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A wood bar with Tiffany lamps hanging overhead and a stage in the background.
Carol’s Pub in Uptown is the last honky tonk in Chicago.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Chicago’s Essential Dive Bars

Where the malort pours freely and the good times never end

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Carol’s Pub in Uptown is the last honky tonk in Chicago.
| Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Chicago’s tavern culture helps makes this city special, and dive bars are an important part of it. The best of the city’s dives provide a comfortable, welcoming place for people to gather for a quick drink or an entire afternoon or evening, no matter what they’re wearing or how much money they have in their bank accounts. (There may be judgement for sports alliances, though.) Though cheap canned beer still is the classic drink of choice, Chicago’s beer culture has changed, and it’s now considered acceptable to drink an IPA with extra hops or a pumpkin peach ale while sitting at a dive. Just accept a shot of malort if it’s offered, and everyone can be friends.

As of January 3, the city has mandated that those ages 5 and up be fully vaccinated and masked at public places indoors while not actively eating or drinking. For updated information on coronavirus cases, please visit the city of Chicago’s COVID-19 dashboard. Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission. The latest CDC guidance is here; find a COVID-19 vaccination site here.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Cunneen's

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1424 W Devon Ave
Chicago, IL 60626
(773) 274-9317

The cozy cash-only spot on the border of Rogers Park and Edgewater has a wide selection of beers in cans, a decent pool table, and TVs kept at a manageable volume so customers can actually engage in conversation while they keep an eye on the game. It also houses one of the best collection of Chicago history ephemera outside a museum, most notably a clock promoting the election of Richard J. Daley as the city’s mayor. If you go, lift a glass to owner Steve Cunneen, whose recent death leaves a void in the neighborhood.

2. Sovereign Liquors

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6202 N Broadway
Chicago, IL 60660
(773) 274-0057

Every neighborhood has its favorite dive bar, easily identified by the Old Style sign hanging outside, and the Sovereign is Edgewater’s. The beer is cheap (and available for purchase in six packs), the vibe is friendly, and the jukebox is great. What more does anybody need?

3. 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 at Christmastime, it gets into the Andersonville Swedish holiday spirit with glogg (warm mulled wine). There’s also a classic jukebox that features an impressive collection of tunes, plus occasional live music.

4. Carol's Pub

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4659 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60640
(773) 754-8000
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Carol’s is the last honky tonk in Chicago, a remnant of the population that migrated to Uptown from Appalachia in the 1960s. Now there’s live country-western music and a menu loaded with Kentucky bourbon and also fried bologna sandwiches, but make no mistake: the beer in cans and the 4 a.m. closing time mean it’s a dive.

A corner bar with two neon signs hanging off the roof.
Carol’s Pub has been on the same corner in Uptown for 50 years.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

5. The North End

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3733 N Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60613
(773) 477-7999
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A gayborhood staple since 1983 and one of the more low-key options on North Halsted, North End has all the components that make up the best dive bars: a pool table, a dartboard, plenty of TVs, a modest beer selection that includes a few locally made craft options, and a friendly atmosphere.

6. 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 creative seasonal cocktails, many of which involve unusual uses of malort.

7. 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 in Lakeview. It carries one of the largest Irish whiskey collections in the city. There are also rumors that murderers like John Wayne Gacy and Jeffrey Dahmer hung out at the bar. So go for that mystique.

8. Reed's Local

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3017 W Belmont Ave
Chicago, IL 60618
(872) 806-0520
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Crews from Avondale restaurants like Kuma’s Corner, Honey Butter Fried Chicken, and Paraschute descend on Reed’s Local after hours (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. Reed’s took the old bar space and rehabbed it, but it kept the Tetris machine from Club Foot, among other souvenirs, and the older bar’s spirit. This is a place for a cheap beer and some fun chatter.

9. Delilah's Chicago

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2771 N Lincoln Ave
Chicago, IL 60614
(773) 472-2771
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This two-level bar draws lovers of punk, goth, and metal music to an unlikely counter culture center in normally basic Lincoln Park. The bar’s selection including the usual suspect of canned domestics, but there’s a real deep selection of whiskies, and owner Mike Miller also raves about his wines by the glass. 

10. Liar's Club

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

Liar’s Club lies in the pocket of Chicago between 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 random passersby hang out for the music, cheap drinks, and cool characters.

11. 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, allegedly named for the horse the original owners bet on to win enough money to open. Longtime co-owner Maria Jaimes, 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.

