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.