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Chicago bar reviews

Where should you drink tonight? Read our reviews of Chicago bars to find the best spots for cocktails, beer or wine.

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With hundreds of bars to pick from, Chicago's bar scene can be daunting. Make your decision easier with our bar reviews, with our picks for the best cocktail bars, best wine bars, best beer bars and more.

RECOMMENDED: Guide to the best bars in Chicago

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Lazy Bird
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • West Loop

This basement bar in the West Loop is easily one of the best new bars of the year.

Carol鈥檚 Pub
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Dive bars
  • Uptown
  • price 1 of 4

Uptown’s famous late-night honky tonk tavern is back from the dead and good as ever.

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Bar S贸tano
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • River North

Team Bayless’s high-spirited speakeasy is worth the trip for inventive, mezcal-focused cocktails.

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Neon Wilderness
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Wicker Park

Equal parts neighborhood joint and refined cocktail bar, Brad Bolt’s good-humored watering hole is just what Wicker Park needed.

Good Measure
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • River North

This snug, punk-tinged cocktail bar fills a void in River North and slings lip-smacking drinking food, to boot.

Time Out loves

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • West Loop
  • price 3 of 4

There鈥檚 a lovely moment in Won鈥檛 You Be My Neighbor?鈥攖he HBO documentary on the late Fred Rogers鈥攖hat discusses the importance of creating quiet spaces. A peeler slowly works its way around an apple; Rogers sets an egg timer to show the actual length of a minute. It鈥檚 meant to reject the loud, crude mass media aimed at children in television鈥檚 early days, but it also echoes the overstimulation with which many of us live, work and eat now, thanks to a certain device we keep glued to our sides. But from the moment I entered Kumiko鈥檚 plant-filled foyer to a welcome cup of cinnamon chai tea, a sense of meditative calm washed over me. This Japanese-inspired cocktail bar and restaurant from Julia Momose (GreenRiver), Cara and Noah Sandoval and chef de cuisine Mariya Russell (all Oriole), is one of measured pace and care. Kumiko鈥檚 eight-seat omakase bar lends a peek into the humming kitchen through an intricately carved wood shade that acts as a focal point of the restaurant. My date and I had booked our barstools about a month in advance for the $130 omakase experience, in which Momose and her skilled team pair a series of fixed Japanese bites with sakes and bespoke cocktails. 鈥淒o you tend to go for bright and citrusy? Bitter or savory?鈥 asked our meticulously suited bartender once we were settled. His easy warmth goaded me into oversharing beyond my cocktail preferences in the same way I sometimes psychologically unload on hospitable baristas. A progression of nigiri came first. C

Neon Wilderness
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Wicker Park

Millennials, myself included, have grown up on artisanal cocktails and craft beers, which has me thinking a lot about the evolution of the third place. What will the neighborhood tavern look like in 50 years? Where will future generations belly up on a Thursday night to shoot the shit over beer and shots of whiskey? Chances are, it will look a lot like Neon Wilderness, the latest project from barman Brad Bolt in partnership with Heisler Hospitality鈥檚 Matt Eisler and Kevin Heisner. (The trio鈥檚 bygone Bar DeVille will reopen soonish, too, somewhere in West Town.) This snug, urban wood cabin鈥攚here beer only comes in cans and glassware is anything but precious鈥攁chieves the rare balance between neighborhood joint and cocktail bar. Bolt cleverly offsets his higher-end drink lineup with a solid spate of daily happy hour specials. I sunk into a high-backed barstool and contemplated the drink menu while, two seats over, a dude urged me to consider one of two daily $7 deals: a sidecar or his order, the 鈥渟olid鈥 old fashioned. A duo on my left both partook in another special, a can of Revolution Cross of Gold and shot of house bourbon for $5. 鈥淲e live at Division and Ashland,鈥 one told the bartender before tossing back his whiskey. 鈥淪o we鈥檙e happy this is here.鈥 I decided on the Sharon Stone sour, a frothy, orangey bourbon sour that owes its warm finish to a splash of ginger syrup. The Polish Broadway, a 呕ubr贸wka vodka old fashioned with autumnal cider syrup and drying angostura bitters,

