Best dive bars: Become a bar fly at these Chicago watering holes

The best dive bars offer low-key nights, greasy snacks, and cheap beer and cocktails. Here are our favorites.

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  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Best dive bars in Chicago for cheap drinks and no-frills fun: Alice's

  • Photograph: Andrew Nawrocki

    Best dive bars in Chicago for cheap drinks and no-frills fun: Archie's

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Best dive bars in Chicago for cheap drinks and no-frills fun: Beachwood Inn

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Best dive bars in Chicago for cheap drinks and no-frills fun: Bialystok

  • Best dive bars in Chicago for cheap drinks and no-frills fun: Carol's Pub

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Best dive bars in Chicago for cheap drinks and no-frills fun: Chipp Inn

  • Photograph: Max Herman

    Best dive bars in Chicago for cheap drinks and no-fills fun: Gino's North Pizzeria

  • Photograph: Erica Gannett

    Best dive bars in Chicago for cheap drinks and no-frills fun: Happy Village

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Best dive bars in Chicago for cheap drinks and no-frills fun: J & M Tap

  • Photograph:Kendall Thacker

    Best dive bars in Chicago for cheap drinks and no-frills fun: L & L Tavern

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Best dive bars in Chicago for cheap drinks and no-frills fun: Ola's

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Best dive bars in Chicago for cheap drinks and no-frills fun: Old Town Ale House

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Best dive bars in Chicago for cheap drinks and no-frills fun: Richard's Bar

  • Photograph: Mark Wright

    Best dive bars in Chicago for cheap drinks and no-frills fun: Rose's Bar

  • Photograph: Max Herman

    Best dive bars in Chicago for cheap drinks and no-frills fun: Rossi's

  • Best dive bars in Chicago for cheap drinks and no-frills fun: Zakopane

Photograph: Martha Williams

Best dive bars in Chicago for cheap drinks and no-frills fun: Alice's

Fancy nights out are fun and all, but sometimes you just want to pull up a barstool to a bar that doesn't require a dress code. We love the best dive bars in Chicago because the bartenders won't give you the side eye for ordering the cheapest beer on the menu. And lucky for Chicago drinkers, hole-in-the-wall dive bars exist on just about every other corner of the city. Visit one of these no-frills beer bars, dive bars and neighborhood taverns, and become a bar fly in no time. But don't forget to stop by the ATM before ordering your drink; many of these bars are cash-only.


RECOMMENDED: Full list of the best Chicago bars


Alice's Lounge

  • Price band: 1/4

This long, wooden bar is helmed by a few middle-aged women who, on Sundays, mix huge batches of kamikazes and sell them for $2 a pop—but the real draw here is karaoke. If you get there and the door’s locked, don’t get discouraged. Just ring the bell over and over again (sometimes the bartenders can’t hear it over yet another version of “Don’t Stop Believin’ ”).

  1. 3556 W Belmont Ave, (at Central Park Ave)
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Archie’s

  • Price band: 1/4

This inconspicuous bar is equal parts after-work dive and Antiques Roadshow. Amid dusty knickknacks and bric-a-brac, the family who runs the place will pour you a stiff drink and then try to sell you a Civil War–era revolver, a set of buffalo-themed shot glasses or anything else lying around—anything except for the patriarch’s wall-mounted marlin and the Hamm’s sign hanging out front.

  1. 2600 W Iowa Ave, (at Rockwell St)
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Beachwood Inn

  • Price band: 1/4

No hipsters, no yuppies, no class-drawing lines here—just regular neighborhood folks in this one-room watering hole taking turns on the pool table or playing games like Scrabble and Connect Four. The scatterbrained decor (old movie posters, sports crap, beer memorabilia) is as random as the jukebox, which offers pre-’90s tunes from the Pretenders to Michael Jackson.

  1. 1415 N Wood St, (at Beach Ave)
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Bialystok

  • Price band: 1/4

A silver disco ball throws bright spots onto tomato-red walls and a mini karaoke stage at one of the longest-standing Polish joints in this area. Cocktails may be 50 cents more during Saturday-night karaoke, but Mondays still offer $5 pitchers, and a penny-pincher special can be had on nearly every other night of the week (especially if you’re into kamikazes). Go quick before this one goes the way of Wicker Park.

  1. 3653 W Diversey Ave, (between Monticello and Lawndale Aves)
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Carol’s Pub

  • Price band: 1/4

A honky-tonk in Sheridan Park with $1.50 domestics on Mondays, country & western karaoke on Thursdays and the house band Diamondback on weekends, featuring sassy little Reba singin’ and strummin’ rhythm with a darn good gee-tar picker on lead. A pool table in back, greasy grill turning out late-night burgers and Hank-filled jukebox round out the grit fest.

