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Outside Roscoe’s during Pride
nathanmac87/Flickr

The 14 Essential LGBTQ Bars in Chicago

Chicago’s LGBTQ scene is world-renowned

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Outside Roscoe’s during Pride
| nathanmac87/Flickr

There’s a reason so many young queer people flock to Chicago and never leave: the city’s gay scene is fun as hell. Boystown, of course, is the city’s official gayborhood, with LGBTQ-friendly bars, restaurant, and clubs occupying nearly every storefront on Northalsted. But Chicago’s queer community exists far outside the Lakeview enclave—and so do the great gay bars.

From butch lesbian North Side dives to raucous South Shore dance parties, the spots below are a diverse range of LGBTQ watering holes all over town. Whether they include drag, dancing, or are dives—or a little bit of all three—Chicago’s best gay bars have a little something for everyone.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Jackhammer

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A favorite among Rogers Parkers, this male-dominated, multi-level dive features a welcoming vibe and an energetic dance floor on weekends. The basement bar, The Hole, is the city’s foremost leather/fetish bar, so come dressed accordingly. If not, don’t sweat—Leather 64 Ten is a fetish gear shop located next door, for all of patrons’ last-minute jockstrap needs. It was recently close to shuttering but was purchased by new ownership.

Outside Jackhammer
Google Streetview

Granville Anvil

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Gay Edgewater residents of all ages call themselves regulars at this friendly, casual dive bar. The jukebox is perhaps the Anvil’s greatest accessory, featuring plenty of ‘60s and ‘70s hits people magically know all the words to when they’re buzzed. And with strong, inexpensive pours, the Anvil makes it easy to get to that place.

The Granville Anvil’s sign
Phoenix J./Foursquare

Marty's

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This charming, tiny cocktail joint is the perfect antidote for exhaustion from the Boystown scene. Home to vested bartenders, Toulouse-Lautrec posters and a handsome wooden bar, Marty’s old school ambiance pairs perfectly with its classic cocktail list. Its martinis, of course, are must-trys, but watch out—those Marty’s pours are hefty.  

A Marty’s martini
Christopher R./Yelp

Mary's Attic

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Andersonville regulars love to both grab patties from Hamburger Mary’s downstairs and climb the nearly-vertical stairs to the restaurant’s beloved second-floor venue, Mary’s Attic. The intimate upstairs joint throws all kinds of events, from retro dance parties to stand-up comedy to drag shows. Thursdays and Sundays are karaoke nights (dubbed “MaryOke”), so don’t forget to do vocal warm-ups.

Mary’s Attic draws crowds
Mary’s Attic/Facebook

Joie De Vine

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This lesbian-owned Andersonville spot is primarily a wine bar, as the name suggests. But Joe de Vine’s cocktail menu is equally impressive. Well, actually, there’s no cocktail menu. Instead, patrons can simply tell their bartender what kinds of liquor and flavors they like, and voila: a delicious craft cocktail.

Joie De Vine is cozy and fun
Denyce M./Yelp

Big Chicks

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Every night, the popular brunch spot Tweet transforms into Big Chicks: a funky, divey cocktail lounge in one room, and a dance floor in the room adjacent. This Uptown spot features a relatively mixed-gender clientele (in the scheme of gay bars). The second Friday of each month, Big Chicks hosts FKA (Formerly Known As), a long-running dance party dedicated to welcoming folks of all genders.

The bar at Big Chicks
Big Chicks/Facebook

Spyners Pub

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If barhoppers are looking to get drunk for less than $10 and to meet some lady-loving-ladies while they’re at it, Spyners Pub is the place to go. The gritty Lincoln Square dive features karaoke on weekends and damn cheap drink specials every night. With no distinguishing signage outside, this unmarked dive is much more discreet than its very gay clientele is.

Spyners Pub is a neighborhood bar and more
Corrine R./Yelp

Roscoe's

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As far as Boystown bars go, Roscoe’s has it all: a casual bar in the front and a dance club in the back, with drag, karaoke and dueling pianos on weeknights. The pub’s RuPaul’s Drag Race viewing parties on Thursdays are some of the rowdiest parties in Boystown.

Roscoe’s is party central in Boystown
nathanmac87/Flickr

Sidetrack

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Sidetrack is generally heralded as the king of Chicago gay bars, and not for no reason: the sprawling complex features five different bars year-round. Add another two in the summertime, when the upstairs patio—one of Chicago’s best, gay or straight—is open for business. While it’s a largely male space, Sidetrack attracts a slightly older crowd than most Boystown spots do, with patrons ranging from their early ‘20s into their ‘50s and ‘60s.