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Lazy Bird
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • West Loop

I鈥檝e been thinking a lot about the Cheers theme song and the idea of a place 鈥渨here everybody knows your name.鈥 The thing is, on nights when I can sneak away and splurge on a round of craft cocktails, I seek out places where no one knows my name. It鈥檚 not that I鈥檓 anti-social鈥攎ore than anything, it鈥檚 about reveling in quality time with close friends. Lazy Bird, the bar in the basement of the Hoxton hotel helmed by Lee Zaremba, ticks all the right boxes for that kind of night out. The space is so dimly lit that you can barely see across the room, and seating is configured in a way that gives each party a sense of privacy鈥攅ven if you are seated two feet away from the next table. And don鈥檛 plan on checking your email or Instagram feed while you鈥檙e here; the subterranean space is a black hole for cell service. Those qualities alone make Lazy Bird a solid watering hole. But when you toss in Zaremba鈥檚 pi猫ce de r茅sistance of a menu鈥攁 whopping 52 classic cocktails that have been refined and perfected鈥攖his place easily enters Best New Bar of 2019 territory. Just as my date and I snagged seats along the wall opposite the bar, our server presented us with a beautiful book of聽tipples to choose from鈥攅ach accompanied by hand-drawn illustrations from Kate Dehler and bite-sized descriptions penned by Zaremba. When we asked for a second menu so that we could browse simultaneously, our server told us that there weren鈥檛 enough to go around. As soon as we ordered our first sips鈥攁n Aviation for m

Ludlow Liquors
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Avondale

Enterprising barchitects Wade McElroy and Jeff Donahue (Sportsman鈥檚 Club, Estereo) took another shot at reviving the beloved Orbit Room space in Avondale鈥攖his time with much success. Ludlow Liquors carves out a distinct identity for itself through a roster of spirit-forward cocktails available by the ounce plus greasy drinking food that artfully blends Midwestern nostalgia with Filipino tradition. Entering the dim, orange-cast tavern while the Clash crooned reggae-lite punk over the speakers evoked the familiar, snug embrace of a neighborhood dive (though, for the record, it鈥檚 far cleaner and lacks the typical old-bar musk). Despite the fact that the doors opened for service just an hour earlier, the 17-seat bartop was totally occupied. My husband and I slid into one of the toffee-hued leather booths lining the wall opposite the聽bar to peruse the menu. Most of the cocktails here are available as one-, two- or three-ounce pours, allowing guests to sip sample-sized portions of the boozy offerings. At first, I dismissed the idea as far too Brooklyn for our big-shouldered city. Who鈥檇 opt to go small on a drink like the Summit鈥攁 light, bright and nutty whiskey martini with Suntory Toki, fino sherry and persimmon liqueur? Or the charming absinthe-washed Sportsman, with caramel-scented bourbon, Italian rhubarb amaro and a double dose of bitters? But as I neared the bottom of my first coupe, the appeal of sampling an ounce or two of the Delicious #7鈥攁 botanically inclined mescal and

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Good Measure
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • River North

