See Time Out Chicago's weekly magazine or go to timeoutchicago.com/clubs for up-to-date Nightlife listings and events.
To patronize most of the bar venues here, some establishments around town occasionally have 18-and-over nights. Call for details.
✽ Reccomended or notable
✽ Bar DeVille 701 N Damen Ave (312-929-2349, bardeville.com). The corner location, window neon, “cold beer” cooler and Art Deco bar might lead you to believe this spot is run by a septuagenarian with stories to spare. Investigate further and you’ll find an extensive beer list, butter-soft leather booths and hipsters dancing to the DJs—who mix it up between funk, soul, indie dance and rock—all the way in the back.
✽ Beauty Bar 1444 W Chicago Ave (312-226-8828, thebeautybar.com/chicago). With outposts in New York, San Francisco and Austin, Chicago was the next logical location for the kitsch-happy Beauty Bar concept. Retrofitted into the old Sonotheque, the bar carried over the sound system but otherwise got a complete face-lift. Sparkling glitter paint adorns the walls, ’60s beauty-salon furniture acts as seating, and the backroom dance floor is completed with a shimmering disco ball. The music stays obscure and mostly dusty during the week, but DJs turn it into an oddball dance party most weekends.
✽ Berlin 954 W Belmont Ave (773-348-4975, berlinchicago.com). This freak-friendly dance destination in Lakeview built its reputation back in the mid-’80s with a mix of German new-wave music, art installations and even transvestite shows. These days, it’s still quirky but more retro, with Prince-tribute, disco and ’80s nostalgia nights. Goths and gays are extra welcome, but the scene here is made up of almost everyone.
Bottom Lounge 1375 W Lake St (312-666-6775, bottomlounge.com). So impressively large is this live music venue that lounge seems totally inappropriate as a part of the name. The bar feels like a rocker hangout that thrives regardless of what’s happening in the live room, which (with its own absinthe-serving bar) is well-proportioned. Recent acts have ranged from Battles to the Rocket Summer, with a healthy number of electronic shows popping up as well. Kitschy bonus: Upstairs sits the tiki-themed Volcano Room.
The Burlington 3425 W Fullerton Ave (773-384-3243, theburlingtonbar.com). This Wisconsin-themed bar books from a tight network of local rockers and scenesters for nightly DJ sets. You’ll get anything from punk to lounge to electro on the system, but it’s more about deep listening, hard drinking and checking people out than it is about dancing.
✽ Congress Theater 2135 N Milwaukee Ave (773-276-1235, congresschicago.com). This sizable, slightly oddball venue hosts a diverse range of shows, featuring everyone from old favorites Morrissey and Weezer to nationally known Latino groups and even hip-hop acts like Wu-Tang Clan. Lately it has positioned itself as the hotbed for all things EDM, showcasing Bassnectar, Skrillex and deadmau5.
m Crescendo 222 W Ontario St (312-787-6060, clubcrescendo.com). Part of the Sound-Bar and Y Bar family, Crescendo mixes the bottle-service vibe with out-and-out clubbing. It’s open late and attracts people en masse to its Middle Eastern–themed confines. Outfit Events pretty much owns the programming and keeps it upbeat with a mix of pop, hip-hop and remixes on the weekends and electro fare on weeknights.
Crimson Lounge Hotel Sax Chicago, 333 N Dearborn St (312-923-2473, crimsonchicago.com). The clubby and decadently appointed ground-floor spot in the Sax Hotel certainly keeps it unpredictable. From electro DJs such as Amy D. and funkateers like Sadie Woods—plus live jazz in the evenings—the high-end spot is covering all the bases.
] Danny’s Tavern 1951 W Dickens Ave (773-489-6457). This ultrahip neighborhood row-house bar has roots in the grunge era, but these days the DJ programming is eclectic. Sheer Magic, the monthly soul party (first Wednesdays), is often sweat-soaked and body-to-body packed, but there are also country nights, Smiths listening parties, and even a smattering of live jazz, classical and singer-songwriter events.
Debonair Social Club 1575 N Milwaukee Ave (773-227-7990, debonairsocialclub.com). One of Wicker Park’s hottest spots—especially for you kiddies, as it’s the only place on the stretch catering to an 18+ crowd. Monday’s No. 1 dance party, Rehab, boasts two floors of indie, electro and dance-rock mayhem. Wednesdays, the ladies of the night take over for rock-fueled burlesque nights. Weekends, it keeps things open-ended; DJs play across the board and always on point.
