We feel your frustration. You’ve been to Evil Olive countless times. It’s impossible to get into Underground after 3am unless your group’s ratio is three girls to every guy. The farther north you go, the less exciting the DJs get—unless you go to Smart Bar, which you’ve also done to death. Rest assured, there are still options; they just may not be where you’re used to looking. Switch up your weekend routine, head to a new ’hood and check out these late-night hangs.
If not for the swarm of tight-jeaned scenesters milling about out front at 3:30am, you might never find this Logan Square hole in the wall. Since the place got snatched up (and cleaned up) by the gentlemen behind the Boiler Room in the fall, it’s become a faithful standby for Wicker Park partyers looking for a change of scenery. The interior is like the basement hangout that Ashton Kutcher and his That ’70s Show companions never got to enjoy. It’s dimly lit, chock-full of cheap domestic beers (i.e. PBR) and kicking out everything from Baltimore dance tracks to roots reggae to the newest indie cuts. For this last bit, we can thank the DJs who frequent the booth that was installed when the new management took over. Look out for sets from Major Taylor, Johnny Walker and Pr3-Frosh regularly. (2417 N Milwaukee Ave, 773-486-8480. Sun–Fri 10pm–4am; Sat 10pm–5am).
This grungy punk bar has been around forever, so at first glance its inclusion here is not exactly revelatory. What might surprise you, though, is the number of DJ events that are going down here. In large part thanks to the Wax Trax!–loving industrial revivalists of Front 312 and its extended family, five nights out of the week boast hard-edged beats mixed with thrashing guitars direct from DJs Adam Black, Peter Propaganda, Eddie Riot, QBot and others. To add to the after-hours sensory overload, Tuesdays feature tatted-up rocker-chick porn with the girls from Burning Angels, Wednesdays double as marathon absinthe sessions, and Thursdays and Fridays are bondage and burlesque nights. There’s even the odd steampunk night when the Steampunk Chicago crew stops by. (1315 W North Ave, 773-395-2700. Sun–Fri 10pm–4am; Sat 10pm–5am).
It’s hard to pick one quality that makes this Avondale bar so appealing, but the one that is most immediately noticeable is how clean it is. This is an after-hours bar anomaly. Sidling up to the bar and basking in the warm purple glow that is the space’s dominant color, you’ll take note of the friendly staff and the equally pleasing drink prices. From there, settle in and let the music take you away, which shouldn’t be a problem because the DJs here are on a mission to get out there. Tuesdays see diverse sets from such disparate genres as ska, indie dance and abstract experimental. Weekends keep it reliably distinct but more in the pocket with shoegaze, synth-pop and, on Saturdays, new wave hits spun by proprietor Dave Roberts, for his long-running Planet Earth night. (3534 W Belmont Ave, 773-267-5283. Tue–Fri 10pm–4am; Sat 10pm–5am; closed Sun, Mon).