Though I grew up in the Chicago suburbs, I didn鈥檛 regularly visit the city until my teens. We鈥檇 pile into a 鈥97 Ford Taurus and drive in for punk-rock shows at the Fireside Bowl or Metro, always capping the night with an order of cheese fries or, years later, rounds of Jameson shots. These pilgrimages represented my first taste of adult freedom and the sweaty, buoyant camaraderie of an intimate live show. Entering the reddish glow of Good Measure鈥攚ith its checkerboard floor and mahogany bar lined with revelers chatting over civilized decibels of the Ramones and the Vandals鈥攂rought back familiarly cozy, punk vibes. Toss in upgraded classic cocktails and superbly indulgent bar bites, and this promises to be a solid enough neighborhood joint to regularly lure me to River North. We arrived early enough on a Friday to claim one of just four high-backed red booths lining the wall opposite a long L-shaped bar. At least half of the patrons were sipping something in a glass mug, which I learned was the superfizzy Toki highball that the bar features for $6 between 4 and 6pm daily. The refreshing cocktail is as bubbly as champagne thanks to a machine from Japanese whiskey brand Suntory Toki, which chills the liquid and pumps out perfectly rationed, fantastically carbonated servings. Craving something brown and stirred on a dreary Friday, I started instead with the Penicillin鈥攁 smoky ode to autumn with local Scotch, honey and ginger syrups and a spritz of peaty Ardbeg Scotch to drive hom

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Wine bars
  • Logan Square

For a long time, the neighborhood joint and wine bar felt like opposing ideals. By definition, the corner bar鈥攚ith its cheap draughts and worn-in look鈥攊s built on approachability, while wine bars historically seemed to ooze with pretense, reserved for those fluent in vino classification tables. Thanks to inviting spots like Rootstock, Income Tax and Red & White, Chicago鈥檚 wine scene has grown more inclusive for those of us who don鈥檛 know much about the stuff beyond the fact that we like drinking it. New Logan Square watering hole Outside Voices takes that mission a step further, blurring the lines between the neighborhood tavern and a proper wine bar. This delightful storefront is sandwiched between two other beloved spots from the same owners鈥攇in-focused cocktail den Scofflaw and sporty pub the Moonlighter. Like its siblings, vino-centric Outside Voices leans pricier than your everyday pub, but the vibe is unmistakably no fuss. Led by beverage manager Davis Sayer, the bar mostly eschews the pretense that often comes with wine鈥攁nd not just because the staff has an affinity for flannel button-downs and playing Heart on vinyl. You feel it within 15 seconds of sidling up to the bar to peruse the menu. Rather than putting the onus on the drinker to decide on a style (Whites from France? Cabernets?), the daily-changing menu of whites, reds, ros茅s and orange, and bubbles focuses on individual flavors and textures in each of the 20-odd available wines. Bartenders take a similar tact

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Pub Royale
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Pubs
  • Ukrainian Village
  • price 1 of 4

When Pub Royale opened in May 2015 with a British-Indian theme, it sounded almost too hyperspecific鈥攁nd potentially dicey鈥攖o work. But while Britain and India have a long, complicated political history, there鈥檚 a clear culinary relationship as well, since their cuisines have merged into Anglo-Indian food, a cuisine style best exemplified by chicken tikka masala, a curry popular in Britain. That鈥檚 the angle Pub Royale, the latest bar from Heisler Hospitality (Sportsman鈥檚 Club), takes with their food and drink, which includes a lineup of Pimm鈥檚 Cups, the summery British favorite, curries and a daily-changing beer and cider menu that rivals the best beer bars in Chicago. The drink list, from beverage director Michael McAvena (Publican), has a mix of interesting local, national and international beers on draft, as well as ciders from the U.S., Spain, France and England.聽 The fact that there鈥檚 a thoughtful food menu might make you confuse this for a restaurant, but it鈥檚 firmly a bar. All seats are first-come, first-served, so you can鈥檛 count on getting to eat. But if you鈥檙e hungry and manage to score seats, the menu, from Jason Vaughan, director of culinary development, is packed with hits, including spicy lamb dumplings and a doughnut made from naan dough that鈥檚 topped with chai dulce de leche. But it was the service that really stood out鈥攅veryone I talked to there was incredibly nice and knowledgeable, making Pub Royale the kind of place you want to make your regular spot. Vital

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Streeterville
  • price 3 of 4

