50 unknown bars: Unsung but lovable dives, lounges and taverns.

Chicago dives, lounges and taverns.

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  • Photograph: Andrew Nawrocki

  • Photograph: Andrew Nawrocki

  • Photograph: Michelle Wang

  • Photograph: William Moran

  • Photograph: William Moran

  • Photograph: Andrew Nawrocki

  • Photograph: John Greenfield

  • Photograph: Michael Jarecki

  • Photograph: Andrew Nawrocki

  • Photograph: Lizz Sisson

  • Photograph: Tyler Mallory

  • Photograph: Nicole Radja

  • Photograph: William Moran

  • Photograph: Marzena Abrahamik

  • Photograph:Lizz Sisson

  • Photograph: Nicole Radja

  • Photograph: Tyler Mallory

  • Photograph: Marzena Abrahamik

  • Photograph: Tyler Mallory

  • Photograph: William Moran

  • Photograph: Andrew Nawrocki

  • Photograph: Nicole Radja

  • Photograph: Christina Couch

  • Photograph: Martina Sheehan

  • Photograph: John Greenfield

  • Photograph: Laura Baginski

  • Photograph: Angela Barnaby

  • Photograph: John Greenfield

  • Photograph: Michelle Wang

  • Photograph: Nicole Radja

  • Photograph: Nicole Radja

  • Photograph: William Moran

  • Photograph: John Greenfield

  • Photograph: William Moran

  • Photograph: Kate Leahy

  • Photograph: William Moran

  • Photograph: William Moran

  • Photograph: Michelle Wang

  • Photograph: Michelle Wang

  • Photograph: Andrew Nawrocki

  • Photograph: Martina Sheehan


ARCHIE'S
This 67-year-old family-run bar (the current owner’s dad, Archie, ran the bar for years before retiring) attracts Ukrainian Village and Humboldt Park cool kids and old-timers for free pool and affordable beers from Half Acre to Hamm’s. Vintage character abounds, such as a century-old cash register and a beautiful 1800s cherry bar-length cabinet from the family’s previous bar. If you drink one thing, make it a Zubrowka (a buffalo grass–flavored vodka from Poland)—usually served with apple juice. Extra shot Dennis Farina, formerly a cop in the area, filmed scenes from the upcoming movie Last Rites for Joe May here. 2600 W Iowa St (773-486-2626).—John Dugan

OLLIE'S LOUNGE
Plenty of bars can pour you an Old Style draft for $3. But only this divey spot, hidden in plain sight near the Berwyn Red Line stop, has its namesake Ollie Latiker pouring it for you. Patron saint of every Edgewater drinker, Miss Ollie slings drinks with palpable joy, even after 35 years behind the bar. Open at 10am most days and closing around when Letterman comes on the TVs, the bar looks imposing from the outside but sparkles inside like a vinyl-padded, wood-paneled midcentury rec room. Extra shot Booking a shindig here won’t cost you a dime. 1064 W Berwyn Ave (773-784-5712).—Karl Klockars

NILDA'S PLACE CHICAGO
This quaintly shabby 24-year-old bar couldn’t get any more throwback with its pink-and-green-painted walls, a singing bird named Coco and a cigarette vending machine with claw feet. The owner, 63-year-old Nilda Gonzalez, admits business has been slow, so the next time you’re in the mood for a beer, eschew West Town’s new cookie-cutter lounges and hit up this place instead. But fair warning: Neighborhood regulars report Gonzalez only opens the bar “when she feels like it.” Extra shot Gonzalez happily shares warm conversation and her delicious homemade Spanish rice. 1858 W Iowa St (no phone).—D.L. Hopkins

CUNNEEN'S
Begin with divey decor straight out of Papa Daley’s 1960s. Populate the barstools, church pews and La-Z-Boys with students and Rogers Park locals chatting or playing chess. Stock plenty of beers less than $5, including Berghoff Dark. Now set it all to a bartender-spun soundtrack that ranges from Modest Mouse to metal, courtesy of a huge vinyl collection (and CDs). The resulting neighborhood tavern has been Cunneen’s—two ns, two es, no credit cards—for almost 40 years. Extra shot How many bars smell like old record sleeves instead of stale beer? 1424 W Devon Ave (773-274-9317).—Angela Barnaby