12. Bob Inn

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2609 W Fullerton Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 342-2309

This Logan Square dive has a laid-back vibe. It’s a quintessential “old person’s bar” with a juke box, pool table, and plenty of shots and canned beer. It’s also a great place to introduce visitors to the wonderful world of malort. Sports fans should be warned: the Bob Inn is a rare North Side White Sox bar.

13. Rosa's Lounge

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3420 W Armitage Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 342-0452
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A Logan Square staple since 1984, Rosa’s Lounge is known for live blues music Wednesday through Sunday. 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.

14. 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. They don’t make dives like this anymore. A staple in Old Town since the 1950s since the neighborhood was a bohemian hangout, the bar features portrait of the regulars on the walls, all painted by owner Bruce Elliot, and a lending library for bookworms.

An older man stands inside his bar in front of a wall covered with painted portraits.
Old Town Ale House owner Bruce Elliott.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

15. Innertown Pub

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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-time joint 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. In warmer weather, drink out on the patio.

16. 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 is a charming longtime Humboldt Park dive. It’s also an industry favorite that really ramps up for holidays, and dogs are welcome. The bottled beer selection in the cooler is deep and goes beyond the typical dive bar beer list.

17. Chipp Inn

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

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.

18. 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. The coolers in the back stock a nice selection of craft beer. Feel free to grab one and walk over to the bartender who’s armed with a bottle opener. This is the bar to take transplants and picky people who don’t think they like dive bars. Teach them a valuable lesson. 

19. 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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20. 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. A recent GoFundMe campaign helped keep Bernice’s going through the pandemic.

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

21. Shinnick's Pub

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3758 S. Union
Chicago, IL 60609
(773) 376-3525
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Shinnick’s Pub has a storied history, as the same family has owned it for four generations now. 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

22. 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. Find sustenance nearby at neighbor 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

23. 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

24. Mr C's Midway Bar Inc

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4654 W 63rd St
Chicago, IL 60629
(773) 582-0833

Mr C’s is so close to Midway Airport, travelers on a layover could conceivably pop in for a drink or two before boarding the plane to their next destination. While they’re there, they’ll get a chance to hang out with the locals in a classic dive: true Chicago bragging rights.

25. J & R's Lounge

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612 E 79th St
Chicago, IL 60619
(773) 874-0670

This tiny, bright red hole in the wall is a Chatham neighborhood hangout. The pours are generous, the prices are reasonable, and the jukebox plays Prince and the Jackson 5. It’s clear why people keep coming back.

1. Cunneen's

1424 W Devon Ave, Chicago, IL 60626

The cozy cash-only spot on the border of Rogers Park and Edgewater has a wide selection of beers in cans, a decent pool table, and TVs kept at a manageable volume so customers can actually engage in conversation while they keep an eye on the game. It also houses one of the best collection of Chicago history ephemera outside a museum, most notably a clock promoting the election of Richard J. Daley as the city’s mayor. If you go, lift a glass to owner Steve Cunneen, whose recent death leaves a void in the neighborhood.

1424 W Devon Ave
Chicago, IL 60626

2. Sovereign Liquors

6202 N Broadway, Chicago, IL 60660

Every neighborhood has its favorite dive bar, easily identified by the Old Style sign hanging outside, and the Sovereign is Edgewater’s. The beer is cheap (and available for purchase in six packs), the vibe is friendly, and the jukebox is great. What more does anybody need?

6202 N Broadway
Chicago, IL 60660

3. 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 at Christmastime, it gets into the Andersonville Swedish holiday 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

4. Carol's Pub

4659 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60640
A corner bar with two neon signs hanging off the roof.
Carol’s Pub has been on the same corner in Uptown for 50 years.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Carol’s is the last honky tonk in Chicago, a remnant of the population that migrated to Uptown from Appalachia in the 1960s. Now there’s live country-western music and a menu loaded with Kentucky bourbon and also fried bologna sandwiches, but make no mistake: the beer in cans and the 4 a.m. closing time mean it’s a dive.

4659 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60640

5. The North End

3733 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60613

A gayborhood staple since 1983 and one of the more low-key options on North Halsted, North End has all the components that make up the best dive bars: a pool table, a dartboard, plenty of TVs, a modest beer selection that includes a few locally made craft options, and a friendly atmosphere.

3733 N Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60613

6. Nisei Lounge

3439 N Sheffield Ave, Chicago, IL 60657

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 creative seasonal cocktails, many of which involve unusual uses of malort.

