Whether you're a birthday diva or hate the attention, planning a party can be stressful. Chicago has no shortage of fantastic birthday party options for adults, but some years you just want to pile all your friends in a bar and call it a night. From spacious beer gardens to sophisticated cocktail havens, we rounded up the best celebration-friendly watering holes in the city.
The best bars for birthday parties in Chicago
If you say you're having your birthday party at Alice's, your friends better know to bring it. This long, wood-paneled bar is helmed by a few middle-aged women who mix huge batches of kamikazes and sell them for $2 a pop—but the real draw here is karaoke. Oh, and if you arrive to a locked door, don't be discouraged. Just ring the bell over and over again (sometimes the bartenders can’t hear it over yet another version of “Don’t Stop Believin’”).
This Lincoln Park bar has a reputation for being a go-to Tinder date location, but it's also a top-notch spot for hosting parties. With cozy seating, a pool table and an ever-changing cocktail menu, Barrelhouse is a bullseye. Rent out the entire second floor or a smaller private area with a fireplace.
If your signature birthday move is coaxing friends into buying your drinks, Best Intentions is an excellent party location. With oodles of dive bar charm and cocktail lounge-quality drinks, this Logan Square spot makes it easy to have the best of both worlds. Perhaps Best Intentions' most appealing feature is its spacious backyard patio (one of our favorite places to hang on a hot summer night). Plus, it won Bar of the Year at Time Out Chicago's 2017 Bar Awards.
It's almost too easy to have a good time at Crown Liquors. The charming Avondale spot sells a huge selection of craft beer and liquor on one side of the bar, while bartenders serve affordable drinks on the other. If you're feeling lucky, ask for the $2 dice shot: Each roll of the dice corresponds to a different cheap liquor—can you handle a birthday pour of Malört?
Delilah's is one of the most rock & roll spots in Chicago, and it doesn't even have a stage. Post up by the roaring jukebox in the main room downstairs or shoot pool in the spacious upstairs bar over one of the 300-plus beer options available. If you're looking for a dependable, no-fuss party spot for beer and whiskey lovers, Delilah's is a great pick.
Come summer, Moody's boasts one of the best beer gardens in Chicago—meaning it can be tough to snag a seat. Swing by this cozy Edgewater spot in the winter for a blazing fireplace, a solid burger and a well-curated beer list. Be warned: It's basically a black hole inside, so you'll have to use your flashlight app to greet your guests.
Want more than just boozing at your birthday party? Consider Emporium. The bar's Logan Square outpost boasts pinball machines, old school arcade games, pool and foosball, so your pals will stay entertained all night. Grab something to eat at the indoor food truck or bring your own cake and munchies to celebrate the occasion.
Whether you're looking to throw a boozy day party or a raucous evening soiree, this all-day bar from Heisler Hospitality has you covered. The triangular space offers plenty of seating along the bar and windows, a fantastic soundtrack and a cocktail menu dominated by pisco, cachaca, rum, tequila and mescal. Bonus points: There are plenty of late-night food options within walking distance.
With its unassuming facade, you may end up walking right past the dimly lit Old Style sign hanging above the doorway of EZ Inn—a decades old dive bar with a new lease on life. The updated version still retains the comfortable, inviting elements of the Chicago neighborhood tavern, but an overhauled drink menu is approachable yet surprisingly sophisticated. Request your favorite song on the jukebox and hit the spacious back room with all your friends.
With its carefully attended-to beer list and homey, taverny 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. While Fountainhead's roof deck is a popular spot for Lincoln Squarers in the summer, it's not so overrun that you can't bring a group.