Content originally written for the Let’s Go: USA & Canada Guide by our researcher-writer, Daphne Thompson.
536 N Clark St.; (312) 661-0100; bluechicago.com; open M-F 8pm-1:30am, Sa 8pm-2:30am, Su 8pm-1:30am
Chicago is indisputably a music city—it’s the town that brought you house music, Sam Cooke, Kanye West, and Fall Out Boy, after all. But Chicago-style Blues might be city’s most enduring contribution to the music world. It’s inflected with notes of jazz and rock ‘n’ roll, high-energy and deeply Midwestern, and served nightly at Blue Chicago, a cozy cave in River North where the drinks are cheap and the cover is reasonable. The club’s been running since 1985, but it’s a miracle it hasn’t collapsed yet: The largely female vocalists seem to rattle the walls with every high note. The clientele is split between tourists seeking an “authentic Chicago experience” and genuine blues aficionados, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Note that it’s 21+ only with a two-drink minimum (they don’t offer food, so eat beforehand if you need to), and the bouncers aren’t messing around.
Cover from $10, drinks from $5; wheelchair accessible
210 W Kinzie St.; (312) 321-9314; open M-Sa 11am-2am
We hope you didn’t come to Chicago—home of Ernest Hemingway, da Bears, and the Italian beef sandwich—to drink some froufrou $15 cocktails served with a mint tree and a firework. The Shamrock Bar is one of the few surviving dives in increasingly glitzy River North, a proud holdout of a simpler, more Irish time in the city. It’s right across from the Merchandise Mart (in the midst of a nauseating rebrand to theMART) and seemingly full of retail workers and locals most nights of the week. Grab a bucket of Buds if you’re with the buds, or a refreshingly inexpensive pint if you’re alone. The atmosphere is pure Chi-town: rafters decked out in Cubs merch, pool table, free popcorn. It’s a cheap pregame, or a solid end to a night out—the greasy bar food standards, from fried mushrooms to chicken tenders, should be one of your first lines of hangover defense.
No cover, beers from $4; wheelchair accessible
2357 N Milwaukee Ave.; (773) 799-8504; slipperyslopechicago.com; open daily 7pm-2am
We like a bar that lets us know what we’re getting into, and having one of this Logan Square dive’s bottled $8 cocktails is indeed a slippery slope. Inside, it’s dark and drenched in red light, lined with vinyl booths that seem tailor-made for making out with that rando you picked up on the dance floor. Super-cheap booze (a 10oz Hamm’s is just $2; the house blueberry ale is $4), tight quarters, and loud throwback tunes facilitate a borderline sloppy scene. (If that’s not your scene, be sure to bring quarters for the Skee Ball machines.) There’s also another cocktail bar upstairs—The Heavy Feather—with a slightly more mature vibe. Two bars for the price of two!
Beers from $2, cocktails from $8; wheelchair accessible
Revolution Brewing Tap Room
3340 N Kedzie Ave.; (773) 588-2267; revbrew.com; open W-Th 2pm-10pm, F 2pm-11pm, Sa noon-11pm, Su noon-6pm
If you wouldn’t mind, put down this book for a minute and go stream “Drinking Buddies,” Joe Swanson’s 2018 mumblecore masterpiece starring Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson as two brewery employees with mad sexual tension. Done? Great—the beer wonderland in the movie is a real place in Avondale, and you too can have your own emotionally complex adventures over an artisanal pale ale or saison. Come by in the afternoon for a half-hour brewery tour (it includes a free beer) or have a lowkey evening over shuffleboard and cornhole. The brewery also has another pub location in Logan Square, if you’d like to be a little closer to the center of town.
Beers from $5; wheelchair accessible
Just a small town girl livin’ in a lonely world, Daphne took the mid-morning train goin’ to the East Coast of the United States and Canada (fine, plus Chicago). She graduated Harvard in 2018 with a degree in Government, a law school acceptance letter, and an overwhelming sense of dread re: her all-too-fleeting youth, so she took off to the party capital of the Western hemisphere: Quebec City. The race against the cold, unfeeling march of time continued in Montreal, Toronto, New York, and Miami, a wildly diverse array of cities united by not-boring weather and stupid-high rents. Along the way, Daphne sampled legit Canadian poutine (squeaky), smuggled her notebook into nightclubs (sneaky), and lived on cheap falafel pitas (tzatziki). The Oshkosh, Wisconsin native finished her spirit quest back in the Midwest, where the Windy City welcomed her nasally accent back with open arms. When she’s not writing aggressively alliterative articles for Let’s Go, Daphne probably can’t be found. Don’t even try it, Internet creeps!