Chicago Dive Bar Guide

Unique, Neighborhood Dives Every Block

Cataloging the Chicago dive bar scene is a daunting task. Midwestern drinking is a time-honored tradition and when mixed with a few hundred years of history and lake effect snow, the dive bar conditions are favorable. As a result, the rolling expanse of Chicago brings with it a patchwork of neighborhood dive bars, each unique, each catering to a separate micro-community in a city full of them.

Uniquely loved in Chicago is the dive bar “slashie,” the term given to hybrid businesses with liquor licenses old enough to allow on-site and to-go sales. That means places like Rossi’s Liquors downtown and Rite Liquors in Ukrainian Village offer the chance to sit down for a shot of Malort and grab a six-pack of Old Style for the road. Because these licenses aren’t available anymore, slashies are a dying breed but offer some of the best divey drinking in the city.

In a city where so much has happened, inevitably the dive bar stories can be fairly unique, from the serial killer-tinged history of L&L Tavern to the nautically-inspired Simon’s Tavern complete with Viking fish neon sign. Rainbo Club can stake a claim to the independent music scene of early 1990s Chicago and Shinnick’s Pub can tout itself as an Irish institution and one of the oldest in the city at that.

On every corner there’s a new discovery, making a bar crawl around the city a good idea no matter where it starts. Nisei Lounge in Wrigleyville, The Cove Lounge in Hyde Park and this reviewer’s favorite, Inner Town Pub in Ukrainian Village, they and so many great dive bars like them offer perfect launching points to explore one of the world’s great (drinking) cities.

Chicago Dive Bar Reviews

Ranked Order

Johnnie's Glenn Avenue Grill - Columbus Dive Bar Exterior

Inner Town Pub

Possibly the perfect dive bar, Inner Town Pub mixes dim light, stained glass and a mysterious illuminated sign.
Review Rating: 10 of 10
Johnnie's Glenn Avenue Grill - Columbus Dive Bar Exterior

Rite Liquors

A classic Chicago "slashie" part dive bar, part liquor store and maybe the city's best example of both.
Review Rating: 10 of 10
Johnnie's Glenn Avenue Grill - Columbus Dive Bar Exterior

Rossi's Liquors

Downtown Chicago's dive bar soul, another hybrid liquor store and dive bar under a pitched roof.
Review Rating: 10 of 10
Johnnie's Glenn Avenue Grill - Columbus Dive Bar Exterior

Rose's Lounge

It's Christmas outside, it's Christmas inside, it's open when they feel like and it's unlike anything else.
Review Rating: 10 of 10
Johnnie's Glenn Avenue Grill - Columbus Dive Bar Exterior

Simon's Tavern

If you like dive bar neon that features Viking fish, this is our spot, modeled after a famous ocean liner.
Review Rating: 10 of 10
Johnnie's Glenn Avenue Grill - Columbus Dive Bar Exterior

L&L Tavern

Perfect people gazing spot that is perhaps too perfect thanks to a faint link to serial killers, plural.
Review Rating: 10 of 10
Johnnie's Glenn Avenue Grill - Columbus Dive Bar Exterior

Rainbo Club

The stage once hosted burlesque shows and the space thrived during the 1990s alt-music boom.
Review Rating: 9 of 10
Johnnie's Glenn Avenue Grill - Columbus Dive Bar Exterior

Old Town Ale House

If you like nude pictures of politicians, this is your dive bar, part art gallery, part political statement.
Review Rating: 9 of 10
Johnnie's Glenn Avenue Grill - Columbus Dive Bar Exterior

Chipp Inn

The quintessential neighborhood dive bar so old that no one knows exactly how old it may be.
Review Rating: 9 of 10
Johnnie's Glenn Avenue Grill - Columbus Dive Bar Exterior

Joe's on Broadway

There's a lot of Malort-fueled visual stimulation crammed into this tiny footprint.
Review Rating: 9 of 10
Johnnie's Glenn Avenue Grill - Columbus Dive Bar Exterior