When restaurateur Danny Meyer and the team behind New York鈥檚 Dead Rabbit Grocery & Grog announced they were opening a Chicago location, it was instantly a Big Deal. They confirmed that by signing on Julia Momose (the Aviary/Office) as head bartender and Aaron Lirette (Celeste) as executive chef, two people whose work I鈥檝e admired for awhile鈥擬omose for her use of unexpected ingredients and innovative flavor combinations, and Lirette for his refined takes on classic dishes (I still recall his jidori chicken and octopus dishes from Celeste fondly). With their talent, GreenRiver is one of Chicago鈥檚 best bars鈥攚ith a gorgeous view to boot. GreenRiver has a Chicago history/Irish theme, but it鈥檚 subtle, aside from the drink names, which nod to Chicago historical figures. There鈥檚 a primer on each on the cocktail list, which is divided by key ingredients, such as corn, agave and grape and apple. To do justice to this menu, you need time to read through it鈥攄o it with a drink in hand by ordering a highball from a separate list. The eight highballs are the sleeper hits of the menu, like housemade Japanese plum vinegar soda spiked with Carpano Bianco vermouth, a bright concoction with a vegetal edge, and cassis liqueur with housemade oolong tea soda, which is lightly sweet with herbal notes. The cocktails have a lot going on, and GreenRiver鈥檚 food menu is a nice counterpoint鈥攖he dishes are familiar with gentle twists. For starters, fried chicken oysters with pickled pepper sauce are a play

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The Northman
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Beer bars
  • North Center
  • price 2 of 4

The one thing I was most excited about when I was getting ready to visit the Northman鈥攁 bar on the border of North Center and Lincoln Square that we鈥檝e been waiting two years for鈥攚as the Spanish long pour cider. It鈥檚 the one that gets poured from a tap close to the ceiling, is unfiltered and uncarbonated and gets its bubbles from falling from such a high place into a smaller vessel. It鈥檚 quite a sight, and a good experience for anyone looking to learn about cider. And you will learn something; a night at the Northman is an education in cider.聽 Run by the Fountainhead Group, the Northman is Chicago鈥檚 first cider bar and one of just a few in the country. While it may feel like we鈥檝e been waiting a long time for the bar, the trend of cider is just now on the upswing, departing from the heavily sugared drinks that have long dominated the country鈥檚 cider market. The Northman鈥檚 menu is pages upon pages long, filled with ciders from England, Spain and the U.S. (to name just a few), which can be overwhelming when you find drinks that range from sweet to semi-sweet to dry and you have no idea where to begin. Not to worry, your server will be right there to help you find one to fit your palate鈥攖he staff is filled with serious cider geeks. You鈥檒l start your night with an amuse-bouche of sorts鈥攁 sip of the Northman鈥檚 house cider鈥攂efore settling on your first of many ciders (the list is constantly rotating). Move on to the food and order some shared plates, or maybe just some cheese and t

Queen Mary Tavern
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Ukrainian Village
  • price 2 of 4

Heisler Hospitality is on a roll this year鈥攖he group鈥檚 British-Indian beer bar, Pub Royale, opened in May, then in November, they opened Queen Mary Tavern, a bar that focuses on maritime drinking. Either theme could easily have been gimmicky, but Heisler knows how to put the right people in charge. At Queen Mary Tavern, Dan Smith and Mony Bunni have assembled a list of cocktails that鈥檚 true to the theme鈥攔um, gin and Scotch abound鈥攚hile using unexpected ingredients and offering sophisticated flavor profiles.聽 Take the Stone鈥檚 Throw, which uses tahini to add sesame notes to the smoky base of Scotch and cream, while a shower of nutmeg over the top ties it all together. Albatross combines gin and madeira with Angostura and coriander聽for an herbal sip, and St. Erasmus聽is a tall, icy swizzle with funky rum and some heat from chili. My favorite is Mood Indigo, which I can imagine an epicurean pirate assembling from the spoils of his travels; with port, St. Lucian rum, Batavia Arrack, cardamom and jaggery (cane sugar from Asia and Africa), it鈥檚 richly flavored, and a whole egg adds a smooth mouthfeel. The bar had been empty for four decades before Heisler took it over. The space previously held a neighborhood tavern run by Mary Kafka, the namesake for Queen Mary, who still lives upstairs. Many of the original pieces, like the bar, remain in place, which makes Queen Mary feel like it鈥檚 been there forever. Luckily the drink list doesn鈥檛鈥攊t鈥檚 a fresh look at three familiar spirits and a

