2801 W Chicago Ave, 773-292-1200
On weekends from 2am onward, droves of the inordinately intoxicated clamor for a final chance at romance at the reigning king of Chicago pickup bars. During regular hours, this place is a highly entertaining cross-section of West Siders, but from 2 to 5am, it becomes a lawless, horny free-for-all, a kind of Wrigleyville West with more nonconsensual groping and fewer people who drove in from Schaumburg.
Fauna Drunken girls in skinny jeans. Drunken graphic designers. Drunken men in funny hats claiming to work in the music industry.
Sexy ambience Exposed brick, the bartender’s cowboy hat
Mood music LCD Soundsystem, Daft Punk
Sleaze factor Off the charts. Our field notes from a recent trip include two one-sided games of grab-ass, four spilled drinks and six slurring suitors with European notions of personal space. Remember, fellas, belching “I wanna make out with you” never, ever works.
3524 N Clark St, 773-549-6000
Every weekend, when the second floor of this distinguished-looking bar becomes Club Barleycorn, the regulars—affluent thirtysomething neighborhood professionals—are overrun by excitable suburbanites seeking mergers and acquisitions of the sexual kind.
Fauna Observe Bob from accounting, wearing his going-out button-down and boot-cut jeans. He’s chatting up Susie the intern, who spent most of her lunch break choosing among the halter tops at Forever 21.
Sexy ambience Big television screens, strobe lights, a smoke machine
Mood music Britney, Maroon 5
Sleaze factor Moderate to high. Sexual displays are maximal, but on the plus side, traveling in large groups makes assault a remote possibility.
5210 N Clark St, 773-878-0894
For those looking to find a crunchy heterosexual mate on the Far North Side, Simon’s is a good bet. While the bar’s narrowness prevents booty dancing, the high volume of cheap beer and friendly sophisticates who flock there on weekends bodes well for good conversation with sexy results.
Fauna We counted five ironic mustaches, four wool scarves worn indoors and seven pairs of large plastic glasses.
Sexy ambience Sagging couches, a Viking figurine
Mood music Art Brut, New Pornographers
Sleaze factor Negligible. Most of Simon’s patrons arrive with groups of males and females so there’s more of a friendly vibe than a sleazy one. We witnessed only one woman in a corset throwing herself at the bartender while trying not to fall off her stool.
2149 S Halsted St, 312-948-5275
The three-to-one ratio of men to women at Skylark means ample pickings for the ladies, and its outwardly anemic vibe translates to little competition for any man trying out his moves. But don’t let the regulars’ superficially blasé attitude fool you—for the outgoing young woman, chatting up a cute hipster dude at Skylark is like shooting fish in a barrel.
Fauna Mostly male, mostly bearded, and they seem to enjoy staring straight ahead. Make no mistake though, ladies: They know you’re there, they’re just too cool to show it.
Sexy ambience The pinball machine, the delicious Tater Tots
Mood music The Police, New Order
Sleaze factor Nonexistent
1951 W Dickens Ave, 773-489-6457
Danny’s is the Old Faithful of dignified Bucktown pickup bars. Its dark corners cry out for action, and its stable of top-notch DJs guarantees both a large weekend crowd and a little polite grinding.
Fauna A rotating cast of spinners specializing in different kinds of music brings different faces on different nights, but patrons generally consist of the funky Bucktown condo owners and attractive twentysomethings who display their affinity for cultural institutions on tote bags.
Sexy ambience Dim lighting, circular seating, DJ crates
Mood music Bootlegs, B-sides
Sleaze factor Low to moderate. While people make out on the dance floor, they do so with restraint.