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A purple-lit cooler inside a dive bar.
Nisei Lounge is a dive bar icon near Wrigley Field.
Nisei Lounge [Official Photo]

The 20 Essential Dive Bars in Chicago

Because dim lighting isn't reserved for romantic restaurants only

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Nisei Lounge is a dive bar icon near Wrigley Field.
| Nisei Lounge [Official Photo]

Chicago tavern culture is legendary and helps makes the city special. Dive bars play a crucial role in keeping this culture alive as a welcoming place for people to gather no matter how much money they have to spend or what they look like. They can be used for happy hour, cheap dates, or ways to blow off steam. There’s rarely any judgement inside, just as there aren’t any fancy cocktails. Though cheap canned beer still is popular, Chicago’s beer culture has changed, and it’s now acceptable to drink an IPA with extra hops or a pumpkin peach ale. Just wash them down with a shot of malort and everyone can be friends.

Because Chicago has many great dive bars and this list is limited to 20, many beloved watering holes aren’t included. Sound off on what’s missing in the comments. For the 2020 update, Happy Village, Rainbo Club, and Stella’s Tap were removed, and Simon’s Tavern, Rosa’s Lounge and L&L Tavern join the list.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Simon's Tavern

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5210 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60640
(773) 878-0894
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One of the preeminent dives in the city, Simon’s Tavern is a beer-and-a-shot kind of place but gets into the Andersonville spirit with glogg (warm mulled wine). There’s also a classic jukebox that features an impressive collection of tunes, plus occasional live music.

2. Lange's Lounge

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3500 N Southport Ave
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 472-6030

At the corner of Southport and Cornelia, Lange’s Lounge sits like a time capsule surrounded by newer restaurants and bars along the family-friendly Southport Corridor. Inside, regulars surround the old-school bar, a refreshing escape from nearby Wrigleyville. There’s an impressive selection of dad beer in cans. There’s nothing that supremely sticks out here, except that while everything on the outside changes, Lange’s remains the same, and that’s worth celebrating. 

Now..

Posted by Lange's on Tuesday, January 26, 2010

3. Nisei Lounge

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3439 N Sheffield Ave
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 525-0557
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Yes, one of Chicago's best dive bars is just steps from Wrigley Field. Although fans can watch Cubs games at the self-proclaimed "oldest bar in Wrigleyville," Nisei Lounge is known for its delightfully no-frills atmosphere, cheap Old Style cans, free darts and board games, and plentiful malort.

A purple-lit cooler inside a dive bar.
Nisei Lounge is just steps from Wrigley Field.
Nisei Lounge [Official Photo]

4. L&L Tavern

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3207 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60657
773-528-1303

This prohibition-era tavern is a favorite last-call destination for neighborhood patrons in Lakeview. It carries one of the largest Irish whiskey collections in the city. L&L Tavern also carries an infamous history of rumors that murderers like John Wayne Gacy and Jeffrey Dahmer hung out at the bar. So go for that mystique.

5. Reed's Local

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3017 W Belmont Ave
Chicago, IL 60618
(872) 806-0520
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Avondale faces the same predicament as Logan Square did a few years ago as Chicagoans “discover” this hip area where restaurants like Kuma’s Corner, Honey Butter Fried Chicken, and Parachute have called home for years. Crews from those restaurants descend on Reed’s Local (the name comes from the owner’s support of unions), the spiritual successor to Club Foot, the beloved dive bar full of pop culture trinkets that closed in Ukrainian Village years ago. Customers will find trinkets like the Tetris machine from Club Foot and other familiar items. This is a place fo a cheap beer and some fun chatter, as Reed’s took an old bar space and rehabbed it, but not to the point where character is lost. 

Reed’s Loal
Reed’s Local
Reed’s Local [Official Photo]

6. Alice's Lounge

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3556 W Belmont Ave
Chicago, IL 60618
(773) 279-9382

Alice’s is a 4 a.m. bar known for late-night karaoke in Avondale. While belting out “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” on the bar top is not encouraged, it happens.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Seasons Greetings from the living room couch. Time to chill with good friends and...

Posted by Alice's Lounge on Sunday, December 15, 2019

7. Liar's Club

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1665 W Fullerton Ave
Chicago, IL 60614
773-665-1110

Liar’s Club lies in a hodge-podge part of Chicago near Lincoln Park and Bucktown. This two-floor hole in the wall is allegedly haunted by the ghost of a woman murdered in the apartment above the bar. Scenesters, med students, and more hang out for music, cheap drinks, and cool characters.

8. Whirlaway Lounge

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3224 W Fullerton Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 276-6809
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Logan Square has no shortage of dive bars, but few offer the charm of Whirlaway. Longtime co-owner Maria James, who is affectionately referred to as "The Sweetest Woman on the Planet," will happily pour customers a beer or a shot of whiskey. The bar also has quite a Blackhawk fan following.

