Bars in Wicker Park/Bucktown
Big Star The bar that took over the Pontiac space is just that: a bar. With whiskey shots, cheap beer and quick cocktails. Of course, if you can just drink and not partake of Paul Kahan’s tacos, you have more restraint than us. Braised lamb and pork belly have our names on them—but since each is about $3, you can afford to try them all. Which just about makes this the best thing to happen to Six Corners in some time. 1531 N Damen Ave (773-235-4039). El: Blue to Damen. Bus: 50, 56, 72. Sun–Fri 11:30am–2am; Sat 11:30am–3am. Average beer: $4.
Division Ale House Not so much Irish as Irishish, the latest bar to take advantage of Division’s double-wide sidewalks and doubly boisterous crowds has two focal points: a Tiffany-like stained-glass chandelier and 80-ounce, blender-shaped table taps with a block of ice in the middle that keeps booze chilled. The latter of which makes it easy to get doubly wasted. 1942 W Division St (773-384-6886). El: Blue to Division or Damen. Bus: 50, 70. Mon–Thu 4pm–2am; Fri, Sun 11am–2am; Sat 11am–3am. Average beer: $5.
The Exchange Small Bar’s Phil McFarland and Ty Fujimura have grown up, and apparently that means scrapping the club of their youth, Lava Lounge, and transforming it into a cocktail bar with drinks designed (and sometimes executed) by Sepia vet Peter Vestinos. The list is clever: It features punch bowls (for groups of four), as well as a section called “In The Ring,” whereby a classic cocktail—say, a Negroni—gets pitted against a retooled version. Though there’s no doubt they’re taking cocktails seriously here, there’s none of that Violet Hour pretentiousness. So expect grown-ups—but not those who are too grown up. 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.
Loft Six Ten This loungey, two-story, two-years-in-the-making megabar appears to aim high with an extensive gastropub menu and cocktail list. But inside, this is as close as Chicago gets to Jersey Shore: It’s beer, shots and Ed Hardy–bedecked scenesters as far as the eye can see. 1332 N Milwaukee Ave (312-772-5017). El: Blue to Division. Bus: 9, 56, 70. Wed–Fri 7pm–2am; Sat 7pm–3am. Average beer: $5.
6 Corners Sports Bar Think Wicker Park ain’t what it used to be? Yeah, no kidding. Take this bar: It’s clean and not the least bit “edgy,” and everyone is just so…nice…and friendly…and chatty. And the food—most of it fried and goofily organized around sauces—isn’t bad at all. So, yes, you might as well be on Weed Street. But tell us why that’s a bad thing again? 1950 W North Ave (773-235-5700). El: Blue to Damen. Bus: 50, 56, 72. Mon–Fri 5pm–2am; Sat 10am–3am; Sun 11am–2am. Average beer: $4.
6 Degrees If ever there was a cursed space, it’s the former Darwin’s/Whiskey Road/Chinaski’s. The latest inhabitant has done away with the gimmicks and opened the doors onto the sidewalk with a list of decent beers and margaritas. If friendly servers, exposed brick and a diverse jukebox don’t cut it, the new owners offer one appeal to gluttonous patrons: the Horseshoe, an open-face sandwich laden with cheese fries. 1935 N Damen Ave (773-904-8812). El: Blue to Damen. Bus: 50, 56, 72. Mon–Thur 4pm–2am; Sun 11:30am–midnight; Fri 11:30am–2am; Sat 11:30am–3am. Average beer: $5.
Beachwood Inn No hipsters, no yuppies, no class-drawing lines here—just regular neighborhood folks in this one-room watering hole taking turns on the pool table or playing games like Scrabble and Connect Four. The scatterbrained decor (old movie posters, sports crap, beer memorabilia) is as random as the jukebox, which offers pre-’90s tunes from the Pretenders to Michael Jackson. 1415 N Wood St (773-486-9806). El: Blue to Division. Bus: 9, 56, 72. Mon–Thu 5pm–2am; Fri 4pm–2am; Sat 3pm–3am; Sun 3pm–2am. Average cocktail: $5. Cash only.
