Drinking games will only get you so far. Head to these spots when the night calls for darts, bags or a mechanical bull.
Cody’s Public House The slogan says it all: “No peeing, no crapping, no barking—and that goes for the dogs, too.” Needless to say, this bar is pooch-friendly, inside and out. But what really clinches it as one of Chicago’s best are the real-deal steel-tip darts, set up both inside and beneath an overhang in the tucked-away back garden. 1658 W Barry Ave (773-528-4050). Mon–Fri 2pm–2am; Sat 11am–3am; Sun 11am–2am. Average beer: $3.25.
Dos DiablosIf you’re looking for a night of auténtico Mexican food and entertainment, you’re in the wrong place. But if you’re looking to eat fajitas, hang out on a patio and pop inside every once in a while for a ride on the mechanical bull, congrats—you’re in the right place. 15 W Hubbard St (312-245-3100). Lunch, dinner. Average beer: $6.
The Garage Bar & Sandwiches When a bar boasts a rooftop deck, more than 100 beers and a menu of 15 sandwiches, it’s safe to assume it’ll also boast an obnoxious River North crowd. But there’s nothing of the sort at the Garage, a pretense-free neighborhood hangout on the Northwest Side. Shuffleboard provides entertainment on the industrial-ish first floor, while the mellow second-floor roof deck is set up for darts. 6154 N Milwaukee Ave (773-647-1386). Mon–Fri 3pm–2am; Sat 11am–3am; Sun 11am–2am. Average beer: $6.
Happy Village A gurgling goldfish pond, picnic tables galore and a surrounding lush lawn make up the scene at this West Town dive. But when it rains (or at 11pm weeknights, midnight weekends, when the garden closes), pack up the ciggies and head back inside, where the smell of whiskey and cheap beer hangs in the air, drunks angle for a turn on the Ping-Pong tables, and the jukebox coughs out the Cars and Madonna. 1059 N Wolcott Ave (773-486-1512). Mon–Fri 4pm–2am,Sat noon–3am, Sun noon–2am. Average beer: $4.
Montrose Saloon This ideal neighborhood dive is somehow still an overlooked gem. The wood paneling is balanced out by exposed brick, a fantastic tin ceiling and stained-glass lamps hanging over the bar. The giant outdoor patio is one of this area’s best-kept secrets—toss horseshoes, play the bean-bag game or just drink and smoke. And don’t mind the new condo dwellers across the street complaining about the noise; they’ll either move or come down to join you. 2933 W Montrose Ave (773-463-7663). Mon–Thu 2pm–2am; Fri, Sun noon–2am; Sat noon–3am. Average beer: $3.