9. Rosa's Lounge

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3420 W Armitage Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 342-0452
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Around since 1984 in Logan Square, Rosa’s Lounge is one of the more special bars in Chicago thanks to the live blues music performed daily. It’s a dimly lit space with a customer mix of those visiting to see bands and locals just wanting a cold drink. Drinks are cheap, and people are friendly. There’s occasional karaoke when no bands are playing.

Posted by Rosa's Lounge on Tuesday, June 27, 2017

10. Old Town Ale House

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219 W North Ave
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 944-7020
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The Old Town Ale House is a slice of Chicago history, because they don’t make them like this anymore. A staple in Old Town, the dive features artwork of old-school regulars hanging on the walls and a lending library for bookworms.

Inside a dive bar
Take in Old Town Ale House’s menagerie of wall art.
Old Town Ale House [Official Photo]

11. Innertown Pub

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1935 W. Thomas St.
Chicago, IL 60622
773-235-9795

Come for the open mic nights and stay for the grunginess. The Innertown Pub has the look and feel of an old timer with its colorful décor and ‘60s artwork. The basic beer selection is cheap, and the free pool table and dartboards will keep drinkers entertained until the wee hours.

12. Archie's Iowa & Rockwell Tavern

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2600 W Iowa St
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 486-2626
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Archie’s, a longtime charming neighborhood dive, lies on the Humboldt Park/West Town border. This is an industry favorite which really ramps up for holidays. The bottled beer selection in the cooler is deep and is not the typical dive bar beer list.

13. Chipp Inn

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832 N Greenview Ave
Chicago, IL 60642
(312) 421-9052

If pool tables could talk, this one would have more than a few stories to tell. The Chipp Inn is a favorite for after-hours industry folks in West Town because of its cheap beer and popular — although its smaller than regulation size — pool table. The place dates back to 1897 and not many improvements have been made since then, as evident by the wood bar, ornate tin ceiling and mismatched folding furniture.

14. Richard's Bar

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491 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60610
312-733-2251

River West continues to morph, but Richard’s still packs the house with its old school, Italian heritage vibe, and cheap beer options. The bar draws crowds spanning all ages, its walls are lined with pictures of mobsters and the Rat Pack, a jukebox packed with a varied selection of classics and even 75-cent hard-boiled eggs. This one’s open until 4 a.m.

15. Rossi's Liquors

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412 North State St
Chicago, IL 60610
312-644-5775

Rossi’s is really the only true dive left in River North. It’s an incredibly friendly and tiny space in the shadow of the House of Blues and other tall buildings. The coolers in the back stock a nice selection of craft beer. Feel free to grab one and walk over to the bartender who will open the bottle up. This is the bar to take transplants and picky people who don’t think they like dive bars. Teach them a valuable lesson. 

16. Skylark

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2149 S Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60608
(312) 948-5275
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While Pilsen may be rapidly changing with an influx of entrepreneurs and artists reviving the neighborhood, Skylark remains the same. The bar strives to be part of the community, and there’s a solid menu of tater tots and other bar food. This is the bar Jon Favreu’s character owned in the movie The Break Up.

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17. Bernice's Tavern

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3238 S Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60608

Bernice’s, a hidden secret in Bridgeport, is small, dark, and cozy. Tunes ring out from the jukebox and Mike the bartender will make sure you’re well taken care of. The place is crawling with locals but don’t worry, staff will still buzz (yes, buzz) customers in through the doors even if they’re not from the neighborhood.

Posted by Bernice's Tavern - Open Microphone for musicians on Thursday, September 21, 2017

18. Shinnick's Pub

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3758 S. Union
Chicago, IL 60609
(773) 376-3525
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Shinnick’s Pub carries a storied history, as the family-owned drinking hole spans four generations in Bridgeport. It’s a favorite of White Sox faithful due to the proximity to Sox Park and a time capsule of old-school Chicago drinking culture when bars were considered community beacons. This is a warm beer and shot kind of place.

A brick bar
Shinnick’s Pub is a hub for White Sox fans.
Marc Much/Eater Chicago

19. Falcon Inn

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1601 E 53rd St
Chicago, IL 60615
(773) 288-2758
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Falcon Inn brings in a mixture of Hyde Park locals and University of Chicago students for cheap pitchers of domestic beer, though the “over 23 and up” sign may scare off the college kids. For sustenance nearby the bar neighbors Cholie’s Pizza.