Bucktown Pub At first glance, it didn’t seem any different from other dark-wood neighborhood taverns. But then we noticed the psychedelic posters lining the walls, the bottomless baskets of free popcorn and the old man in the corner laughing his ass off at nothing. Is this bar high? 1658 W Cortland St (773-394-9898). Bus: 9, 50, 73. Sun–Fri 3pm–2am; Sat 3pm–3am. Average beer: $5.
Danny’s Tavern The floors of this converted Bucktown house shake so much from the weight of hot-footed trendsetters you’d think the place is seconds from caving in. Most of the dancing is set to a mix of hip-hop, electro and rock on the weekends (and the insanely popular first-Wednesday-of-the-month funk party called Sheer Magic), but there are plenty of nooks and crannies to sit back, relax and people-watch. 1951 W Dickens Ave (773-489-6457). El: Blue to Damen. Bus: 50, 73. Sun–Fri 7pm–2am; Sat 7pm–3am. Average cocktail: $5.
Debonair Social Club Early in the evening at this bilevel hangout, the video art on the wall is the room’s main source of light, giving off a cool, sultry cocktail-lounge vibe. But it’s the calm before the storm: When the weekly parties (like Rehab and No Tell Motel) get going, the place is packed with clubby scenesters and frantic bass lines—so if you’re here for the quiet, enjoy it while you can. 1575 N Milwaukee Ave (773-227-7990). El: Blue to Damen. Bus: 50, 56, 72. Sun–Fri 10pm–2am; Sat 10pm––3am. Average cocktail: $7.
Handlebar Bar & Grill The multiple bike racks out back are packed with every kind of two-wheeler imaginable no matter the time of year at this biker bar (and by biker, we mean bicycle-r). Eco-minded folks chat over tasty vegan fare (the barbecue seitan is great), check out each other’s rides and sample from the ample list of diverse drafts. 2311 W North Ave (773-384-9546). El: Blue to Damen. Bus: 49, 50, 72. Mon–Thu 10am–midnight; Fri 10am–2am; Sat 10am–2am; Sun 10am–midnight. Average beer: $5.
Lemmings Don’t take the name literally: There’s a nice crowd here, but the joint isn’t packed with followers, so you can usually find a seat to soak up the comforting vibe. We want to keep this place low-key, and were almost hesitant to tell you about it, but we’re running out of competition on Ms. Pac-Man and the pool table. 1850 N Damen Ave (773-862-1688). El: Blue to Damen. Bus: 50, 56, 73. Mon–Fri 4pm–2am; Sat noon–3am; Sun noon–2am. Average beer: $5.
Marie’s Rip Tide Lounge The legendary silver fox for whom this 4am bar is named (Marie Wuczynski) has made less frequent appearances in her tired years, but the lounge is never quite the same without her. If you luck out and find her behind the bar, she’ll be the one alternating Jäger shots and jokes that use kitty synonyms for punch lines. 1745 W Armitage Ave (773-278-7317). Bus: 9, 73. Sun–Fri 8am–4am; Sat 8am–5am. Average cocktail: $5.
Salud Tequila Lounge Take a cue from the name and go for the nectar of the agave gods at this clubby, Mexican-themed lounge. If you’ve taken up residence along the sidewalk patio, opt for your tequila in ’rita form to maximize your tropical experience. Salsa sounds blend with bass-heavy bangers to get the crowd going on weekends, but Tuesdays are almost as busy with $5 sangria pitchers. 1471 N Milwaukee Ave (773-235-5577). El: Blue to Damen. Bus: 50, 56, 72. Sun–Fri 5pm–2am; Sat 5pm–3am. Average cocktail: $7.
Subterranean Just off one of the busiest intersections in hipland, this venue has a place for those seeking concerts—and for those simply seeking beer. The upstairs is devoted to a live stage, which features indie, garage, hip-hop and jammy acts nightly. The downstairs bar serves as a cozy dance den for locals to let loose. The weekly lineup includes hip-hop, reggae and some very fine mod and soul nights. 2011 W North Ave (773-278-6600). El: Blue to Damen. Bus: 50, 56, 72. Sun–Fri 8pm–2am; Sat 8pm–3am. Average beer: $3.