After living in Chicago for the past two years, I think I’ve got a decent grip on the city. I moved here after graduating college, and as such, have had the experience of getting to know this amazing city as someone still deeply rooted in the post-grad lifestyle. For all those who have recently moved, or are thinking about moving here, hopefully this guide gives you some useful knowledge, or at the very least, shows you a cool place to get drunk.
The first thing you have to know about Chicago is that it’s sectioned into eight major neighborhoods. It’s actually made up of way more than that, but there’s no way I could cover the ridiculous amount of Chicago nightlife if I included all of them (plus I pretty much go to the same few bars every weekend). Here’s my list of the best places to go out in each neighborhood.
It’s very “real,” if you’re into that sort of thing. I am not, so I’ve only been there once, when I took my girlfriend to a Jazz club called The Whistler. The ambiance was somewhat like a speakeasy, the cocktails were fancy but affordable, and the Jazz was extremely funky. After that music got me all riled up I ended up at the Emporium Arcade Bar down the street to let my adrenaline out in the form of whooping her ass at foosball. They also had pool, air hockey, as well as many classic arcade games, so you can pick your favorite way to get all your friends to hate each other.
This is the exact opposite of Logan Square. Located on the street around the Cub’s stadium, it’s usually filled with drunk douchebags attempting to take out their anger at paying nine dollars for a stadium cup of Miller on anyone around them. That being said, it’s a ton of fun on game days, or nights when you just want to black out and maybe get in a fight (I’m not judging, we’ve all been there). My favorite bar on the strip is Sluggers, which features dueling pianos, arcade games, and batting cages. As you can tell, I have the attention span of an alcoholic goldfish, and like bars with activities.
These interchangeable neighborhoods are where most people who aren’t finance bros or trust fund kids live. It’s nice, yet affordable, and is home to a million different neighborhood bars. I frequent Hook And Ladder, which is a great place to post up on a football Sunday and watch fifty TVs at once while enjoying $2.50 beers. I recently made the mistake of going there on a Saturday night, however, and learned that it makes a seamless transition into a raging college bar at night. Proceed at your own risk. A couple other favorites are Stanley’s for a good dance floor or Sheffields if you’re craving a beer garden. Lakeview is also home to the gay bars of Boystown, although the few times I’ve been there I was too drunk to remember any of the names of the places I went, so I have no advice.
This is where all the aforementioned finance bros and trust fund kids live (or just anyone doing pretty well for themselves, I suppose.) This is where you’ll find all the douchey clubs you secretly crave every once in a while. Whether you just went through a breakup and have convinced yourself you’re going out to get laid, or just love spending $20 on cover, this is where you’ll find $16 vodka sodas, bottle service, and girls falling down stairs in six-inch heels. If you’re going to go here, you might as well steer into the storm of douchebagery and go to Studio Paris. It’s everything you love to hate in a club. You will not get laid, and you will hate yourself in the morning.
This is my favorite place to go out. Old Town is the perfect mix between the high-energy atmosphere of River North and the prices of Lincoln Park. Woodie’s Flat is an awesome three-story bar that features a DJ on the weekends and Goldfish racing on weekdays, if you (like me) care more about winning than possible animal cruelty. If you venture across the street, you can also enjoy an enormous spiked Arnold Palmer at Fireplace Inn that hold about six shots, or roughly one blackout.
The atmosphere here is what would happen if you take everyone out of the River North nightclubs, feed them five extra shots of well tequila, and stick them back in the club. If you’re looking to black out and have a sloppy dance floor make out that your friends roast you for in the morning, this is the place you want to be. Obviously, I love it. Highlights include Hopsmith, where the beer flows out of an old VW van that’s been cut in half, and my personal favorite, Hangge Uppe. Hangge Uppe is a bar that was modeled (in décor, smell, and staff) after a frat house basement. Both times I’ve had to buy Plan B since moving to this city was as a direct result of this dive bar/club. They play sing-along 90’s jams and you can pre-order shots from the bar while you wait in line to get in. Fantastic.
Wicker Park is Logan Square all grown up. What used to be grungy, hipstery uniqueness is now young families and professionals. There are still some remaining bars clinging to the spirit of old Wicker, such as Rainbo Club, but I’d recommend Fatpour to anyone in the area. With 40+ beers on tap, a DJ on weekends, and a $5 PBR & shot deal, it’s not unique, but it is a good time. The dance floor usually peaks around 11 p.m., when all the hipsters at neighboring bars get drunk enough to realize they want to have a good time and make their way over. Wicker Park is also the Chicago capitol of hot moms, so…do with that information what you will.
I’ve barely covered the tip of the iceberg that is Chicago’s extensive nightlife, so if you have any more questions or recommendations, feel free to let me know. .