Pilsen is a veritable melting pot of cultures and cuisines that span the globe, from Mexican and Italian to Vietnamese and New American. It makes sense, then, that this South Side nabe is home to some of the best restaurants in Chicago. And with good food comes top-notch booze. The best bars in Pilsen are wildly diverse, from a basement punch house and several excellent Chicago breweries to a liquor store-slash-bar that's been around since 1878. After you're done filling up on some of the best cheap eats Chicago has to offer, find your way into one of these watering holes for craft beer and expertly mixed cocktails. Here's where we raise a glass when we're in Pilsen.
RECOMMENDED: Discover more things to do in Pilsen, Chicago
Best Pilsen bars
Round up a group before heading to Punch House, since the drinks are priced to benefit those who order the carafes or punch bowls. You won't have trouble finding people to commit to a night at this Pilsen basement bar, which offers both traditional punch recipes and contemporary versions—the ’70s basement vibe is cool and the drinks are excellent, like Space Juice for Jered, a sage and black pepper-laced tequila punch.
This speakeasy-esque space—a vacuous room lined with booths and sprinkled with tables and chairs—is a nightly respite for local artists. The tater tots and mac and cheese are greasy must-haves that pair perfectly with $2 PBR. Enjoy free jazz shows on Mondays at 10pm, and don’t miss the photo booth tucked in the back corner.
It’s not uncommon to see the crowd at least four deep on a Friday night at the bar of this tiny, popular Pilsen taco joint. But the skillfully made tacos and flavorful bebidas make the oft-long wait times worthwhile. The margarita menu is plentiful, with varieties spanning mango and hibiscus to passion fruit and jalapeño. The classic mojito—which arrives packed with fresh mint and seasonal fruit—is an excellent match for the carne asada tacos.
This environmentally friendly bar—complete with rooftop herb garden and solar panels—is the place to be if you're looking for live music, art or just a unique place to drink. In addition to the extensive booze menu and bar bites available in the main room, it has two additional spaces for DJs, art exhibits and salon-style discussions. The entire venue is made from repurposed materials, including the bar top built from a bowling alley lane and a DJ station built from old pinball machines.
Located in a corner of Thalia Hall that was formerly a carriage house where horses were kept, Tack Room is now a boozy piano saloon that's outfitted with equestrian-themed decor and wax-dripping candelabras. The menu offers a curated mix of well-priced craft cocktails, like the Mezcal Corpse Reviver with Lillet Rose, orange liqueur, lemon bitter and a Bësk rinse. Coordinate your visit with a rotating schedule of piano players, who take a seat every Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 9pm. Have your requests ready and your falsetto in tune.
Slide into a cozy, timeworn booth at this bar-slash-liquor store that's been around since 1878 (no, that's not a typo). Sure, you could grab beer to go up front, but you'd be missing out on the steady soundtrack of soul and punk tunes while befriending the friendly and attentive staff.
Pilsen has collected its fair share of breweries over the last five years, with each newcomer offering a wildly different vibe. The folks behind Lo Rez Brewing have managed to re-create the simple pleasure of drinking at home inside a funky, no-fuss warehouse space. Avoiding the hops hype, the brewers here offer a ;short list of draft options on overhead chalkboards, plus a fridge of to-go bottles in the back. Try the Limewire, a spunky witbier that's infused with agave and fresh lime.
Nestled just steps away from the Damen Pink Line stop, this cozy neighborhood spot serves a rotating list of cheap craft brews along with a few signature cocktail options. The focus is on local at The Barrel, with samplings on tap from Chicago beer staples like Revolution, Off Color and Penrose. Want something a bit stronger? Grab a CBGB, a refreshing gin and cucumber cocktail. Cash only, but $20 goes a long way since most drinks ring up at just five bucks.
If you want to taste Alulu's small-batch craft brews—like the Pyro Liso Mexican lager with smoked poblano—you'll have to head to their Pilsen outpost. Take a self-guided tour of the offerings with the Hang Glide flight, which includes five 5-ounce samples of anything on draft. For the beer-averse, there's a concise list of creative cocktails, including the Just on Laflin, with tequila, prickly pear syrup, orange liqueur and citrus.
Grab a bottle of High Life and a pork tenderloin sandwich at this classic corner bar. Martin's is a neighborhood spot that is perfect for watching the game, arguing about Chicago politics with colorful locals or belting out some karaoke while friendly bartenders quickly grab you another round. An abundant list of specials keeps your tab low, so go ahead and share an order of Martin's namesake poutine with the older gentleman at the end of the bar.