Sovereign Liquors

Edgewater community anchor since the 1940s and home to a mix of regulars & students.
Review Rating: 8 of 10
Johnnie's Glenn Avenue Grill - Columbus Dive Bar Exterior

Ola's Liquors

Ola's features a few rows of liquor bottles, a counter to drink on and that's about it.
Review Rating: 8 of 10
Johnnie's Glenn Avenue Grill - Columbus Dive Bar Exterior

Archie's Iowa Rockwell Tavern

On the edge of Ukrainian Village, the perfect corner dive to start a crawl.
Review Rating: 8 of 10
Johnnie's Glenn Avenue Grill - Columbus Dive Bar Exterior

Shinnick's Pub

In the running for oldest dive bar in the city, a South Side White Sox Irish hub.
Review Rating: 8 of 10
Johnnie's Glenn Avenue Grill - Columbus Dive Bar Exterior

Reed's Local

Rare is the place that mixes VHS tapes and open mic nights in the same space.
Review Rating: 8 of 10
Johnnie's Glenn Avenue Grill - Columbus Dive Bar Exterior

Big Joe's

Turtle races, live Jeopardy and about a dozen other reasons to grab a beer.
Review Rating: 8 of 10
Johnnie's Glenn Avenue Grill - Columbus Dive Bar Exterior

Delilah's

Ground zero for the bourbon boom in America, with an epic sign too.
Review Rating: 8 of 10
Johnnie's Glenn Avenue Grill - Columbus Dive Bar Exterior

Skylark

The tiny sign contrasts the cavernous, bank lobby-style space inside.
Review Rating: 8 of 10
Johnnie's Glenn Avenue Grill - Columbus Dive Bar Exterior

Olde Town Inn

Elgin's oldest bar, tracing its history back to a 1927 BBQ joint on the same spot.
Review Rating: 8 of 10
Johnnie's Glenn Avenue Grill - Columbus Dive Bar Exterior

Zakopane

Named after a town in Poland with Polish beer and Polish liquor inside.
Review Rating: 7 of 10
Johnnie's Glenn Avenue Grill - Columbus Dive Bar Exterior

The Cove Lounge

Vaguely nautical, today featuring a massive Obama mural hovering over the proceedings.
Review Rating: 7 of 10
Johnnie's Glenn Avenue Grill - Columbus Dive Bar Exterior

Max's Place

It looks closed, in a good way, about as bare bones as a Chicago dive bar gets.
Review Rating: 7 of 10
Johnnie's Glenn Avenue Grill - Columbus Dive Bar Exterior

Nisei Lounge

Built for second-generation Asian-Americans, today the last dive in Wrigleyville.
Review Rating: 7 of 10
Johnnie's Glenn Avenue Grill - Columbus Dive Bar Exterior

Bob Inn

Comfortable, neighborhood corner spot that does the simple things perfectly.
Review Rating: 7 of 10
Johnnie's Glenn Avenue Grill - Columbus Dive Bar Exterior

The Corner Bar

Truth in advertising, to be sure, this corner spot mixes new surfaces and vintage elements.
Review Rating: 7 of 10
Johnnie's Glenn Avenue Grill - Columbus Dive Bar Exterior

Whirlaway Lounge

Whirlaway Lounge was founded with the winnings on Triple Crown longshot Whirlaway.
Review Rating: 6 of 10
Johnnie's Glenn Avenue Grill - Columbus Dive Bar Exterior

Riccochet's

Corner spot with a devotion to darts and a dose of on-tap Old Style.
Review Rating: 6 of 10
Johnnie's Glenn Avenue Grill - Columbus Dive Bar Exterior

Punky's Pub

Downtown Lombard, right off the train stop, perfect for pre- or post-work diversion.
Review Rating: 6 of 10
Johnnie's Glenn Avenue Grill - Columbus Dive Bar Exterior