Most popular Chicago bars

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • West Loop
  • price 3 of 4

There鈥檚 a lovely moment in Won鈥檛 You Be My Neighbor?鈥攖he HBO documentary on the late Fred Rogers鈥攖hat discusses the importance of creating quiet spaces. A peeler slowly works its way around an apple; Rogers sets an egg timer to show the actual length of a minute. It鈥檚 meant to reject the loud, crude mass media aimed at children in television鈥檚 early days, but it also echoes the overstimulation with which many of us live, work and eat now, thanks to a certain device we keep glued to our sides. But from the moment I entered Kumiko鈥檚 plant-filled foyer to a welcome cup of cinnamon chai tea, a sense of meditative calm washed over me. This Japanese-inspired cocktail bar and restaurant from Julia Momose (GreenRiver), Cara and Noah Sandoval and chef de cuisine Mariya Russell (all Oriole), is one of measured pace and care. Kumiko鈥檚 eight-seat omakase bar lends a peek into the humming kitchen through an intricately carved wood shade that acts as a focal point of the restaurant. My date and I had booked our barstools about a month in advance for the $130 omakase experience, in which Momose and her skilled team pair a series of fixed Japanese bites with sakes and bespoke cocktails. 鈥淒o you tend to go for bright and citrusy? Bitter or savory?鈥 asked our meticulously suited bartender once we were settled. His easy warmth goaded me into oversharing beyond my cocktail preferences in the same way I sometimes psychologically unload on hospitable baristas. A progression of nigiri came first. C

Neon Wilderness
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Wicker Park

Millennials, myself included, have grown up on artisanal cocktails and craft beers, which has me thinking a lot about the evolution of the third place. What will the neighborhood tavern look like in 50 years? Where will future generations belly up on a Thursday night to shoot the shit over beer and shots of whiskey? Chances are, it will look a lot like Neon Wilderness, the latest project from barman Brad Bolt in partnership with Heisler Hospitality鈥檚 Matt Eisler and Kevin Heisner. (The trio鈥檚 bygone Bar DeVille will reopen soonish, too, somewhere in West Town.) This snug, urban wood cabin鈥攚here beer only comes in cans and glassware is anything but precious鈥攁chieves the rare balance between neighborhood joint and cocktail bar. Bolt cleverly offsets his higher-end drink lineup with a solid spate of daily happy hour specials. I sunk into a high-backed barstool and contemplated the drink menu while, two seats over, a dude urged me to consider one of two daily $7 deals: a sidecar or his order, the 鈥渟olid鈥 old fashioned. A duo on my left both partook in another special, a can of Revolution Cross of Gold and shot of house bourbon for $5. 鈥淲e live at Division and Ashland,鈥 one told the bartender before tossing back his whiskey. 鈥淪o we鈥檙e happy this is here.鈥 I decided on the Sharon Stone sour, a frothy, orangey bourbon sour that owes its warm finish to a splash of ginger syrup. The Polish Broadway, a 呕ubr贸wka vodka old fashioned with autumnal cider syrup and drying angostura bitters,

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Lazy Bird
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • West Loop

