When it comes to the best bars in the city, Lincoln Square and Ravenswood have a ton of them, including dive bars, cocktail bars and beer bars. Whether you're looking for a cocktail that will challenge your ideas of these fancy drinks or just want to grab a beer at a place where everyone knows your name, you'll find it. Here's our guide to the best spots to grab a drink when you're in the area.
RECOMMENDED: Our complete guide to Lincoln Square and Ravenswood
Best bars in Lincoln Square and Ravenswood
Beverage director Benjamin Schiller (Fifty/50 Group) conceives some well-crafted drinks that balance whimsy with familiarity. Take the Silly Rabbit, a gin-based drink with flavored (and colored) ice cubes presented in a highball and a carafe, to pour the cocktail over the ice and watch the colors slowly change—it’s tart and citrusy, despite colors that could tip it off as sugary. One of our favorites is the Spaceman Spiff—served in the top of a martini glass set inside a small fishbowl decorated as a terrarium, with swirls of cedar smoke for aromatics.
This brewpub, which makes culinary-focused beers, will challenge your expectations of what a brewpub can be. Grilled apple-tarragon beer? Bison tartare sprinkled with cured egg yolk? A potato cake with romesco sauce and tapenade, a.k.a. the best vegetarian entree we've had all year? Welcome to Band of Bohemia, which was founded by two Alinea vets and features Matt DuBois (EL Ideas, Inovasi) in the kitchen. The brewpub also has a chef's counter, a serious coffee and tea program (they're open during the day).
This charming Lincoln Square “cottage bar” offers a huge selection of German drafts. Sadly, most of the traditional German tunes on the jukebox are gone, but older couples still occasionally slow-dance to classic pop. For a blast from the bar’s past, check out the fetching portrait of Irma, the owner, behind the front bar.
You might expect a wine bar to have hundreds of bottles and a hefty list. That’s not so at Darren McGraw’s Ampersand, where the global wine offerings are refreshingly well edited. Most cost less than $10 a glass, so try a couple while relaxing over small plates, like a lyonnaise salad with a quivering poached egg and orange segments or an adorable plate of tiny cookies and candies.
With its carefully attended-to beer list and homey, tavern-like look, this pub from the Bar on Buena folks has a serious Hopleaf vibe to it. The big difference? The crowds, though passionate drinkers, are not so large that they’re lining up on the sidewalk. So keep this underrated gem to yourself, or suffer the throngs of craft-beer geeks.
Of all the neighborhood bars trying to make rambling Ashland Avenue feel more homey, this gem is among the homiest. Art Deco touches abound and the mood is consistently upbeat, chatty and sociable. The twenty/thirtysomething regulars live on the cusp—they’re not quite Lakeview and not quite Ravenswood, which suits us just fine.
Dovetail Brewery is a comfortable, neighborhood brewery focusing on classic European style beers. The taproom is dog-friendly and BYOF, with regular food trucks stopping by outside. While we're big fans of the beers they have on tap, don't miss the radlers, made with soda and perfectly refreshing.
Owner Malcolm Molloy has that fresh-off-the-boat brogue that could charm the pants off your own mother. But please don’t take this for one of your run-of-the-mill McIrish pubs. Folk musicians pluck away while those-in-the-know scarf down Guinness stew or a full Irish breakfast, regardless of the witching hour (even better in colder months while sitting near the fire). Compared with many other gastropubs laying claim to the Emerald Isle, it’s a sea of tranquility.
If the heavy weekend traffic of thirtysomethings at Huettenbar ain’t your thing, check out this less refined German spot just down the block. The bare-bones setting makes for a laid-back, chatty evening. True, the decorative Christmas lights and homemade jäger bombs $6 sign scream tackiness, but there’s something refreshing about a place that looks as if it hasn’t changed since 1975.
Begyle Brewing Company's tasting room serves a wide selection of its beers in the pint variety with board games, skee-ball and even the occasional food truck. There's also offer growler fills of their brews. Select 32 or 64 oz. growlers and fill 'em up with beers like Birds of Paradise, an American Pale Ale, or Crash Landed, an American Pale Wheat Ale and enjoy Begyle from the comfort of your own home.
Bright yellow walls, gray slate floors and flowers blooming everywhere make this sun-drenched patio on bustling Lincoln Avenue the perfect spot for a great burger. This place has two: the Daily burger, a half-pound of Black Angus beef on a toasted bun with lettuce, tomato and onions; and the belt-busting Sunday Edition, which piles on bacon, gooey cheese, and grilled mushrooms and onions.
Whether you want to belt out Bieber or the Rolling Stones, this private room karaoke bar has tunes that will appeal to all types. Each room is equipped with a flat screen TV and sofas so you can feel right at home. A full bar snacks menu with a few Asian specialties and a plethora of cocktails is also available.
It looks as if the owners have sunk a fair amount of dough into this spiffy Irish pub and saloon. A digital juke hangs on the wall, flat-screen TVs abound, and the comfy seating in back makes the place feel loungey. If that's not enough, the neighborhood bar has plenty of regular drink specials to check out to ease you in.
There’s nothing particularly inventive about this corner tap, both levels of which are usually inhabited by your run-of-the-mill, shaggy-haired, middle-aged whiskey sippers—nothing, that is, unless you’re here on a Friday night. That’s when the place fills up with a mix of yuppies, hipsters and everybody in between for a few friendly rounds of turtle racing. (Sounds like a euphemism, we know, but we assure you it’s not.)
With its gaudy mishmash of faux Frank Lloyd Wright stained glass, wood paneling and crumbling Euro-style urinals, this corner tavern seems a like it could use a makeover. Otherwise, this is a perfectly likable corner tavern with a stellar jukebox where single women sip cosmos out of frosted martini glasses while old men huddle in the corner swilling beer and whiskey.