Down 'n' dirty drinkin'
Belford Tavern The selling point here is the big $2 fishbowl schooners of MGD, the big draw for the lunchtime crowd of blue-collar types drinking the day’s meal. As one regular puts it: “No jukebox, no pool, no video games, no food—no nuthin’ but drinks.” This simple motto extends to the “patio,” which shifts between a couple of chairs pulled onto the sidewalk so regulars can yell at passing motorists and a table in back that serves as a centerpiece for smokers post-ban. 3200 N Pulaski Rd at Belmont Ave (773-725-7112). Bus: 53, 56, 77 (24hrs). Sun–Fri 11am–2am; Sat 11am–3am. Average beer: $2.
Blue Frog Three things reign supreme at this long-standing good-times spot: karaoke (which starts nightly at 10pm), board games (from Scrabble to Operation) and electric-hued cocktails that the matronly bartender claims will “mess you up.” Don’t believe her? The signature Blue Frog has vodka, gin, rum, melon liqueur, blue curacao, sour and Sprite, enough crap to convince you the patio is floating. 676 N LaSalle St between Erie and Huron Sts (312-943-8900). El: Red to Grand. Bus: 22, 66, 156. Mon–Thu 11:30am–midnight; Fri 11:30am–2am; Sat 6pm–3am (closed Sun). Average beer: $5.
Cal’s Liquors Your view from the sidewalk chairs is as bleak as the inside of this tiny dive favorite, but that’s part of the charm. The El rumbles overhead, barely drowning out sloppy local bands, while bike messengers pedal up to join career drunks throwing back $2 Old Styles. If you show up and don’t see chairs outside, it might be because Cal or his nephew who runs the joint just didn’t put them out. Ask for one, but be prepared for a “go fuck yourself” if they’re feeling surly. 400 S Wells St at Van Buren St (312-922-6392). El: Brown, Orange, Purple (rush hrs) to LaSalle. Mon–Thu 7am–7pm; Fri 7am–2am; Sat 7pm–2am. Average beer: $3.
Happy Village A gurgling goldfish pond, endless picnic tables and lush greenery all around is the scene at this West Town dive (true, from outside you could fool yourself into thinking it’s pretty spiffy, but the inside rec room and PBR buckets still equate dive to us). When it rains (or when the garden closes for the night), it’s back inside, where the smell of whiskey mingles with the smell of cheap beer, and the jukebox coughs out the Cars and Madonna. 1059 N Wolcott Ave at Thomas St (773-486-1512). El: Blue to Division. Bus: 50 Damen, 70 Division. Mon–Fri 4pm–2am; Sat 3pm–3am; Sun 4pm–11pm. Average beer: $3.