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Margarita at Bub City
Photograph: Courtesy Bub City

The best bars in River North and Streeterville

Home to some of the best Chicago bars, River North and Streeterville are great places for a drink.

Amy Cavanaugh
Written by
Amy Cavanaugh
&
Samantha Nelson
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River North and Streeterville are among the most popular nightlife destinations in Chicago, home to chic nightclubs where you can order bottle service while watching top DJs spin and cocktail bars where mixologists serve up excellent spins on classic drinks plus novel concoctions to suit any taste. You can spend the evening sharing elaborate tiki drinks at one of the best bars in Chicago, or day drink at a bar offering bottomless brunch. Whatever you’re looking for, you’ll want to drink in this list of the best bars in River North and Streeterville.

RECOMMENDED: Our complete guide to River North and Streeterville

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • River North
  • price 2 of 4

Take your tastebuds on a world tour at Arbella, which offers a Traveling Old Fashioned menu with spins on the classic cocktail including the Lagos (spiced ginger whiskey and habanero honey) and the Tokyo (sake and plum bitters). You can also enjoy some adventure by ordering a dealer’s choice cocktail. The bites are similarly globe-trotting, including chicharrones with chili cilantro vinegar dipping sauce and chicken shawarma bao.

  • Restaurants
  • Indian
  • River North

Located on the sunny southwest coast of India, the region of Goa is known for its electronic music, beautiful beaches and Portuguese-influence fare. Bar Goa brings all of those components to Chicago with DJ sets every weekend, a monthly comedy show, and a drink list featuring Portuguese wine, Indian beer and cocktails blended with Indian flavors such as tamarind and mango. You’ll also find Indian spins on pub grub including pork vindaloo sliders, chili garlic potatoes and butter chicken croquettes.

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  • Bars
  • Lounges
  • River North
  • price 2 of 4

The Berkshire Room, the bar in River North’s Acme Hotel, doesn't just name-check the Berkshire Hotel, the Acme’s former name from the 1920–1950s. The decor takes cues from old-world cocktail lounges and gives them a current, urban twist. The main bar area is set off by a mix of tall, white-washed walls and checkered tile flooring. Side rooms, off the main bar, include whiskey lockers for rare spirits, barrel-stave wall paneling, copper light fixtures and plush seating. For drinks, choose from a seasonal cocktail or go for the dealer’s choice and let the bartenders craft something for you based on your choice of flavor profile, spirit and glassware.

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • River North
  • price 2 of 4
River North's latest cocktail bar is another stunner—it's the Chicago branch of a much-lauded Miami hotspot. The vibe is tropical-meets-Midwest, with palm tree wallpaper and octopus decor along with dark wood panels and kitschy knickknacks. The turns out balanced, inventive drinks like an Oatmeal Old Fashioned and the Peppermint Twist Fuzz.
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  • Restaurants
  • Barbecue
  • River North
  • price 2 of 4

The country western bar is big, loud and a whole lot of fun. Whether you stop in for live music, barbecue (the pulled pork is the way to go) or a drink (whatever comes out of the frozen dispenser is worth ordering, as is the old fashioned), you're in for a good night.

  • Bars
  • Lounges
  • River North
  • price 2 of 4

Bartenders like to pretend their cocktail bars are speakeasies, but Liz Pearce's cool bar underneath Green Door Tavern actually is one. The secret door is still visible, and the decor consists of objects that have been there for decades, like a painting of FDR and a bullet-riddled Mobil sign. The drink list is printed on tarot cards, and a fresh offering is plucked from the deck each night. If your favorite isn’t on the card, you can still ask for it to be made. 

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  • Restaurants
  • American
  • River North

Named for Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas, Fremont aims to bring the area’s party atmosphere to Chicago with lively music and an all-you-can-eat brunch buffet featuring carving stations, pizza and doughnuts with bottomless mimosas. With three large bars across two levels with a retractable roof, you won’t have to wait long for a drink, whether you’re ordering a summery sipper like a blackberry mojito or a round of shots for your friends.

  • Bars
  • Lounges
  • River North
  • price 1 of 4

Open since 1921, Green Door Tavern is a neighborhood favorite and one of the most low-key River North bars around. The menu offers elevated bar fare (think Scotch eggs, Chicago-style poutine and roast chicken), riffs on classic cocktails and impressive whiskey and beer lists. Pop by the Drifter, the basement bar that's located in the old speakeasy section of the bar, for a nightcap.

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • River North
  • price 3 of 4

When you want to keep the night going after Gilt Bar, head down to the basement to The Library. Though still Sodikoff-trademark dim, the space has a warmer glow and first rate cocktails such as the Hemingway Daiquiri and the Golden Martini made with saffron liqueur. Best part: Gilt Bar’s full menu, including ideal snacks like truffle mozzarella sticks and burrata with aged balsamic, is available to accompany them.

  • Bars
  • River North

The sports bar from DineAmic Hospitality, the restaurant group behind Bar Siena and Bandit, offers creative spins on classic grub like sliders with brie and garlic aioli and mac n’ cheese you can customize with ingredients ranging from smoked bacon to truffle oil. Pair the food with a local brew or a pitcher of sangria. Come for a two-hour bottomless brunch and watch the game on a 30-foot HD video wall, or visit at night for DJ sets, live performances and bottle service.

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