Best Nightlife in Chicago

With new bars popping up seemingly each week and last call at 4 am for late-night spots, Chicago is a city just made for partying. Whether you want to drop a cool few hundred on bottles of champagne or enjoy dollar beers at a small dive bar, there’s a range of options for all tastes.

Of course, everyone has a different style when it comes where they like to eat, drink, and dance. That’s why we’ve put together a guide to the best nightlife in Chicago based on what kind of vibe you’re looking for.

Best Tiki Bar: Three Dots and a Dash

This may seem oddly specific, but trust me—it’s worth checking out Chicago’s best tiki bar for the experience. Three Dots and a Dash offers a wide range of cocktails served in traditional tiki glassware, complete with the requisite flower and fruit garnishes. Because the venue is actually below street level, the lighting here is a bit dim any time of day, so it’s easy to lose track of time here! Choose from more than 200 different rums to customize your drinks.

 

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Best Margaritas: Mercadito

Hands-down favorite for best margaritas in a city just bursting with Mexican fare is Mercadito. They offer a variety of different distinctive cocktails alongside the margaritas, including an entire range of mezcal drinks. The décor is also particularly lush and evocative, making this another popular date night spot. Bonus: they’re also among the best for Mexican fare, including high-end craft tacos.

Best Date-Night Spot: Arbella

If you’ve got a bit of a healthy budget and are looking for that perfect special occasion destination, then look no further than Arbella. This gorgeously-appointed lounge serves up globally inspired cocktails alongside tasty small plates and a full food menu. They have a good happy hour from 5-7 during the week if you need to save some cash. Plus, Arbella also features innovative DJs on the weekend nights, making this a great party place, too.

 

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Best Happy Hour: Franklin Room

If you love inexpensive wine, cheap beer, and $1.50 oysters, Franklin Room’s happy hour should be on your list. The specials vary daily, but they always have dollar beer & wine plus $3 martinis at lunch time as well as oyster specials from 5-6:30 every day. Other specials include half-priced bottles of wine on Mondays and half-priced glasses of sparkling wine from Tuesday through Saturday.

 

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Best Irish Pub: Lady Gregory’s

This is a pretty tricky category to figure out in a city like Chicago where Irish heritage is strong, but Lady Gregory’s is unique enough to standout from the crowd. They feature Irish drafts plus an expansive whiskey menu (one of the best in the city), and offers cozy digs to hang out in. If you’re looking for food, Lady Gregory’s is an upscale option with farm-to-table Irish fare plus some unexpected extras.

Best Spot for Bubbles: Pops for Champagne

Enjoy cocktails and a frankly almost-intimidating champagne list at this upscale venue. They also have carefully-curated small bites plus frequent live jazz, making this another excellent option for a date night or special occasion, too. It’s also one of the city’s top night clubs, with its late-night music and even better late-night drinks.

 

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Best Beer Bar: Bangers & Lace

It’s hard to sum up what makes this Wicker Park legend practically perfect, but it comes down to some combination of their frequently-rotating draft beer list of more than 30 options and the curated vinyl sets the bartenders play. With funky décor and low-lighting, it’s a perfect place to spend a cold winter night, especially when you opt for that rare barrel-aged stout.

Best Sports Bar: Hopsmith Tavern

This is another tricky one, but I’m going to go with a personal favorite here. Hopsmith Tavern boasts dozens of draft beers that change regularly, plus cocktails and great happy hour deals. With televisions scattered all throughout this historic venue, you’ll enjoy the comfortable mix of the best of modern sports TV alongside River North charm. They also have a rewards program as part of Big Onion Tavern Group that’s worth signing up for if you live in the area and plan to hit up Hopsmith often.

 

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Best Dive Bar: Delilah’s

The punk-rock aesthetic of this grungy dive bar makes it the perfect setting for guzzling down their dollar beers. On the other hand, they also offer rare craft beers and whiskeys, so even your choosier friends can enjoy an evening here. There are frequent themed music nights, too, with everything from metal to country. Check out their periodic special events, like rare beer tasting festivals that bring out their special reserves for all to try.

Best Tap Room: Half Acre (Balmoral)

There are more tap rooms in Chicago than you can shake a stick at, but Half Acre’s new Balmoral location is by all reports (and my own experience) one of the best. It’s a bigger space than their original Lincoln Square location, and offers more diverse and rare beer. You can get bottles and drafts of only Half Acre beer, including brand new stuff they’re just trying out. They also have some tasty food to satiate your beer-induced cravings.

 

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Best Gastropub: Forbidden Root

A venue that also brews their own botanical beer, Forbidden Root in Ukrainian Village is something of a hidden gem. It’s off the beaten path for tourists but is well worth the bus ride to enjoy their wide-ranging explorations in the beer world. Try their strawberry basil hefeweizen, the boozy sparkling rosé ale, or any of their New England IPA series. It’s all brewed with extra botanical ingredients like herbs and fruits, making for a distinctive take on many popular beer varieties. Oh, and they have a delicious full menu—especially brunch.

There are obviously hundreds more bars in Chicago to choose from, but it would be futile to attempt a comprehensive list of all the best bars. These listed here are some of my personal favorites, and bars that I would recommend to friends. I hope you enjoy checking out these top spots for the best nightlife in Chicago.

And remember, always take public transit, a taxi, or a rideshare home after you’ve been out partying. It’s incredibly easy to find a taxi or Lyft/Uber in Chicago if you’re out after the CTA stops running. You can also download apps like Curb to request a taxi just like you would with Lyft. Have fun!

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Find out all about Chicago’s party of the year, St Patrick’s Day, and start planning your trip for next year. Or, plan your entire city vacation with our handy guide to Chicago.

The information contained in this post, to the best of the author's knowledge, was accurate at time of publishing. We do our best to ensure and maintain the accuracy of this information.

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