat a fuller meal before or after, but leave room for smaller dishes such as the truffle explosion (first featured at Alinea) and over-the-top snacks like beautifully presented crispy pork skin. And if a trip to the Office — an intimate speakeasy located beneath the Aviary — is in order, get the enormous sundae, a dessert that will leave anyone feeling luxurious.

A plate of tartare next to a cocktail and a cup of pickled veggies.
The Aviary is an adventure in molecular gastronomy.
The Aviary [Official Photo]

Kumiko

Known for its omakase bar with cocktails made to order, Kumiko also has a top-notch Japanese food menu. Those looking to stop in and grab a fancy bite can choose from a small menu of upscale snacks like nigiri topped with caviar and Japanese milk bread. Although Julia Momose’s cocktails are absolutely the draw, the expertly prepared dishes help make a compelling case for spending an an entire evening here. Kumiko is temporarily closed but plans to reopen for indoor dining in August.

MONEYGUN

Good ambiance and quality cocktails make MONEYGUN one of the most popular watering holes in the West Loop. The intimate and understated bar recently reopened with more space as it took over the dining room next door that belonged to sibling restaurant St. Lou’s Assembly. New chef Stephen Finney has added some fresh bar snacks to the fun menu so guests can now look forward to waffle fries, wings, ribs, chilled seafood, and more.

Punch House

Tucked away in the basement underneath Thalia Hall, this ‘70s-themed bar is dripping with nostalgia. Punches — available by the cup, carafe, or bowl — are the focus and to help soap up all that alcohol, the kitchen offers delicious items such as raw oysters, barbecue pork rinds, beer pretzels, wings, sandwiches, and a Slagel Farm cheeseburger.

Kimski

Beloved Bridgeport bar Maria’s got a major upgrade when ownership added a Korean-Polish restaurant right next door. Smoked-then-fried chicken wings and a Polish sausage with soju mustard and kraut-chi are headliners on the creative fusion menu, and everything can be enjoyed at Kimski or taken over to Maria’s. There’s also a lovely back patio when weather permits.

Marz Community Brewing Company

Order a pint and some irresistible sandwiches, noodles, and snacks at Marz Community Brewing. The Bridgeport brewery and taproom is currently home to Mom’s, a Japanese-inspired restaurant that previously operated out of Politan Row food hall. On weekends, chefs Kelly Ijichi and Randi Howry whip up comfort fare like katsu sandos, ramen, chicken karaage, Spam musubi, and a short rib and brisket burger on milk bread bun.

Related Maps

Rock Island Public House

There’s some creative bar food at this tavern in the south suburbs. Rock Island Public House provides delicious hot chicken sandwiches, oddly-named-yet-addictive Korean BBQ Balls, and gourmet hot dogs with toppings like duck confit, elotes, and fried pickles. The bar boasts 12 taps and was recently renovated.

Related Maps