The best South Loop bars and nightlife

Looking for a night out in the South Loop? Hop from dive bars and tap rooms to blues joints and jazz clubs just south of downtown.
Kasey's Tavern is one of the best South Loop bars.
Photo: Kelly Peloza Kasey's Tavern is one of the best South Loop bars.

The South Loop runs the gamut of nightlife options. In a hub for concerts in Chicago, with legendary jazz clubs and blues clubs, plus options for punk and hip-hop. There are dive bars and a brewery taproom. You can also find great cocktails in the casual bar of a fine dining restaurant. Here's where to go for a drink—or a dance—in the South Loop.

RECOMMENDED: Our complete guide to the South Loop

The best South Loop bars and clubs

Restaurants, Contemporary American


icon-location-pin Near South Side

Acadia has a lock on the best cocktails in the South Loop, and you don't have to shell out for a spot in the dining room to drink them. Head to the casual bar area, order a lobster roll or burger, then work through the thoughtful cocktail list with drinks like the Hemingway daiquiri, plus drinks like Gins/Tonics/Limes, a spritely take on a gin and tonic with housemade lemongrass tonic and kaffir lime and cucumber ice cubes.

Photograph: Ryan Bourque
Music, Music venues

Buddy Guy's Legends

icon-location-pin Loop

If you show up at the club, you may just see Buddy Guy sitting at the bar, overseeing the whole operation: He’s more than just a name on the sign outside. There are also free acoustic sets during lunch and dinner most days of the week. And if you like Louisiana cuisine, the kitchen has what you need.

Photograph: Max Herman
Music, Music venues

Jazz Showcase

icon-location-pin Downtown

Long heralded as Chicago’s leading jazz venue, the venerable club has been forced to relocate more than once since its inception in 1947. However, since moving to swank new digs in 2008, the Showcase has easily reestablished its reputation for bringing in top-shelf talent like the Bad Plus and Miguel Zenón.

Kasey's Tavern
Photo: Kelly Peloza
Bars, Sports Bars

Kasey’s Tavern

icon-location-pin Printers Row

The people-watching at Kasey’s is almost as good as it is from the benches around the Printers Row fountain, but this popular watering hole’s got beer. And pizza. Advantage: Kasey’s. You’ll recognize the same Irish-English-pub vibe from up north, and you may spy a frat rat, but generally the crowd–like the bookish, lofty-artsy neighborhood–is mixed, especially when it comes to baseball loyalties.

Music, Rock and indie


icon-location-pin Downtown

In case you missed all the concert posters, the flat–screens showing performance footage or the corner stage (which, more often than not, has a band on it), live music is the theme of this South Loop pub. But with such a good beer selection and a friendly staff, you don’t need to be into the music to want to spend your night here. The punk sanctuary draws the youngest crowds into its two distinct rooms—Reggie’s Music Joint and Reggie’s Rock Club. The latter is the rare strictly underage club in the city, and heir to the deceased and beloved Fireside Bowl.

The Velvet Lounge
Photo: Jaclyn Elizabeth Rivas
Nightlife, Clubs

The Velvet Lounge

icon-location-pin Downtown

The address is different (the original location was a few blocks east), but the booking policy remains the same at this pioneering venue and informal showcase for members of Chicago’s trailblazing Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. The club, which was run by veteran saxophonist Fred Anderson before his death, concentrates on improvisational jazz.

Bars, Breweries

Vice District Brewing

icon-location-pin Near South Side

If Chicago is a city of neighborhoods, every neighborhood could benefit from a place like Vice District. It’s not the biggest brewery, it’s not the craziest, and it’s not lager-dedicated or hop-crazy or Belgian-inspired. It’s just a good local place that makes small-batch beer. Vice District has a couple of core beers you should try, along with a rotating selection of others that will bring you new reasons to make it to South Michigan Avenue.