VILLAIN'S BAR AND GRILL
When brothers Marco and Miguel Silva bought the Butcher’s Dog in 2007, it was your average, run-of-the-mill Irish bar. To say the brothers took the space and turned it on its head would be an understatement. The long, narrow room now has a Bonnie and Clyde–meets-baroque look, and the clientele has gone from old men to young South Loopers. The biggest change of all: The Silvas kicked the likes of Budweiser and Miller off their beer list to make room for 100-plus microbrews. Extra shot The bar’s burgers are all made with Dietzler Farms’ ethically raised beef. 649 S Clark St (312-356-9992).—David Tamarkin


LITTLE BRANCH CAFE
It’s hidden in a quiet South Loop development, yet the fact that it exists is not the most surprising thing about Little Branch Cafe. Rather, it’s the fact that, come nightfall, this spot (it’s a coffee-and-sandwich shop by day) transforms into a cocktail bar. The wine, beer and cocktail lists are tightly edited (think classics such as the Corpse Reviver), and because it’s so quiet in here, there’s nothing to distract you from how well the drinks are executed. Extra shot The dinner menu, with items like chicken and waffles, goes beyond the lunchtime offerings of panini. 1251 S Prairie Ave (312-360-0101).—David Tamarkin

MURASAKI
Kerry Tamura reinvented this elegant space as a sake lounge last year (his late father ran it for more than two decades as Japanese businessmen’s haunt Cafe Shino). On a recent Saturday night, Tamura and his gracious staff are happy to explain the phenomenal sake list, offbeat cocktails and tasty otsumami (small plates) to a mostly American crowd—though crowd may be overstating it: The bar is inexplicably empty until late in the evening. Extra shot You can rent a private karaoke room for two hours for $50 per person, which includes one to four bottles of booze, depending on the size of your group. 211 E Ontario St (312-266-2280).—Lauren Weinberg

FLO'S ALGIERS LOUNGE
A flashing arrow sign directs you to this divey little piece of Vegas in Chicago—with a Polish twist. Opened in 1981 in a former Portage Park dry cleaner, the tavern sports red walls and support pillars disguised as palm trees, drawing a multigenerational crowd ranging from construction workers to irony-seeking Bohemians. Flo, a youthful 86-year-old with a carrot top, serves up Old Style and MGD ($2.50), plus pierogi, stuffed peppers and cabbage rolls. Extra shot Flo’s Elvis impersonator son-in-law and her daughter belt out Cash, Diamond and the King on weekends. 5436 W Montrose Ave (773-736-1111).—John Greenfield

KOZY KORNER
True to its name, this tavern is a relaxing oasis in rough-and-tumble Woodlawn. In business since 1956, the bar features mirrors ringed with plastic roses, multiple portraits of Obama and a large lamppost in the middle of the room. Middle-aged and older men in Sox hats and Kangol caps drink bottles of MGD ($2.50), while sharply dressed ladies sip goblets of vodka and cranberry. The jukebox is well stocked with R&B dusties, and when “Honky Tonk” by James Brown comes on, women at one end of the bar start clapping along. Extra shot Ex-Chicago Defender gossip columnist Cliff Pierce is a regular. 461 E 63rd St (773-833-2777).—John Greenfield

O’ROURKE’S OFFICE
Skip the popular “Irish Mile” pubs along Western Avenue and hit this Beverly rarity, featuring a sleek, backlit bar and hand-drawn martini menu. Stake claim to the ringed couches, or take a seat at the bar to chat up friendly bartenders who can help you pick your poison (try the Key Lime Pie and Swedish Fish martinis). Lest you forget which neighborhood you’re in, there’s plenty of sports on TV and prayer requests are accepted via the bar’s website. Extra shot Free food on game days supplements a $20 all-you-can-drink beer deal. 11064 S Western Ave (773-429-1598).—Martina Sheehan

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