50 unknown bars: Unsung but lovable dives, lounges and taverns.
Chicago dives, lounges and taverns.
This 67-year-old family-run bar (the current owner’s dad, Archie, ran the bar for years before retiring) attracts Ukrainian Village and Humboldt Park cool kids and old-timers for free pool and affordable beers from Half Acre to Hamm’s. Vintage character abounds, such as a century-old cash register and a beautiful 1800s cherry bar-length cabinet from the family’s previous bar. If you drink one thing, make it a Zubrowka (a buffalo grass–flavored vodka from Poland)—usually served with apple juice. Extra shot Dennis Farina, formerly a cop in the area, filmed scenes from the upcoming movie Last Rites for Joe May here. 2600 W Iowa St (773-486-2626).—John Dugan
Plenty of bars can pour you an Old Style draft for $3. But only this divey spot, hidden in plain sight near the Berwyn Red Line stop, has its namesake Ollie Latiker pouring it for you. Patron saint of every Edgewater drinker, Miss Ollie slings drinks with palpable joy, even after 35 years behind the bar. Open at 10am most days and closing around when Letterman comes on the TVs, the bar looks imposing from the outside but sparkles inside like a vinyl-padded, wood-paneled midcentury rec room. Extra shot Booking a shindig here won’t cost you a dime. 1064 W Berwyn Ave (773-784-5712).—Karl Klockars
NILDA'S PLACE CHICAGO
This quaintly shabby 24-year-old bar couldn’t get any more throwback with its pink-and-green-painted walls, a singing bird named Coco and a cigarette vending machine with claw feet. The owner, 63-year-old Nilda Gonzalez, admits business has been slow, so the next time you’re in the mood for a beer, eschew West Town’s new cookie-cutter lounges and hit up this place instead. But fair warning: Neighborhood regulars report Gonzalez only opens the bar “when she feels like it.” Extra shot Gonzalez happily shares warm conversation and her delicious homemade Spanish rice. 1858 W Iowa St (no phone).—D.L. Hopkins
Begin with divey decor straight out of Papa Daley’s 1960s. Populate the barstools, church pews and La-Z-Boys with students and Rogers Park locals chatting or playing chess. Stock plenty of beers less than $5, including Berghoff Dark. Now set it all to a bartender-spun soundtrack that ranges from Modest Mouse to metal, courtesy of a huge vinyl collection (and CDs). The resulting neighborhood tavern has been Cunneen’s—two ns, two es, no credit cards—for almost 40 years. Extra shot How many bars smell like old record sleeves instead of stale beer? 1424 W Devon Ave (773-274-9317).—Angela Barnaby
VILLAIN'S BAR AND GRILL
When brothers Marco and Miguel Silva bought the Butcher’s Dog in 2007, it was your average, run-of-the-mill Irish bar. To say the brothers took the space and turned it on its head would be an understatement. The long, narrow room now has a Bonnie and Clyde–meets-baroque look, and the clientele has gone from old men to young South Loopers. The biggest change of all: The Silvas kicked the likes of Budweiser and Miller off their beer list to make room for 100-plus microbrews. Extra shot The bar’s burgers are all made with Dietzler Farms’ ethically raised beef. 649 S Clark St (312-356-9992).—David Tamarkin