Sidetrack has sleek bars and patios
Sidetrack [Official Photo]

Town Hall Pub

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Amidst the strobe lights and the thumping baselines of Boystown lies this unpretentious dive bar. With a killer jukebox, a friendly and nonjudgmental atmosphere, and local beers on tap, Town Hall is perfect for a low-key night out. The bar’s sticky floors are probably due to its many Jell-O shots served.

Town Hall is a divey neighborhood spot with great drink specials
Daniel I./Yelp

Berlin is one of the best nightclubs citywide, regardless of who patrons like to get down with. The 35-year old dance club is home to different DJs and curated parties nearly every night of the week, ranging from glittery ragers hosted by drag queens to experimental installations hosted by art students. As a 4 a.m. bar, Berlin becomes a late-night hot spot once most Boystown bars close at 2 a.m.

Berlin hosts some of the most unique nightlife in Chicago
Berlin Nightclub/Facebook

Second Story Bar

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Streeterville isn’t exactly a happening ‘hood, but this dive off the Mag Mile is an absolute gem. Climb a flight of carpeted stairs to find Second Story Bar: a dingy, charming tavern with TVs typically screening ‘80s movies and TV shows. The drinks are cheap (and strong) but it’s cash-only.

Second Story Bar is low-lit hidden gem downtown
Mark K./Yelp

Jeffery Pub

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Not only is the Jeffrey Pub one of the oldest gay bars in the country, it’s also the only black-owned LGBTQ bar in Chicago. The South Shore pub has incubated some of Chicago’s premier African-American drag queens, and regularly hosts amateur drag shows several nights a week. The music ranges from hip-hop to disco to house, and the drinks stay cheap and strong.

Jeffrey Pub gets jammed
The Jeffrey Pub/Facebook

Club Escape

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Friendly staff, down-to-earth attitudes and cheap drinks make this no-frills dive a go-to for LGBTQ south siders. On Saturdays, drag queen Miss Ruff ‘N Stuff, who has been entertaining Chicago since the ‘90s, hosts her weekly showcase.

A packed house at Club Escape
Club Escape/Facebook

Jackhammer

Outside Jackhammer
Google Streetview

A favorite among Rogers Parkers, this male-dominated, multi-level dive features a welcoming vibe and an energetic dance floor on weekends. The basement bar, The Hole, is the city’s foremost leather/fetish bar, so come dressed accordingly. If not, don’t sweat—Leather 64 Ten is a fetish gear shop located next door, for all of patrons’ last-minute jockstrap needs. It was recently close to shuttering but was purchased by new ownership.

Outside Jackhammer
Google Streetview

Granville Anvil

The Granville Anvil’s sign
Phoenix J./Foursquare

Gay Edgewater residents of all ages call themselves regulars at this friendly, casual dive bar. The jukebox is perhaps the Anvil’s greatest accessory, featuring plenty of ‘60s and ‘70s hits people magically know all the words to when they’re buzzed. And with strong, inexpensive pours, the Anvil makes it easy to get to that place.

The Granville Anvil’s sign
Phoenix J./Foursquare

Marty's

A Marty’s martini
Christopher R./Yelp

This charming, tiny cocktail joint is the perfect antidote for exhaustion from the Boystown scene. Home to vested bartenders, Toulouse-Lautrec posters and a handsome wooden bar, Marty’s old school ambiance pairs perfectly with its classic cocktail list. Its martinis, of course, are must-trys, but watch out—those Marty’s pours are hefty.  

A Marty’s martini
Christopher R./Yelp

Mary's Attic

Mary’s Attic draws crowds
Mary’s Attic/Facebook

Andersonville regulars love to both grab patties from Hamburger Mary’s downstairs and climb the nearly-vertical stairs to the restaurant’s beloved second-floor venue, Mary’s Attic. The intimate upstairs joint throws all kinds of events, from retro dance parties to stand-up comedy to drag shows. Thursdays and Sundays are karaoke nights (dubbed “MaryOke”), so don’t forget to do vocal warm-ups.

Mary’s Attic draws crowds
Mary’s Attic/Facebook

Joie De Vine

Joie De Vine is cozy and fun
Denyce M./Yelp

This lesbian-owned Andersonville spot is primarily a wine bar, as the name suggests. But Joe de Vine’s cocktail menu is equally impressive. Well, actually, there’s no cocktail menu. Instead, patrons can simply tell their bartender what kinds of liquor and flavors they like, and voila: a delicious craft cocktail.