Alice's Lounge

Karaoke is the clear drawing card here, a center island immersing the singer in the crowd.
Review Rating: 6 of 10
Johnnie's Glenn Avenue Grill - Columbus Dive Bar Exterior

Carol's Pub

Gentrified ex-dive with a deep history amid needed, business-saving renovations.
Review Rating: 5 of 10

Chicago Dive Bars Not Yet Reviewed

Must Visit Recommendations

Unfortunately, we have not yet been to every single dive bar in the city, but there probably a few more punch cards on our livers, so we’ll make it there soon. In the meantime, the curated list of dives below comes highly recommended by a variety of friends, online sources and drunks.

Bridgeport

Bernice's Tavern

3238 S Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60608
Google Map

East Ukrainian Village

Nilda's Place

1858 W Iowa St
Chicago, IL 60622
Google Map

Near North

Streeter's Tavern

50 E Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
Google Map

The Loop

Sky-Ride Cocktail Lounge

105 W Van Buren St
Chicago, IL 60605
Google Map

Other Dive Bar Options

Big Chicks

5024 N Sheridan Rd
Chicago, IL 60640
Google Map

Bridgeport Inn

2901 S Archer Ave
Chicago, IL 60608
Google Map

Burwood Tap

724 W Wrightwood Ave
Chicago, IL 60614
Google Map

Caminos de Michoacan

1659 W Cullerton St
Chicago, IL 60608
Google Map

Cole's Bar

2338 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
Google Map

Double Bubble

6036 N Broadway
Chicago, IL 60660
Google Map

Empty Bottle

1035 N Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60622
Google Map

Falcon Inn

1601 E 53rd St
Chicago, IL 60615
Google Map

Four Treys

3333 N Damen Ave
Chicago, IL 60618
Google Map

Galway Bay

500 W Diversey Pkwy
Chicago, IL 60614
Google Map

J&M Tap

957 N Leavitt St
Chicago, IL 60622
Google Map

Jaqueline's Lakeview East

3420 N Broadway
Chicago, IL 60657
Google Map

Jefferson Park Inn

4874 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60630
Google Map

Lange's Lounge

3500 N Southport Ave
Chicago, IL 60657
Google Map

Lemming's Tavern

1850 N Damen Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
Google Map

Liar's Club

1665 W Fullerton Ave
Chicago, IL 60614
Google Map

Liberty Lounge

3341 N Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60618
Google Map

Oakwood 83

1959 W Montrose Ave
Chicago, IL 60613
Google Map

Oasis Tavern

6809 N Sheridan Rd
Chicago, IL 60626
Google Map

Phyllis Musical Inn

1800 W Division St
Chicago, IL 60622
Google Map

Podlasie Pool Club

2918 N Central Park Ave
Chicago, IL 60618
Google Map

Reggies

2105 S State St
Chicago, IL 60616
Google Map

Richard's Bar

491 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60654
Google Map

Rosa's Lounge

3420 W Armitage Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
Google Map

Shamrock Club

210 Kinzie St
Chicago, IL 60654
Google Map

Sidekicks

4424 W Montrose Ave
Chicago, IL 60641
Google Map

Snickers Bar & Grill

448 N State St
Chicago, IL 60654
Google Map

Stella's Tap

935 N Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60622
Google Map

The Cabin

4104 N Pulaski Rd
Chicago, IL 60641
Google Map

The Burlington

3425 W Fullerton Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
Google Map

The Continental

2801 W Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60622
Google Map

The Lodge Tavern

21 W Division St
Chicago, IL 60610
Google Map

The North End

3733 N Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60613
Google Map

Turtle's Bar & Grill

238 W 33rd St
Chicago, IL 60616
Google Map

Woodlawn Tap

1172 E 55th St
Chicago, IL 60615
Google Map

What Did We Miss?

4 + 14 =

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