Best gay bars in Chicago: Our favorites in Boystown and beyond
Boystown is the center of the gay scene in Chicago. But great gay bars can be found everywhere from downtown to Uptown.
From dance clubs to chill hangouts to sporty pubs, there's a gay bar in Chicago for every type. The best part: They're not all in Boystown!
RECOMMENDED: Full list of the best bars in Chicago
Berlin This freak-friendly dance destination in Lakeview built its reputation back in the mid-’80s with a mix of German new-wave music, art installations and even transvestite shows. These days, it’s still quirky but more retro, with Prince-tribute, disco and ’80s nostalgia nights. Goths and gays are extra welcome, but the scene here is made up of almost everyone. Thursday night's Stardust is a major locus of nightlife creativity. 954 W Belmont Ave (773-348-4975, berlinchicago.com). Tue, Sun 10pm–4am; Wed–Fri 5pm–4am; Sat 5pm–5am (closed Mon). Average cocktail: $5.
Big Chicks Not a Boystown fan? Skip the stand-and-model parade and head to this laid-back Uptown saloon, where community matriarch Michelle Fire serves up tasty victuals to sunburned boys and girls at her famous Sunday buffets and keeps the rest of the week happening with tons of food and drink specials (like buck burgers on Mondays) and all-out dance parties on weekends. 5024 N Sheridan Rd (773-728-5511, bigchicks.com). Mon–Fri 4pm–2am; Sat 9am–3am; Sun 10am–2am. Average cocktail: $5.
The Closet This teeny taproom is a good stone’s throw from the hustle and muscle of Halsted Street’s rowdy boy bars, and that’s just the way this clientele likes it. Plenty of ladies hang here until the midnight hour, but the boys crash the party shortly thereafter, creating one of the few truly mixed queer scenes in the city. 3325 N Broadway (773-477-8533, theclosetchicago.com). Mon–Fri 4pm–4am; Sat noon–5am; Sun noon–4am. Average cocktail: $6.
Crew Bar and Grill Whether you’re hungry for baseball, football, rugby or just beer, this straight-friendly gay sports bar will work. Forty beers on tap (75 total), tasty (and even healthy) pub grub, lots of TVs and a rah-rah decor make this a fun place to cheer for your team, whatever team you’re on. 4804 N Broadway (773-784-2739, worldsgreatestbar.com). Mon–Wed 11:30am–midnight; Thu, Fri 11:30am–2am; Sat 11am–2am; Sun 11am–midnight. Average beer: $4.
Downtown It’s not Gentry (R.I.P., catty piano player cracking jokes about our ugly shoes), but are we complaining? No. Because not only does this place attract one of the more diverse gay crowds in the city, but it’s also the closest gay enclave to the Loop. 440 N State St (312-464-1400, downtownbarandlounge.com). Mon–Fri 3pm–2am; Sat 3pm–3am; Sun 3pm–2am. Average cocktail: $6.
Elixir At this shoebox of a cocktail bar, the drinks are skillfully prepared, the crowd is kept to a minimum by the doorman, and the music never gets so loud that it drowns out your insights on Jean Genet. The clientele is mixed in age but not in gender, and everyone is on their best behavior, which makes it an altogether more sophisticated and adult experience than Elixir’s next-door sister, Hydrate. 3452 N Halsted St (773-975-9244, elixirchicago.com). Sun–Wed 6pm–2am; Thu 6pm–3am; Fri 6pm–4am; Sat 6pm–5am. Average cocktail: $11.
The Glenwood At first glance, this place looks like your typical yuppie sports bar, but the vastly male clientele, plum and ochre walls adorned with abstract art, and Kylie Minogue soundtrack reveal it to be Rogers Park’s straightest-acting gay bar. It’s also dog-friendly and offers a nice selection of retro cocktails like sidecars and lime rickeys. 6962 N Glenwood Ave (773-764-7363, theglenwoodbar.com). Mon–Fri 3pm–2am; Sat 3pm–3am; noon–2am. Average cocktail: $6.
Mary's Attic Don't expect this upstairs bar to vaunt a granny's attic vibe. Given that it sits above the gay-friendly Hamburger Mary's, it's more like a tranny's attic what with the rampant kitsch, rowdy karaoke nights and fringe theater dominating the Attic's tiny stage. 5400 N Clark St (773-784-6969, hamburgermaryschicago.com). Mon–Fri 5pm–2am; Sat 10:30am–3am; Sun 10:30am–2am. Average cocktail: $5.
Parlour on Clark How does a Far North Side taproom open during a recession-stressed economy and become an instant successs? Credit a neighborhood hungry for a low-key and friendly LGBT bar with an all-inclusive vibe, solid DJs and indie queer performances to keep things interesting. 6341 N Clark St (773-564-9274, parlourbarchicago.com). Tue–Fri 6pm–2am; Sat 6pm–3am; Sun 4pm–2am (closed Mon). Average cocktail: $5.
Scarlet Bar This ballyhooed Boystown hangout boasts elegant touches, including a 13-foot re-upholstered couch, a comfy antique chaise and a glittery vintage disco ball. There's just enough elbow room, perfect for the loyal and adorable bar staff and bustling theme nights like Frat House Thursdays and the Wednesday "Study Break." 3320 N Halsted St (773-348-1053, scarletbarchicago.com). Tue 8pm–2am; Wed–Fri 6pm–2am; Sat 5pm–3am; Sun 1pm–2am. Average cocktail: $6.
Sidetrack If size matters, there’s no better bar in Boystown than this well-hung hot spot. Six big rooms—we like the bustling Glass Bar—are all packed with cute, frisky boys distracting themselves with the same three things: the videos on the wall, the drink in their hand and the ass in your jeans. 3349 N Halsted St (773-477-9189, sidetrackchicago.com). Sun–Fri 3pm–2am; Sat 3pm–3am. Average cocktail: $6.
Wang's After Henry Chang got a liquor license for his formerly BYOB eatery Wakamono, he promptly built Boystown’s best bar. The intimate space is, like all of Chang’s projects, highly stylized, employing lush, floral wallpaper and woodwork the likes of which you’ve seen only in an opium den. It might be a restaurant bar, but it has a style, vibe and—thanks to refreshing pear martinis—a taste all its own. 3317 N Broadway (773-296-6800). Mon–Thu, Sun 5pm–midnight; Fri, Sat 5pm–2am. Average cocktail: $7.