Joie De Vine is cozy and fun
Denyce M./Yelp

Big Chicks

The bar at Big Chicks
Big Chicks/Facebook

Every night, the popular brunch spot Tweet transforms into Big Chicks: a funky, divey cocktail lounge in one room, and a dance floor in the room adjacent. This Uptown spot features a relatively mixed-gender clientele (in the scheme of gay bars). The second Friday of each month, Big Chicks hosts FKA (Formerly Known As), a long-running dance party dedicated to welcoming folks of all genders.

The bar at Big Chicks
Big Chicks/Facebook

Spyners Pub

Spyners Pub is a neighborhood bar and more
Corrine R./Yelp

If barhoppers are looking to get drunk for less than $10 and to meet some lady-loving-ladies while they’re at it, Spyners Pub is the place to go. The gritty Lincoln Square dive features karaoke on weekends and damn cheap drink specials every night. With no distinguishing signage outside, this unmarked dive is much more discreet than its very gay clientele is.

Spyners Pub is a neighborhood bar and more
Corrine R./Yelp

Roscoe's

Roscoe’s is party central in Boystown
nathanmac87/Flickr

As far as Boystown bars go, Roscoe’s has it all: a casual bar in the front and a dance club in the back, with drag, karaoke and dueling pianos on weeknights. The pub’s RuPaul’s Drag Race viewing parties on Thursdays are some of the rowdiest parties in Boystown.

Roscoe’s is party central in Boystown
nathanmac87/Flickr

Sidetrack

Sidetrack has sleek bars and patios
Sidetrack [Official Photo]

Sidetrack is generally heralded as the king of Chicago gay bars, and not for no reason: the sprawling complex features five different bars year-round. Add another two in the summertime, when the upstairs patio—one of Chicago’s best, gay or straight—is open for business. While it’s a largely male space, Sidetrack attracts a slightly older crowd than most Boystown spots do, with patrons ranging from their early ‘20s into their ‘50s and ‘60s.

Sidetrack has sleek bars and patios
Sidetrack [Official Photo]

Town Hall Pub

Town Hall is a divey neighborhood spot with great drink specials
Daniel I./Yelp

Amidst the strobe lights and the thumping baselines of Boystown lies this unpretentious dive bar. With a killer jukebox, a friendly and nonjudgmental atmosphere, and local beers on tap, Town Hall is perfect for a low-key night out. The bar’s sticky floors are probably due to its many Jell-O shots served.

Town Hall is a divey neighborhood spot with great drink specials
Daniel I./Yelp

Berlin

Berlin hosts some of the most unique nightlife in Chicago
Berlin Nightclub/Facebook

Berlin is one of the best nightclubs citywide, regardless of who patrons like to get down with. The 35-year old dance club is home to different DJs and curated parties nearly every night of the week, ranging from glittery ragers hosted by drag queens to experimental installations hosted by art students. As a 4 a.m. bar, Berlin becomes a late-night hot spot once most Boystown bars close at 2 a.m.

Berlin hosts some of the most unique nightlife in Chicago
Berlin Nightclub/Facebook

Second Story Bar

Second Story Bar is low-lit hidden gem downtown
Mark K./Yelp

Streeterville isn’t exactly a happening ‘hood, but this dive off the Mag Mile is an absolute gem. Climb a flight of carpeted stairs to find Second Story Bar: a dingy, charming tavern with TVs typically screening ‘80s movies and TV shows. The drinks are cheap (and strong) but it’s cash-only.

Second Story Bar is low-lit hidden gem downtown
Mark K./Yelp

Jeffery Pub

Jeffrey Pub gets jammed
The Jeffrey Pub/Facebook

Not only is the Jeffrey Pub one of the oldest gay bars in the country, it’s also the only black-owned LGBTQ bar in Chicago. The South Shore pub has incubated some of Chicago’s premier African-American drag queens, and regularly hosts amateur drag shows several nights a week. The music ranges from hip-hop to disco to house, and the drinks stay cheap and strong.

Jeffrey Pub gets jammed
The Jeffrey Pub/Facebook

Club Escape

A packed house at Club Escape
Club Escape/Facebook

Friendly staff, down-to-earth attitudes and cheap drinks make this no-frills dive a go-to for LGBTQ south siders. On Saturdays, drag queen Miss Ruff ‘N Stuff, who has been entertaining Chicago since the ‘90s, hosts her weekly showcase.

A packed house at Club Escape
Club Escape/Facebook

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