I鈥檝e been thinking a lot about the Cheers theme song and the idea of a place 鈥渨here everybody knows your name.鈥 The thing is, on nights when I can sneak away and splurge on a round of craft cocktails, I seek out places where no one knows my name. It鈥檚 not that I鈥檓 anti-social鈥攎ore than anything, it鈥檚 about reveling in quality time with close friends. Lazy Bird, the bar in the basement of the Hoxton hotel helmed by Lee Zaremba, ticks all the right boxes for that kind of night out. The space is so dimly lit that you can barely see across the room, and seating is configured in a way that gives each party a sense of privacy鈥攅ven if you are seated two feet away from the next table. And don鈥檛 plan on checking your email or Instagram feed while you鈥檙e here; the subterranean space is a black hole for cell service. Those qualities alone make Lazy Bird a solid watering hole. But when you toss in Zaremba鈥檚 pi猫ce de r茅sistance of a menu鈥攁 whopping 52 classic cocktails that have been refined and perfected鈥攖his place easily enters Best New Bar of 2019 territory. Just as my date and I snagged seats along the wall opposite the bar, our server presented us with a beautiful book of聽tipples to choose from鈥攅ach accompanied by hand-drawn illustrations from Kate Dehler and bite-sized descriptions penned by Zaremba. When we asked for a second menu so that we could browse simultaneously, our server told us that there weren鈥檛 enough to go around. As soon as we ordered our first sips鈥攁n Aviation for m

Good Measure
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • River North

Though I grew up in the Chicago suburbs, I didn鈥檛 regularly visit the city until my teens. We鈥檇 pile into a 鈥97 Ford Taurus and drive in for punk-rock shows at the Fireside Bowl or Metro, always capping the night with an order of cheese fries or, years later, rounds of Jameson shots. These pilgrimages represented my first taste of adult freedom and the sweaty, buoyant camaraderie of an intimate live show. Entering the reddish glow of Good Measure鈥攚ith its checkerboard floor and mahogany bar lined with revelers chatting over civilized decibels of the Ramones and the Vandals鈥攂rought back familiarly cozy, punk vibes. Toss in upgraded classic cocktails and superbly indulgent bar bites, and this promises to be a solid enough neighborhood joint to regularly lure me to River North. We arrived early enough on a Friday to claim one of just four high-backed red booths lining the wall opposite a long L-shaped bar. At least half of the patrons were sipping something in a glass mug, which I learned was the superfizzy Toki highball that the bar features for $6 between 4 and 6pm daily. The refreshing cocktail is as bubbly as champagne thanks to a machine from Japanese whiskey brand Suntory Toki, which chills the liquid and pumps out perfectly rationed, fantastically carbonated servings. Craving something brown and stirred on a dreary Friday, I started instead with the Penicillin鈥攁 smoky ode to autumn with local Scotch, honey and ginger syrups and a spritz of peaty Ardbeg Scotch to drive hom

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Ludlow Liquors
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Avondale

Enterprising barchitects Wade McElroy and Jeff Donahue (Sportsman鈥檚 Club, Estereo) took another shot at reviving the beloved Orbit Room space in Avondale鈥攖his time with much success. Ludlow Liquors carves out a distinct identity for itself through a roster of spirit-forward cocktails available by the ounce plus greasy drinking food that artfully blends Midwestern nostalgia with Filipino tradition. Entering the dim, orange-cast tavern while the Clash crooned reggae-lite punk over the speakers evoked the familiar, snug embrace of a neighborhood dive (though, for the record, it鈥檚 far cleaner and lacks the typical old-bar musk). Despite the fact that the doors opened for service just an hour earlier, the 17-seat bartop was totally occupied. My husband and I slid into one of the toffee-hued leather booths lining the wall opposite the聽bar to peruse the menu. Most of the cocktails here are available as one-, two- or three-ounce pours, allowing guests to sip sample-sized portions of the boozy offerings. At first, I dismissed the idea as far too Brooklyn for our big-shouldered city. Who鈥檇 opt to go small on a drink like the Summit鈥攁 light, bright and nutty whiskey martini with Suntory Toki, fino sherry and persimmon liqueur? Or the charming absinthe-washed Sportsman, with caramel-scented bourbon, Italian rhubarb amaro and a double dose of bitters? But as I neared the bottom of my first coupe, the appeal of sampling an ounce or two of the Delicious #7鈥攁 botanically inclined mescal and

