Fancy cocktails and conceptual decor are great and all, but sometimes you just need a bar with dim lighting and a cheap beer-and-a-shot special.
We spend a good amount of our time in these dive bars around town—”diamonds in the rough” if you will—and we can assure you they’ll get the job done. From pleasant, neighborhood hangout vibes to prices that will please your bank account, here are the reasons why these spots are our favorite dive bars in Chicago.
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2801 W. Chicago Ave. – Humboldt Park
It’s 1:45 a.m. Your night isn’t over yet. And everyone knows the best decisions are made after 2 a.m. That’s what The Continental is there for. If you watch the sun come up on your way home from shooting pool and throwing back shots at this late night bar just south of Humboldt Park, you know you did it right.
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1818 W. Foster Ave. – Bowmanville
If you’ve ever been to Big Joe’s, it was likely for Friday night turtle races, but you should venture back any of night of the week for hangs at a classic Chicago corner bar that’s homier than your childhood basement.
PHOTO VIA FACEBOOK/BERNICE’S TAVERN
3238 S. Halsted St. – Bridgeport
Bernice’s is an old school South Side hangout filled with both a patronage and tchotchkes that probably pre-date you by a few years. Don’t be afraid to bring some fresh faces into this bar—just be sure to respect your elders.
1665 W. Fullerton Ave. – Lincoln Park
Liar’s Club is the site of hundreds of memorable moments in Chicago rock history—and a lot of nights we can’t remember, too.
3556 W. Belmont Ave. – Avondale
If you believe your singing voice really improves after 2 a.m., you might want to visit Alice’s in Avondale to put that theory to the test. What this karaoke bar lacks in decor and general upkeep, it makes up for in song selection.
PHOTO VIA FACEBOOK/THE CORNER BAR
2224 N. Leavitt St. – Bucktown
Regulars at The Corner Bar—and, believe us, there are plenty of them—will tell you that it’s the best bar in Chicago. Don’t bother asking them why, just go and don’t act surprised when none of your drinks cost over $5.
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832 N. Greenview Ave. – West Town
Not only is Chipp Inn over 100 years old…well, actually, that is the most important thing to note about this West Town stalwart. Don’t worry, the pool table and jukebox aren’t nearly as old as the bar itself.
219 W. North Ave. – Old Town
Where to start with Old Town Ale House’s history? The bar, which opened in 1958, is located across the street from Second City and has served many of your favorite comedians over the years. Yes, it was a favorite of late great Chris Farley. You’ll also notice some unique, often satirically political artwork adorning the walls. It’s all done by the current owner, Bruce Elliott. Our best advice? Walk into this place on a quiet night and strike up a friendly conversation with the bartender. You’ll likely be amazed at the stories you’ll hear.
2338 N. Milwaukee Ave. – Logan Square
If you consider Logan Square one of Chicago’s largest hipster hubs, this is the place to blame. Cole’s was serving cheap beer to art community members and local musicians long before the neighborhood attained its “cool” status.
2656 N. Lincoln Ave. – Lincoln Park
Oh, the memories. Lincoln Park has seen a lot of change as the neighborhood has grown more family-friendly and gentrified over the years—and Rose’s has never given a damn about any of that. It’s where hundreds (probably even thousands) of DePaul students have learned how to drink whiskey. It’s home to the comfiest beer-stained couches in town. We just love it.
PHOTO VIA FACEBOOK/GOLD STAR BAR
1755 W. Division St. – Wicker Park
Is your head spinning from all the new businesses and bars opening up on Division Street? Duck into this place where things haven’t changed too much since it opened in the 1930s.
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1150 N. Damen St. – Wicker Park
Remember that time Liz Phair took a photo booth picture of herself (these were pre-selfie days) and decided to make it the cover of her best-known album, Exile In Guyville? Yep, that happened at Rainbo Club. In the ’90s, this was the spot for Chicago rockstars. Visit enough times and you might still catch a few there hiding behind their pint glasses.
PHOTO VIA FACEBOOK/HAPPY VILLAGE
1059 N. Wolcott Ave. – Wicker Park
Possibly the most aptly named dive bar in Chicago, it’s nearly impossible to not feel happy at Happy Village. The spacious patio is one of our favorite places to plop down in a plastic lawn chair in the summer. Its ping pong tables keep us (somewhat) active during the winter months. It’s a place for friends to gather and have a good time year round.
491 N. Milwaukee Ave. – River West
Things you can do in Richard’s Bar: Smoke cigs. Order hard-boiled eggs from behind the bar. Use the jukebox as a method of musically transporting back to past decades of the bar’s nearly hundred-year history.