Dolphin 2200 N Ashland Ave (773-292-5550). After a recent remodel, the one-time jazz club Green Dolphin Street has been reimagined as a posh Sin City hangout with multiple rooms of DJs and an opulent outdoor patio complete with cabanas. The venue’s namesake house night Boom Boom Room continues on Sundays, and DJs spin beats throughout the weekend.
8Fifty8 858 W Lake St (312-455-2776, 8fifty8chicago.com). Housed in the former Reserve space, 8Fifty8 combines a downtown club atmosphere—including bottle service—with a specialty cocktail menu that includes quality ingredients and fresh fruit juices. Musically, it sticks to the hip-hop and Top 40 side of things, but the go-go dancers who adorn the window ledges and center stage have no trouble getting down to the house and electro that also works its way into the mix.
Empire Liquors 1566 N Milwaukee Ave (773-278-1600, empireliquors.com). The crowd has changed at Empire over the course of its lifetime. As the scenesters decided too many people were crowding the spot, they left for more off-the-beaten-path hangs. Through it all though, the swank nightspot has stayed the course and kept the hip-hop-focused dance party going. The faces may be more Lincoln than Wicker Park, but the place is still a damn good time.
enclave 220 W Chicago Ave (312-654-0234, enclavechicago.com). The classy loft look of this spacious River North club balances out the sexed-up, usually hip-hop–fueled parties that happen from Thursday nights on. Unfortunately, it closes at 2am, driving party traffic to nearby Board Room or Stone Lotus.
✽ Evil Olive 1551 W Division St (773-235-9100, evil-olive.com). This spot may have changed names more than any other venue in the ’hood, but it’s become an unlikely young hipster hangout thanks to long-standing weekend dance parties hosted by local jocks Konsept, PHNM, Johnny Walker, and the Porn and Chicken posse. It’s making serious inroads on our weekdays as well thanks to the over-the-top exploits of Monday throw-down Porn and Chicken and Thursday’s Wasted Bass night.
Funky Buddha Lounge 728 W Grand Ave (312-666-1695, funkybuddha.com). The vivid colors and exotic look of this place have weathered to ridiculous kitsch, but the spirit at the venerable venue is strong. Weekends are jammed with crunkers, sitters and sippers. Midweek, Top 40 hip-hoppers and underground R&B divas sometimes drop in for live sets.
GrandBar 1600 W Grand Ave (312-733-1661, grandbarchicago.com). The calendar is anything-goes at this straightforward neighborhood lounge. It’s got a late-night license and has room for the packed crowds that turn out for its regular hip-hop and juke DJs on the weekends and periodic house and techno marathons. The cover is usually low.
Hub 51 51 W Hubbard St (312-828-0051, hub51chicago.com). The brainchild of brothers Jerrod and R.J. Melman, sons of Lettuce Entertain You mogul Rich Melman, Hub 51 offers classy American grub as well as ample brews upstairs. The whole experience is set to a DJ pumping out hip-hop, pop and indie rock. Downstairs, the vibe turns sexy and sweaty in Sub 51, where the top-of-the-line sound system pumps out dance-worthy jams courtesy of DJs Konsept, Matt Roan, E6 and regular national DJ celebrities.
m Late Bar 3534 W Belmont Ave (773-267-5283, latebarchicago.com). Rockabilly couples swing to live DJs while black-and-white movies and other oddities play on a projector at this violet-hued lounge. Avondale ’hoodies keep the place busy on weeknights, but the real action’s on Saturdays, when the owners spin new-wave club classics till 5am as part of their long-running Planet Earth dance party.
✽ The Mid 306 N Halsted St (312-265-3990, themidchicago.com). One of the most versatile venues in town, the Mid combines traditional venue options with the bottle-popping club world. Two stories allow for dancing and drinking on weekends, but smaller nights see just the main floor used for everything from indie bands to up-and-coming DJ talent. Brought to us by some of Chicago’s biggest promoters, the Fulton Market club is poised to become a one-stop music shop, and you won’t hear us complaining.
Neo 2350 N Clark St (773-528-2622, neo-chicago.com). Break out the ten-hole Doc Martens and the hair products for this goth-punk outpost that hasn’t changed much since, well, before you were born. Neo has a small dance floor and a calendar crammed with DJs specializing in everything from metal and industrial to new wave and electro.
