50 unknown bars: Unsung but lovable dives, lounges and taverns.
Chicago dives, lounges and taverns.
THE FAMILY DEN LOUNGE
If the DJ spinning old-school rap, R&B and house doesn’t get your feet moving, perhaps the packed dance floor will. Featuring one of the most active dance floors on the South Side, this unofficially over-thirties-only club is made for those who come to shake it. Don’t expect an extensive drink or beer list, but do expect to see blues musicians, slam poets or R&B songstresses light up the house on Thursday open-mic nights. Extra shot Go for Ebony’s Drink ($7.50)—a concoction of mixed berry Stoli, cranberry and pineapple—invented by the eponymous waitress. 8940 S Stony Island Ave (773-734-8545).—Christina Couch
Just south of the Harlem Blue Line station, this black-windowed storefront houses a surprisingly sleek Bulgarian nightspot. Blood-red walls, plush black sofas and silver banquettes create a vibe worthy of the bar’s name, while stylishly dressed young women kibbitz in Bulgarian over throbbing Eurodisco. The cuisine, a mix of Mediterranean and Slavic influences, includes katino meze, a mix of fried chicken, pork and beef tongue with mushrooms, onions, pickles, garlic and feta. Wash it down with a Shumensko, a Bulgarian beer ($5). Extra shot A spiky-haired bartender juggles bottles and glasses à la Tom Cruise in Cocktail. 5241 N Harlem Ave (773-594-9742).—John Greenfield
CAL-HARBOR RESTAURANT AND LOUNGE
Described by bartender Donna Krask as “just a sit-down, shot-and-beer kind of place,” the divey lounge addition to the diner is a no-frills blue-collar joint where you can sip a brew and be left in peace. The only alcohol-serving establishment in the Pullman area (the neighborhood’s original design forbade booze), the lounge stays open until 11pm on most nights (2am if it’s really rockin’), but patrons must enter through the side door after the main restaurant closes at 5:45pm. Extra shot Beers cost about $2.50, while a mixed drink runs just $1 more (bring your bills—it’s cash only). 546 E 115th St (773-264-5435).—Christina Couch
A cozy Wisconsin supper club transported to Chicago’s Southwest Side, Richie’s has dished up hearty fare with an Italian accent for city workers in Mount Greenwood since 1999. The old-school dining room features fake grapevines hanging from the ceiling, and menu highlights include oysters Rockefeller and stuffed eggplant. On a Tuesday afternoon, owner and self-taught chef Richie Podogork sits at the bar with equally brawny local dudes, telling the story of how his ’63 Super Sport ran out of oil on the way back from the vacation resort he owns in Wisconsin, frying the engine. Extra shot On Sundays, the bar offers 50 martinis for only $5 each. 3123 W 111th St (773-298-1548).—John Greenfield
676 RESTAURANT AND BAR
How can a bar sitting on prime Mag Mile property be unsung? It’s a mystery, but we don’t mind, because for an after-work cocktail there’s perhaps no better perch than one of this bar’s window seats. Gazing at the expansive view of Michigan Avenue and the Water Tower, chatting with the impossibly friendly servers and drinking the stiff (if not exactly mind-blowing) cocktails, you’ll wonder why you don’t hang out on the Mag Mile more often. Extra shot It has one of the best cheese selections of any bar in the city. 676 N Michigan Ave (312-944-7676).—David Tamarkin