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Wine bars
  • Logan Square

For a long time, the neighborhood joint and wine bar felt like opposing ideals. By definition, the corner bar鈥攚ith its cheap draughts and worn-in look鈥攊s built on approachability, while wine bars historically seemed to ooze with pretense, reserved for those fluent in vino classification tables. Thanks to inviting spots like Rootstock, Income Tax and Red & White, Chicago鈥檚 wine scene has grown more inclusive for those of us who don鈥檛 know much about the stuff beyond the fact that we like drinking it. New Logan Square watering hole Outside Voices takes that mission a step further, blurring the lines between the neighborhood tavern and a proper wine bar. This delightful storefront is sandwiched between two other beloved spots from the same owners鈥攇in-focused cocktail den Scofflaw and sporty pub the Moonlighter. Like its siblings, vino-centric Outside Voices leans pricier than your everyday pub, but the vibe is unmistakably no fuss. Led by beverage manager Davis Sayer, the bar mostly eschews the pretense that often comes with wine鈥攁nd not just because the staff has an affinity for flannel button-downs and playing Heart on vinyl. You feel it within 15 seconds of sidling up to the bar to peruse the menu. Rather than putting the onus on the drinker to decide on a style (Whites from France? Cabernets?), the daily-changing menu of whites, reds, ros茅s and orange, and bubbles focuses on individual flavors and textures in each of the 20-odd available wines. Bartenders take a similar tact

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Streeterville
  • price 3 of 4

When restaurateur Danny Meyer and the team behind New York鈥檚 Dead Rabbit Grocery & Grog announced they were opening a Chicago location, it was instantly a Big Deal. They confirmed that by signing on Julia Momose (the Aviary/Office) as head bartender and Aaron Lirette (Celeste) as executive chef, two people whose work I鈥檝e admired for awhile鈥擬omose for her use of unexpected ingredients and innovative flavor combinations, and Lirette for his refined takes on classic dishes (I still recall his jidori chicken and octopus dishes from Celeste fondly). With their talent, GreenRiver is one of Chicago鈥檚 best bars鈥攚ith a gorgeous view to boot. GreenRiver has a Chicago history/Irish theme, but it鈥檚 subtle, aside from the drink names, which nod to Chicago historical figures. There鈥檚 a primer on each on the cocktail list, which is divided by key ingredients, such as corn, agave and grape and apple. To do justice to this menu, you need time to read through it鈥攄o it with a drink in hand by ordering a highball from a separate list. The eight highballs are the sleeper hits of the menu, like housemade Japanese plum vinegar soda spiked with Carpano Bianco vermouth, a bright concoction with a vegetal edge, and cassis liqueur with housemade oolong tea soda, which is lightly sweet with herbal notes. The cocktails have a lot going on, and GreenRiver鈥檚 food menu is a nice counterpoint鈥攖he dishes are familiar with gentle twists. For starters, fried chicken oysters with pickled pepper sauce are a play

The Northman
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Beer bars
  • North Center
  • price 2 of 4

