When visiting a new city, you can tackle it in one of two ways: as tourist or traveler. As a tourist, you can hit all the popular attractions and stick to larger, well-known chain restaurants. But where’s the fun in that? If you want to dig deeper, approach the city as a traveler and discover where locals like to go for fun, dinner, and drinks. These spots are often found deep inside neighborhoods, away from the main tourist drags. Here, we present six options to drink like a local in Chicago, a city that always finds reason to celebrate.
Steps off Millennium Park on Michigan Avenue, The Gage is a perfect respite from the throngs of people hitting Pritzker Pavilion, the Art Institute and other attractions along the Cultural Mile. This upscale pub, awash in moss green subway tile, a long wooden bar and plenty of locals packing in for lunch and after work, offers a refined menu including P.E.I. mussels vindaloo, fish and chips and a deliciously stacked venison burger. As for drinks? They have a wide selection of beer and cider, but the rare whiskey collection and “Somm Treasure Chest” featuring unique wines at accessible prices are can’t-miss.
Plymouth Restaurant & Rooftop Bar
Whether you’re ducking into the restaurant for lunch or hitting the lively rooftop at dusk, the Plymouth is one of the best haunts in the Loop. Frequented by workers escaping the office, the Plymouth is a laid-back place to grab pub grub with a shot and a beer. The ground-level bar is always welcoming, but it’s the year-round rooftop bar that’s the real draw. Overlooking Harold Washington Library, the rooftop is a special spot in the heart of the bustling Loop to gather with friends or coworkers. Inexpensive daily specials like $6 martinis or $4 Blue Moon pints will keep you coming back for more.
The Broken Shaker
There are plenty of places to drink in River North, and plenty of great spots with excellent cocktail programs, but the Broken Shaker draws in locals looking for refuge in an often-crazy neighborhood. Set in the back of the Freehand Hotel, this uber-hip lounge-meets-Northwoods-Wisconsin-bar seems made for Instagram. With decor and other furnishings sourced from vintage shops and flea markets, and bartenders mixing fresh juices with handcrafted elixirs made from seasonal and local ingredients, Broken Shaker is a place to document and remember.
There’s no question that Fulton Market’s Randolph Street Restaurant Row is one of the hottest dining destinations in the country. For those times when you want to avoid the glitz factor and duck in for a classic cocktail or craft beer in an unpretentious spot, there’s Lone Wolf. From the team behind other popular neighborhood joints Bar DeVille and Pub Royale, Lone Wolf offers a daily rotating draft beer selection and a cocktail list section dedicated to a variety of Old Fashioned. As they say, mark your territory.
Logan Square’s Best Intentions is your favorite new dive bar. The somewhat ironically tag-lined “fancy cocktail bar” is one of the city’s best hipster hangs without any pretense or attitude. Decked out in cheeky signage, eclectic photos, trinkets and more, the bar serves a solid (and strong) cocktail… and a delicious bar menu of food. Looking for a tucked-away, cool neighborhood spot with a wide open, tree-covered backyard patio? You just found it.
Seeking a quintessential neighborhood watering hole to gather for great drinks, food and conversation with friends? That would be Fountainhead. This Ravenswood spot has one of the most extensive craft beer lists (in cans, bottles and on draft), but its global whiskey selection (think bourbon, Irish, Scotch, Canadian and more) is one of Chicago’s best. From the team behind Uptown’s Bar on Buena and the new cider-focused North Center spot, The Northman, Fountainhead also offers refined pub grub that isn’t afraid to showcase game meats and ethnic flavors. Oh, and did we mention their airy roof deck? That alone is worth the trip.
While the possibility for adventure is open, one thing is for sure—booking an IHG® hotel in Chicago is your best bet.