3439 N Sheffield Ave
Chicago, IL 60657

7. L&L Tavern

3207 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60657

This Prohibition-era tavern is a favorite last-call destination in Lakeview. It carries one of the largest Irish whiskey collections in the city. There are also 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

8. Reed's Local

3017 W Belmont Ave, Chicago, IL 60618

Crews from Avondale restaurants like Kuma’s Corner, Honey Butter Fried Chicken, and Paraschute descend on Reed’s Local after hours (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. Reed’s took the old bar space and rehabbed it, but it kept the Tetris machine from Club Foot, among other souvenirs, and the older bar’s spirit. This is a place for a cheap beer and some fun chatter.

3017 W Belmont Ave
Chicago, IL 60618

9. Delilah's Chicago

2771 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60614

This two-level bar draws lovers of punk, goth, and metal music to an unlikely counter culture center in normally basic Lincoln Park. The bar’s selection including the usual suspect of canned domestics, but there’s a real deep selection of whiskies, and owner Mike Miller also raves about his wines by the glass. 

2771 N Lincoln Ave
Chicago, IL 60614

10. Liar's Club

1665 W Fullerton Ave, Chicago, IL 60614

Liar’s Club lies in the pocket of Chicago between 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 random passersby hang out for the music, cheap drinks, and cool characters.

1665 W Fullerton Ave
Chicago, IL 60614

11. Whirlaway Lounge

3224 W Fullerton Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

Logan Square has no shortage of dive bars, but few offer the charm of Whirlaway, allegedly named for the horse the original owners bet on to win enough money to open. Longtime co-owner Maria Jaimes, 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

12. Bob Inn

2609 W Fullerton Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

This Logan Square dive has a laid-back vibe. It’s a quintessential “old person’s bar” with a juke box, pool table, and plenty of shots and canned beer. It’s also a great place to introduce visitors to the wonderful world of malort. Sports fans should be warned: the Bob Inn is a rare North Side White Sox bar.

2609 W Fullerton Ave
Chicago, IL 60647

13. Rosa's Lounge

3420 W Armitage Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

A Logan Square staple since 1984, Rosa’s Lounge is known for live blues music Wednesday through Sunday. 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.

3420 W Armitage Ave
Chicago, IL 60647

14. Old Town Ale House

219 W North Ave, Chicago, IL 60610
An older man stands inside his bar in front of a wall covered with painted portraits.
Old Town Ale House owner Bruce Elliott.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

The Old Town Ale House is a slice of Chicago history. They don’t make dives like this anymore. A staple in Old Town since the 1950s since the neighborhood was a bohemian hangout, the bar features portrait of the regulars on the walls, all painted by owner Bruce Elliot, and a lending library for bookworms.

219 W North Ave
Chicago, IL 60610

15. 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-time joint 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. In warmer weather, drink out on the patio.

1935 W. Thomas St.
Chicago, IL 60622

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16. Archie's Iowa & Rockwell Tavern

2600 W Iowa St, Chicago, IL 60622

Archie’s is a charming longtime Humboldt Park dive. It’s also an industry favorite that really ramps up for holidays, and dogs are welcome. The bottled beer selection in the cooler is deep and goes beyond the typical dive bar beer list.

2600 W Iowa St
Chicago, IL 60622

17. Chipp Inn

832 N Greenview Ave, Chicago, IL 60642

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

18. 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. The coolers in the back stock a nice selection of craft beer. Feel free to grab one and walk over to the bartender who’s armed with a bottle opener. 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

19. 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

20. 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. A recent GoFundMe campaign helped keep Bernice’s going through the pandemic.

3238 S Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60608

21. 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 has a storied history, as the same family has owned it for four generations now. 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

22. 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. Find sustenance nearby at neighbor Cholie’s Pizza.

1601 E 53rd St
Chicago, IL 60615

23. 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

24. Mr C's Midway Bar Inc

4654 W 63rd St, Chicago, IL 60629

Mr C’s is so close to Midway Airport, travelers on a layover could conceivably pop in for a drink or two before boarding the plane to their next destination. While they’re there, they’ll get a chance to hang out with the locals in a classic dive: true Chicago bragging rights.

4654 W 63rd St
Chicago, IL 60629

25. J & R's Lounge

612 E 79th St, Chicago, IL 60619

This tiny, bright red hole in the wall is a Chatham neighborhood hangout. The pours are generous, the prices are reasonable, and the jukebox plays Prince and the Jackson 5. It’s clear why people keep coming back.

612 E 79th St
Chicago, IL 60619

Related Maps