The one thing I was most excited about when I was getting ready to visit the Northman鈥攁 bar on the border of North Center and Lincoln Square that we鈥檝e been waiting two years for鈥攚as the Spanish long pour cider. It鈥檚 the one that gets poured from a tap close to the ceiling, is unfiltered and uncarbonated and gets its bubbles from falling from such a high place into a smaller vessel. It鈥檚 quite a sight, and a good experience for anyone looking to learn about cider. And you will learn something; a night at the Northman is an education in cider.聽 Run by the Fountainhead Group, the Northman is Chicago鈥檚 first cider bar and one of just a few in the country. While it may feel like we鈥檝e been waiting a long time for the bar, the trend of cider is just now on the upswing, departing from the heavily sugared drinks that have long dominated the country鈥檚 cider market. The Northman鈥檚 menu is pages upon pages long, filled with ciders from England, Spain and the U.S. (to name just a few), which can be overwhelming when you find drinks that range from sweet to semi-sweet to dry and you have no idea where to begin. Not to worry, your server will be right there to help you find one to fit your palate鈥攖he staff is filled with serious cider geeks. You鈥檒l start your night with an amuse-bouche of sorts鈥攁 sip of the Northman鈥檚 house cider鈥攂efore settling on your first of many ciders (the list is constantly rotating). Move on to the food and order some shared plates, or maybe just some cheese and t

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Pub Royale
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Pubs
  • Ukrainian Village
  • price 1 of 4

When Pub Royale opened in May 2015 with a British-Indian theme, it sounded almost too hyperspecific鈥攁nd potentially dicey鈥攖o work. But while Britain and India have a long, complicated political history, there鈥檚 a clear culinary relationship as well, since their cuisines have merged into Anglo-Indian food, a cuisine style best exemplified by chicken tikka masala, a curry popular in Britain. That鈥檚 the angle Pub Royale, the latest bar from Heisler Hospitality (Sportsman鈥檚 Club), takes with their food and drink, which includes a lineup of Pimm鈥檚 Cups, the summery British favorite, curries and a daily-changing beer and cider menu that rivals the best beer bars in Chicago. The drink list, from beverage director Michael McAvena (Publican), has a mix of interesting local, national and international beers on draft, as well as ciders from the U.S., Spain, France and England.聽 The fact that there鈥檚 a thoughtful food menu might make you confuse this for a restaurant, but it鈥檚 firmly a bar. All seats are first-come, first-served, so you can鈥檛 count on getting to eat. But if you鈥檙e hungry and manage to score seats, the menu, from Jason Vaughan, director of culinary development, is packed with hits, including spicy lamb dumplings and a doughnut made from naan dough that鈥檚 topped with chai dulce de leche. But it was the service that really stood out鈥攅veryone I talked to there was incredibly nice and knowledgeable, making Pub Royale the kind of place you want to make your regular spot. Vital

Queen Mary Tavern
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Ukrainian Village
  • price 2 of 4

Heisler Hospitality is on a roll this year鈥攖he group鈥檚 British-Indian beer bar, Pub Royale, opened in May, then in November, they opened Queen Mary Tavern, a bar that focuses on maritime drinking. Either theme could easily have been gimmicky, but Heisler knows how to put the right people in charge. At Queen Mary Tavern, Dan Smith and Mony Bunni have assembled a list of cocktails that鈥檚 true to the theme鈥攔um, gin and Scotch abound鈥攚hile using unexpected ingredients and offering sophisticated flavor profiles.聽 Take the Stone鈥檚 Throw, which uses tahini to add sesame notes to the smoky base of Scotch and cream, while a shower of nutmeg over the top ties it all together. Albatross combines gin and madeira with Angostura and coriander聽for an herbal sip, and St. Erasmus聽is a tall, icy swizzle with funky rum and some heat from chili. My favorite is Mood Indigo, which I can imagine an epicurean pirate assembling from the spoils of his travels; with port, St. Lucian rum, Batavia Arrack, cardamom and jaggery (cane sugar from Asia and Africa), it鈥檚 richly flavored, and a whole egg adds a smooth mouthfeel. The bar had been empty for four decades before Heisler took it over. The space previously held a neighborhood tavern run by Mary Kafka, the namesake for Queen Mary, who still lives upstairs. Many of the original pieces, like the bar, remain in place, which makes Queen Mary feel like it鈥檚 been there forever. Luckily the drink list doesn鈥檛鈥攊t鈥檚 a fresh look at three familiar spirits and a

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