Proof 1045 N Rush St (312-646-6000, proofnightclubchicago.com). If you liked Level, then look no further. As Proof, the posh Viagra Triangle club offers up an A-list club experience. Awash in blue hues and the sheen of tan leather, the VIP section provides ample bottle service choices, accompanied by an always smiling server. The dance floor goes all night, with progressive and house beats provided by some of the city’s most noteworthy jocks.
Rodan 1530 N Milwaukee Ave (773-276-7036, rodanchicago.com). Compact but handsomely designed in modern blues and wood, Rodan fulfills the fantasy of the hipster who’s moved on from squalid nights sucking PBRs in no-name dives. DJs spin wildly eclectic sets to their own tastes—anything from Afrobeat and soul to space rock and psych—and the big video screen and weekly live avant-jazz make it a multimedia mecca.
] The Shrine 2109 S Wabash Ave (312-753-5700, theshrinechicago.com).Channeling the spirit of the late, great Fela Kuti, this South Loop night spot serves as an ideal place of worship for music heads and lovers of everything from house to hip-hop and soul to Afrobeat. It houses two DJ booths, a live stage overrun with boast-worthy talent and cozy seating for those who trade in dance-floor exploits for bottle-service boozing.
Simone’s 960 W 18th St (312-666-8601, simonesbar.com). Decked out with the remnants of classic arcades and chemistry classrooms, Pilsen watering hole Simone’s is made of almost entirely repurposed materials. Matching its eclectic composition, nightly DJs—and the occasional live act—play hip-hop, down-tempo, left-field beats and ample dusty grooves.
] m Smart Bar 3730 N Clark St (773-549-4140, smartbarchicago.com). This venerated dance club housed in Metro’s basement received a makeover in 2006, slicking up the looks significantly and bringing back a vibrant crowd. Cutting-edge DJs from Europe, Detroit and Chicago form the bulk of the weekend bookings with house, techno and electro styles; but local house jocks rule on bargain Wednesday nights, and bass-heavy styles like dubstep, drum ’n’ bass and breaks get a weekly showcase on Thursdays.
m Sound-Bar 226 W Ontario St (312-787-4480, sound-bar.com). This slick, modern, multilevel Euro-style club in River North opened to much fanfare in 2004 and has kept clubbers busy ever since. On weekends, resident DJs, costumed dancers and a powerful sound create a spectacular scene in the multiroom venue. Touring big-name DJs in techno and progressive house usually play Friday nights with residents spinning house and electro on Saturdays. On long holiday weekends, the club squeezes in popular internationally oriented nights.
✽ Spy Bar 646 N Franklin St (312-337-2191, spybarchicago.com). This basement club in the River North gallery district has had the deep, underground techno sound on lock for some time now. It still has the illicit feel of an after-hours spot and premium sound for the big-name house, techno and electro DJs who visit weekly.
Subterranean 2011 W North Ave (773-278-6600, subt.net). This multilevel venue has survived a few noise violations to become more relevant than ever. The upstairs is devoted to a live stage, which features indie, garage, hip-hop and jammy acts nightly (see Music venues, Rock, pop & hip-hop). The downstairs bar touts a weekly lineup of hip-hop, reggae and house nights. It’s also one of the best places in town for 17-and-up shows.
✽ V Live 2047 N Milwaukee Ave (773-701-4111, vlivechicago.com). Since opening, this club has taken some time to settle into a formula that works—a switch in booking agents and a shooting haven’t helped—but this cavernous modern space now boasts multiple rooms, including VIP, and a soundtrack that runs from the Latin side of things to more populist Top 40 sounds.
Vision 632 N Dearborn St (312-266-1944, visionnightclub.com). Connected to the populist Excalibur in a castlelike building, the expansive Vision has multiple rooms of varying size (the dome, sky and the penthouse) where DJs pump out different styles, from trance to techno to progressive house. The biggest DJs in the world spin the main room.
✽ The Whistler 2421 N Milwaukee Ave (773-227-3530, whistlerchicago.com). Delicious epicurean cocktails might be the Logan Square bar’s forte, but the tiny room hosts more and more delightful underground pop shows and art exhibits. The crowd can’t reach triple digits, so intimacy with both the musicians and your neighbor’s elbows is inevitable.
Y Bar 224 W Ontario St (312-274-1880, ychicago.com). This long, modern room is decked out with sleek, low-lying furniture, and is the perfect spot for bottle service and canoodling with other Euro-minded audiophiles. Guys would be smart to wait until Thursday to drop by, though—that’s when models get in for free. If you’re going to press your luck, it might as well be with a model.