  1. 4659 N Clark St, (between Wilson and Leland Aves)
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Chipp Inn

  • Price band: 1/4

Vodka Collins? No. Margarita? Sorry. Apple martini? Not a chance. Better just grab a beer or a shot of whiskey and sit down. The history of this blue-collar watering hole is told through the flyers and newspaper clippings that clutter the walls. From what we can tell, looks as if the place hasn’t changed much at all.

  1. 832 N Greenview Ave, (at Fry St)
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Gino’s North

  • Price band: 2/4

In this gem of a bar/pizza parlor, a statue of a Rubenesque woman is the center of the room, and regulars gather around her to sip Bloody Marys and debate this and that. The kitchen puts out a nice deep-dish, with a crispy crust and a well-spiced (if slightly sweet) sauce. We’d tell you to go for the Gino’s “special,” with its chunks of sausage and strips of green pepper. But really, with this atmosphere, your night’s going to be special no matter what you get.

  1. 1111 W Granville Ave, (between Winthrop Ave and Broadway)
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Happy Village

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

A gurgling goldfish pond, picnic tables galore and a lush lawn all around is the scene at this West Town dive. But when it rains (or at 11pm, when the garden closes), pack up the ciggies and head back inside, where the smell of whiskey and cheap beer hangs in the air, drunks angle for a turn on the Ping-Pong tables, and the jukebox coughs out the Cars and Madonna.

  1. 1059 N Wolcott Ave, (at Thomas St)
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J&M Tap

  • Price band: 1/4

As at the nearby Rainbo Club, the hipness quotient at this stripped-down Ukie V stalwart known as the Secret Squirrel has shot through its nicotine-stained ceiling, paralleling the changing demographics of the neighborhood. You can still belly up with a couple of actual Ukrainian expats in the afternoon, but eager twentysomethings with energy (and hormones) to burn rule the night.

  1. 957 N Leavitt St, (between Walton St and Augusta Blvd)
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L & L Tavern

  • Price band: 1/4

The Clark and Belmont hood is a unique mix of runaway trannies, wasted Cubs fans and local renters who love a bargain. This no-frills Lakeview tavern keeps the madness at bay in favor of friendly bartenders who buy rounds during afternoon Jeopardy!, a $2 beer-of-the-month and a great collection of two-dozen Irish whiskeys.

  1. 3207 N Clark St, (between Belmont and Aldine Aves)
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Ola’s Liquor

  • Price band: 1/4

Catering to those who “work” odd hours (read: unemployed indie filmmakers) and a ragtag troupe of friendly regulars, this tiny (and cheap) bar-cum–liquor store is the perfect final destination for a raucous night. Doors open at the crack of dawn and Ola, the Polish live wire who owns the joint, has been known to unlock earlier if properly coerced.

  1. 947 N Damen Ave, (between Augusta Blvd and Walton St)
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Old Town Ale House

  • Price band: 1/4

Among the framed drawings of regulars cluttering the wooden walls of this saloon-style staple are posters boasting that you’re in “le premiere dive bar” of Chicago. We don’t know where this place gets off speaking French, but it’s been around since 1958, so we’ll grant it bragging rights.

  1. 219 W North Ave, (at Wieland St)
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Richard’s Bar

  • Price band: 1/4

A bistro in France it ain’t, but curiously enough, this tidy, dark dive takes a few traditions from across the Atlantic. The bartender—usually a skinny, older gentleman or at least some variation on the theme—typically dresses in an immaculately crisp white button-down, and you can buy hard-boiled eggs for 75 cents. The larger-than-life posters of De Niro on the wall, however, are completely American.

  1. 725 W Grand Ave, (between Halsted St and Union Ave)
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Rose’s Lounge

  • Price band: 1/4

Just above the far end of the bar peeks the white-haired head of Rose. As the tiny, friendly Macedonia native pours drafts of Old Style, she explains how crime-ridden her now-posh Lincoln Park environs were when she opened her bar 35 years ago. Joining her on a typical night is a smattering of hipsters and a few pool-playing men who are clearly quite protective of their tavern and its matriarch.

  1. 2656 N Lincoln Ave, (between Wrightwood Ave and Diversey Pkwy)
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Rossi's

  • Price band: 1/4

Like a secret chamber of debauchery, the red door to this State Street bar reveals no sign of what’s inside. Turns out it’s a dark, cabinish space with a mixed crowd of lewd yuppies and bitter locals. Pissed off? Up to no good? You’ll fit in just fine.

  1. 412 N State St, (between Kinzie and Hubbard Sts)
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Zakopane

  • Price band: 1/4

Some nights, it might just be you and the bartender at this wood-paneled Ukrainian Village relic; you pour your heart out, while they pour vodka drinks with a heavy hand. The old drunks are quick to challenge you at pool, and the young Poles are obsessed with the jukebox that spits out Polish versions of early-’90s American chart toppers.

  1. 1734 W Division St, (between Hermitage Ave and Wood St)
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