If summer is about sipping frozen drinks on the patio, fall is about darker beers, whiskey cocktails and comfortable spots to drink in. These five new bars, including a spot to play bocce while sipping well-made drinks and a South Loop beer bar that serves brews you can't find elsewhere, are already among the best bars in Chicago.
The Chicago branch of the Miami hot spot may be a little cozier than the Florida pool bar, but the palm tree wallpaper and octopus decor combine with dark wood panels and kitschy knickknacks for a wholly original, funky space. Bartender Freddie Sarkis created an excellent menu of drinks for the Chicago outpost, like Da Mickey Finn Bird, a fresh spin on a Jungle Bird, with hibiscus grenadine, Averna amaro and blackstrap rum.
The ‘70s are back at the Heavy Feather, but thankfully with much better drinks. Bartender Doug Phillips (Scofflaw) crafts cocktails from the era, like a velvety amaretto sour, improved with the addition of bourbon and frothy egg white, and a grasshopper ice cream drink, fortified with cognac. Located above Slippery Slope, cozy tables and rolling armchairs at the bar make the Heavy Feather feel the kind of place to settle in for a whole evening.
Located in the Chicago Athletic Association, this sprawling bar has pool tables, a poker table, chess boards and a full bocce court, so you won't run out of entertainment between rounds of affordable, well-made drinks from Paul McGee (Lost Lake), like a spritely sherry cobbler and a bracing rum-amaro highball. Snacks from Peter Coenen are fair-inspired and include a warm pretzel with gooey beer cheese and a root beer float spiked with Fernet.
Part beer bar, part kick-ass British-Indian restaurant, Pub Royale is a worthy successor to the SmallBar Division space. The drink list offers four takes on a Pimm’s Cup, plus a daily-changing beer and cider menu from beverage director Michael McAvena. Don’t leave without a snack (or a full meal), since Jason Vaughan's menu is packed with hits, including spicy lamb dumplings and salt cod samosas.
After being closed for a few years, the South Loop bar underwent a complete revamp, changing hands and addresses. The changes paid off—not only does chef Dennis Stover challenge the idea of bar food with a thoughtful menu of dishes like fall-apart tender pork shoulder with pickled cherries, but the regularly changing beer menu includes 40 well-selected beers, including brews from places like Norway and Spain that you can’t easily find elsewhere in Chicago.