The exterior of a neighborhood bar and pizza place in Chicago.
Falcon Inn neighbors Cholie’s Pizza in Hyde Park.
Google Streetview

20. Woodlawn Tap

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1172 E 55th St
Chicago, IL 60615
(773) 643-5516
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No longer known as Jimmy’s Woodlawn Tap (founder Jimmy Wilson died in 1999), this bar — which dates back to 1948 — is a classic Chicago tavern. Friendly bartenders, live music, and a location near the University of Chicago bring in a cool cast of customers. Despite Wilson’s absence, most customers still call the bar “Jimmy’s.” Prolific author Kurt Vonnegut was once a regular.

Posted by Woodlawn Tap on Monday, July 1, 2013

1. Simon's Tavern

5210 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60640

One of the preeminent dives in the city, Simon’s Tavern is a beer-and-a-shot kind of place but gets into the Andersonville spirit with glogg (warm mulled wine). There’s also a classic jukebox that features an impressive collection of tunes, plus occasional live music.

5210 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60640

2. Lange's Lounge

3500 N Southport Ave, Chicago, IL 60657

At the corner of Southport and Cornelia, Lange’s Lounge sits like a time capsule surrounded by newer restaurants and bars along the family-friendly Southport Corridor. Inside, regulars surround the old-school bar, a refreshing escape from nearby Wrigleyville. There’s an impressive selection of dad beer in cans. There’s nothing that supremely sticks out here, except that while everything on the outside changes, Lange’s remains the same, and that’s worth celebrating. 

3500 N Southport Ave
Chicago, IL 60657

3. Nisei Lounge

3439 N Sheffield Ave, Chicago, IL 60657
A purple-lit cooler inside a dive bar.
Nisei Lounge is just steps from Wrigley Field.
Nisei Lounge [Official Photo]

Yes, one of Chicago's best dive bars is just steps from Wrigley Field. Although fans can watch Cubs games at the self-proclaimed "oldest bar in Wrigleyville," Nisei Lounge is known for its delightfully no-frills atmosphere, cheap Old Style cans, free darts and board games, and plentiful malort.

3439 N Sheffield Ave
Chicago, IL 60657

4. L&L Tavern

3207 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60657

This prohibition-era tavern is a favorite last-call destination for neighborhood patrons in Lakeview. It carries one of the largest Irish whiskey collections in the city. L&L Tavern also carries an infamous history of rumors that murderers like John Wayne Gacy and Jeffrey Dahmer hung out at the bar. So go for that mystique.

3207 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60657

5. Reed's Local

3017 W Belmont Ave, Chicago, IL 60618
Reed’s Loal
Reed’s Local
Reed’s Local [Official Photo]

Avondale faces the same predicament as Logan Square did a few years ago as Chicagoans “discover” this hip area where restaurants like Kuma’s Corner, Honey Butter Fried Chicken, and Parachute have called home for years. Crews from those restaurants descend on Reed’s Local (the name comes from the owner’s support of unions), the spiritual successor to Club Foot, the beloved dive bar full of pop culture trinkets that closed in Ukrainian Village years ago. Customers will find trinkets like the Tetris machine from Club Foot and other familiar items. This is a place fo a cheap beer and some fun chatter, as Reed’s took an old bar space and rehabbed it, but not to the point where character is lost. 

3017 W Belmont Ave
Chicago, IL 60618

6. Alice's Lounge

3556 W Belmont Ave, Chicago, IL 60618

Alice’s is a 4 a.m. bar known for late-night karaoke in Avondale. While belting out “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” on the bar top is not encouraged, it happens.

3556 W Belmont Ave
Chicago, IL 60618

7. Liar's Club

1665 W Fullerton Ave, Chicago, IL 60614

Liar’s Club lies in a hodge-podge part of Chicago near Lincoln Park and Bucktown. This two-floor hole in the wall is allegedly haunted by the ghost of a woman murdered in the apartment above the bar. Scenesters, med students, and more hang out for music, cheap drinks, and cool characters.

1665 W Fullerton Ave
Chicago, IL 60614

8. Whirlaway Lounge

3224 W Fullerton Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

Logan Square has no shortage of dive bars, but few offer the charm of Whirlaway. Longtime co-owner Maria James, who is affectionately referred to as "The Sweetest Woman on the Planet," will happily pour customers a beer or a shot of whiskey. The bar also has quite a Blackhawk fan following.

3224 W Fullerton Ave
Chicago, IL 60647

9. Rosa's Lounge

3420 W Armitage Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

Around since 1984 in Logan Square, Rosa’s Lounge is one of the more special bars in Chicago thanks to the live blues music performed daily. It’s a dimly lit space with a customer mix of those visiting to see bands and locals just wanting a cold drink. Drinks are cheap, and people are friendly. There’s occasional karaoke when no bands are playing.