PHOTO VIA FACEBOOK/ROSSI’S LIQUORS
412 N. State St. – River North
We always say the best kind of bar is one that you can grab the beer out of the fridge yourself. You can do just that at Rossi’s. In a neighborhood overrun with bars trying to be the newest, best and most innovative in the city, it’s nice to take shelter in this River North holdout from time to time.
2149 S. Halsted St. – Pilsen
If there is an alternate reality Chicago where chair legs are all even and pierogis aren’t considered the world’s best bar snack, we don’t want to know about it. Luckily Skylark is keeping us perfectly grounded (and buzzed) in the real world.
1935 W. Thomas St. – Wicker Park
Let us count the ways we love Innertown Pub. We love being greeted by a life-size Elvis statue. We love “grab bag” beer specials. We love single-stall bathrooms bigger than our first apartments. We love bars that know their neighborhood and love thy neighbors. Shoot, now we want a drink.
PHOTO VIA FACEBOOK/ARCHIE’S IOWA ROCKWELL TAVERN
2600 W. Iowa St. – Ukrainian Village
Pro-tip: If you find yourself in a place with a giant swordfish hanging over the bar, free pool and a communal barrel of cheeseballs being passed around, you definitely made a good choice at some point in the night because you’re at Archie’s.
3207 N. Clark St. – Lakeview
The current Belmont and Clark intersection pales in comparison to its punk-rock prime in the ’80s and ’90s, but L&L Tavern remains. (Thank the whiskey gods for that.) If you’re looking for a jukebox filled with poppy, Hot 100 hits and bar stools that aren’t held together with duct tape, don’t pass through these doors.
1658 W. Barry Ave. – Lakeview
Is there a dog sitting on the bar stool next to you? Are you mindlessly gobbling pretzel sticks off the bar? Did you just read some of the best bathroom stall wall literature you’ve ever seen? Congratulations, you’ve arrived at Cody’s. Feels good, huh?
PHOTO VIA FACEBOOK/THE NATIVE
2417 N. Milwaukee Ave. – Logan Square
Now, we admit we were a bit concerned when we heard the former home of Bonny’s was being invaded by a new concept. No complaints here though. The Native is just what Logan Square was missing. Dark and unassuming, this place captures the spirit of a neighborhood dive without trying to be kitschy or simply something its not.
PHOTO VIA FACEBOOK/BIG CHICKS
5024 N. Sheridan Rd. – Uptown
There’s more to Big Chicks than its famed $1 burger night on Mondays, but we can’t not mention it. The Uptown dive has been a destination for Chicago’s LGBTQ+ community to drink, dance and dine for decades.
3281 W. Armitage Ave. – Logan Square
Setting out to open a dive bar can be a regrettable decision. A dive bar is not typically consciously created. It’s seasoned and aged into existence. However, in the case of Best Intentions, we have to give kudos. The walls are cluttered with the perfect amount of junk. The lighting is just right. The drinks, while a bit more complex than we’re used to in our favorite dives, are delicious. We’re welcoming this Logan Square spot into the club!
5210 N. Clark St. – Andersonville
Simon’s seasonal mulled wine (aka glögg) alone makes it worth the trip to Andersonville. This place is a great place to pop into any time of the year though and leave as tipsy as the fish that hangs from its neon sign.
6809 N. Sheridan Rd. – Rogers Park
When you’re hanging out on the North Side and the 2 a.m. bars have all shut down for the evening, well, there’s an Oasis in your future—literally. With pool, darts and Sunday night karaoke, you’ll have plenty to keep you busy at this Rogers Park tavern into the wee hours of the morning.
PHOTO COURTESY OF EMPTY BOTTLE
1035 N. Western Ave. – Ukrainian Village
When it comes to no-frills rock clubs and bars in Chicago, Empty Bottle takes the cake. Don’t ever change. You’re beautiful just the way you are.
PHOTO VIA FACEBOOK/THE MATCHBOX
770 N. Milwaukee Ave. – River West
This place isn’t kidding with its name. It’s tiny. And considering the space only gets more narrow the further back you walk, getting to the bathroom can be a real adventure on a crowded night. That said, it’s got great vibes and the cocktails are surprisingly high brow.
PHOTO VIA FACEBOOK/PHYLLIS’ MUSICAL INN
1800 W. Division St. – Wicker Park
Opened in 1954, Phyllis’ was influential in making Wicker Park the creative hub during the ’90s and Chicago’s alt-rock heydays. The bar still hosts live music most nights and, frankly, doesn’t look much different than it did in the ’90s—or in the ’50s for that matter.