Best Pilsen bars
Nestled just steps away from the Damen Pink Line stop, this cozy neighborhood spot serves up 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 a twenty goes a long way since most drinks cost just five bucks.
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 michelada—mixed with Clamato juice, hot sauce and a heavy dose of Worcestershire—is spicy and savory, making darker Negra Modelo its ideal beer mixer. This umami-rich beertail is also the perfect match for a few carne asada tacos, piled high with lightly toothsome, juicy steak and sharp housemade pico de gallo.
Slide into a half-circle booth under the white tin ceiling and enjoy a large selection of craft brews and a variety of liquor at this Pilsen staple. Sure, you can grab beer to go up front, but you'd be missing out on enjoying a steady soundtrack of soul and punk tunes while befriending the friendly and attentive staff.
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 some chili cheese fries with the older gentleman at the end of the bar.
Round up a group before heading to Punch House, since the drinks are priced to benefit those who order the carafes or punch bowls. But you won't have trouble finding people to commit to a night at Punch House, 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 tequla punch.
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 drink 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.
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—pair ’em with a $2 PBR. Enjoy free jazz on Mondays, and don’t miss the photo booth tucked in the back corner.