Bangers & Lace The Mas space has been brought back to life by the owners of Bar DeVille (hence the taxidermy on the walls) and Duchamp. “Bangers” stands for sausage (we dig the Chicago-style Vienna Beef over the fancier brat sandwiches), and “lace” for “Brussels lace,” i.e., beer foam on the edge of a glass. The stellar draft selection, two-ounce sample options and knowledgeable staff are likely what’s keeping the long communal table crowded, though it was the discovery the forest-meets-sauna bathrooms that convinced us we should never leave. 1670 W Division St (773-252-6499). El: Blue to Division. Bus: 9, 56, 70. Sun 11am–2am; Mon–Fri 4pm–2am; Sat 11am–3am. Average beer: $7.
Gunner’s How does this tavern turn out such a good margarita? Owners Eric and Dan Palm honed their skills for a combined 22 years at the Matchbox and the adjacent Silver Palm. Though their new bar is more spacious, they’ve brought a taste of their past with them: The margarita has the Matchbox’s signature powdered-sugar rim that coats your lips like candy, and gimlets are mixed with the maximum amount of fresh-squeezed lime juice, then shaken and poured tableside. Save the salud!-ing for the nearby Salud Tequila Lounge, though: The Palm bros might make great margaritas, but their bar’s vibe is a little more Cheers. 1467 N Milwaukee Ave (773-360-7650). El: Blue to Damen. Bus: 50, 56, 72. 5pm–2am. Average cocktail: $8.
Uberstein When Wrigleyville’s Bavarian-American sports bar opened an outpost in Wicker Park, we expected the manboy crowd would be making the transfer, too. But the picnic tables on the cozy, high-walled back patio here are filled with more friendly hipsters than rowdy Cubs fans, proving what the owner must have already known: Hofbrau drafts have tremendous crossover appeal. 1745 W North Ave (773-252-6053). El: Blue to Damen. Bus: 9, 56, 72. Mon–Thu 3pm–2am; Fri noon–2am; Sat noon–3am; Sun noon–midnight. Average beer: $6.
Blackhawk VFW Post 7975 With a drop ceiling and offices lining one side, the bar—which vets open to the public on Friday and Saturday nights for karaoke—has all the charm of a middle-school classroom. Luckily, sassy karaoke MC Bill Nowlin fills the stark room with his smooth singing voice, and if he likes your pipes, you earn a ring from his bell. Cool your jets with a $3 gin and tonic till the party people arrive after midnight. Foritfy your pipes with free bowls of hot, buttery popcorn. 1000 N Milwaukee Ave (773-252-5338). El: Blue to Division. Bus: 9, 56, 70. Fri, Sat 9pm–4am. Average beer: $3.
The Charleston Once a quintessential—i.e. run of the mill—dive bar, the Charleston was polished up not too long ago to include a proper cocktail menu, regular DJ nights and just the right amount of ambience. Perfect for dates or intimate gatherings, the bar boasts Tuesday night steampunk soirees and weekend selectors injecting ample doses of dusty rock, funk, soul and an indie dance cut or two. 2076 N Hoyne Ave (773-489-4757). El: Blue to Western. Bus: 49, 50. Mon–Fri 6pm–2am; Sat 4pm–3am; Sun 4pm–2am. Average beer: $4.
Danny’s Tavern 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. 1951 W Dickens Ave (773-489-6457). El: Blue to Damen. Bus: 50, 73. Sun–Fri 7pm–2am; Sat 7pm–3am. Average beer: $5.
Estelle’s Not feeling Subterranean’s music for the night? Can’t take the hipper-than-thou crowd at Rainbo? Prefer a place less clubby than Debonair? Head to this low-key sanctuary at the Milwaukee-North-Damen intersection. No one’s trying to out-cool anyone here (though late at night, they’re definitely trying to pick each other up), so feel free to strike up a conversation with a stranger over some tasty late-night bar eats, served till 3am. 2013 W North Ave (773-782-0450). El: Blue to Damen. Bus: 50, 56, 72. Sun–Fri 7pm–4am; Sat 7pm–5am. Average cocktail: $5.
The Exchange The former dance club Lava Lounge (well, technically the second incarnation of Lava) was transformed into quite a solid cocktail bar. The list is clever: Punch bowls for groups of four and a smackdown that pits a classic cocktail against a retooled version. Though there’s no doubt they’re taking cocktails seriously, there’s no pretentiousness: So don’t bother trying to act too much like an adult. 1270 N Milwaukee Ave (773-342-5282). El: Blue to Division. Bus: 9, 56, 70. Sun–Fri 6pm–2am; Sat 6pm–3am. Average cocktail: $10.
Map Room You couldn’t fit another beer on the killer list or another Bucktown local in this cozy tavern on Tuesdays, a.k.a. “International Night.” This weekly party brings in food from a different ethnic spot around town—plates are free with an order of two drinks. If you’re a more low-key drinker but like the vibe, stop by in the a.m., when the Map Room functions as a coffeehouse. 1949 N Hoyne Ave (773-252-7636). El: Blue to Western. Bus: 49, 50, 73. Mon–Fri 6:30am–2am; Sat 7:30am–3am; Sun 11am–2am. Average beer: $5.