3420 W Armitage Ave
Chicago, IL 60647

10. Old Town Ale House

219 W North Ave, Chicago, IL 60610
Inside a dive bar
Take in Old Town Ale House’s menagerie of wall art.
Old Town Ale House [Official Photo]

The Old Town Ale House is a slice of Chicago history, because they don’t make them like this anymore. A staple in Old Town, the dive features artwork of old-school regulars hanging on the walls and a lending library for bookworms.

219 W North Ave
Chicago, IL 60610

11. Innertown Pub

1935 W. Thomas St., Chicago, IL 60622

Come for the open mic nights and stay for the grunginess. The Innertown Pub has the look and feel of an old timer with its colorful décor and ‘60s artwork. The basic beer selection is cheap, and the free pool table and dartboards will keep drinkers entertained until the wee hours.

1935 W. Thomas St.
Chicago, IL 60622

12. Archie's Iowa & Rockwell Tavern

2600 W Iowa St, Chicago, IL 60622

Archie’s, a longtime charming neighborhood dive, lies on the Humboldt Park/West Town border. This is an industry favorite which really ramps up for holidays. The bottled beer selection in the cooler is deep and is not the typical dive bar beer list.

2600 W Iowa St
Chicago, IL 60622

13. Chipp Inn

832 N Greenview Ave, Chicago, IL 60642

If pool tables could talk, this one would have more than a few stories to tell. The Chipp Inn is a favorite for after-hours industry folks in West Town because of its cheap beer and popular — although its smaller than regulation size — pool table. The place dates back to 1897 and not many improvements have been made since then, as evident by the wood bar, ornate tin ceiling and mismatched folding furniture.

832 N Greenview Ave
Chicago, IL 60642

14. Richard's Bar

491 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60610

River West continues to morph, but Richard’s still packs the house with its old school, Italian heritage vibe, and cheap beer options. The bar draws crowds spanning all ages, its walls are lined with pictures of mobsters and the Rat Pack, a jukebox packed with a varied selection of classics and even 75-cent hard-boiled eggs. This one’s open until 4 a.m.

491 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60610

15. Rossi's Liquors

412 North State St, Chicago, IL 60610

Rossi’s is really the only true dive left in River North. It’s an incredibly friendly and tiny space in the shadow of the House of Blues and other tall buildings. The coolers in the back stock a nice selection of craft beer. Feel free to grab one and walk over to the bartender who will open the bottle up. This is the bar to take transplants and picky people who don’t think they like dive bars. Teach them a valuable lesson. 

412 North State St
Chicago, IL 60610

Related Maps

16. Skylark

2149 S Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60608

While Pilsen may be rapidly changing with an influx of entrepreneurs and artists reviving the neighborhood, Skylark remains the same. The bar strives to be part of the community, and there’s a solid menu of tater tots and other bar food. This is the bar Jon Favreu’s character owned in the movie The Break Up.

2149 S Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60608

17. Bernice's Tavern

3238 S Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60608

Bernice’s, a hidden secret in Bridgeport, is small, dark, and cozy. Tunes ring out from the jukebox and Mike the bartender will make sure you’re well taken care of. The place is crawling with locals but don’t worry, staff will still buzz (yes, buzz) customers in through the doors even if they’re not from the neighborhood.

3238 S Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60608

18. Shinnick's Pub

3758 S. Union, Chicago, IL 60609
A brick bar
Shinnick’s Pub is a hub for White Sox fans.
Marc Much/Eater Chicago

Shinnick’s Pub carries a storied history, as the family-owned drinking hole spans four generations in Bridgeport. It’s a favorite of White Sox faithful due to the proximity to Sox Park and a time capsule of old-school Chicago drinking culture when bars were considered community beacons. This is a warm beer and shot kind of place.

3758 S. Union
Chicago, IL 60609

19. Falcon Inn

1601 E 53rd St, Chicago, IL 60615
The exterior of a neighborhood bar and pizza place in Chicago.
Falcon Inn neighbors Cholie’s Pizza in Hyde Park.
Google Streetview

Falcon Inn brings in a mixture of Hyde Park locals and University of Chicago students for cheap pitchers of domestic beer, though the “over 23 and up” sign may scare off the college kids. For sustenance nearby the bar neighbors Cholie’s Pizza.

1601 E 53rd St
Chicago, IL 60615

20. Woodlawn Tap

1172 E 55th St, Chicago, IL 60615

No longer known as Jimmy’s Woodlawn Tap (founder Jimmy Wilson died in 1999), this bar — which dates back to 1948 — is a classic Chicago tavern. Friendly bartenders, live music, and a location near the University of Chicago bring in a cool cast of customers. Despite Wilson’s absence, most customers still call the bar “Jimmy’s.” Prolific author Kurt Vonnegut was once a regular.

1172 E 55th St
Chicago, IL 60615

Related Maps