In partnership with Time Out Chicago – and in anticipation of our TENTH year in Grant Park – we’re showcasing the best of the best of the Windy City. Last week we shared the best museums around town, and this week we’re telling you how to keep the party going late into the night.
After the last bands of the night leave the stages, and after the after-parties wind down, there’s still plenty of partying to be done in Chicago. Head to one of the city’s many bars that stay open till 4am, or even 5am. You can sleep when you’re dead, right? Here are Time Out Chicago’s five favorite late-night bars, including a former Al Capone hangout.
Any classic you could think of (Sazerac, mint julep, whiskey sour) and any that you probably wouldn’t (Queen’s Park Swizzle, Brooklyn, Bliz’s Royal Rickey) has made its way into Barrelhouse’s extensive cocktail menu, which is organized by spirit and subdivided by technique (shaken, stirred, etc.). In these bartenders’ hands, you’re in no danger of getting a bad drink: Even a frequently defiled drink like a whiskey sour has body (from being shaken with an egg white) and complexity (orange bitters).
A honky-tonk in Sheridan Park with $1.50 domestics on Mondays, country & western karaoke on Thursdays and the house band Diamondback on weekends, featuring sassy little Reba singin’ and strummin’ rhythm with a darn good gee-tar picker on lead. A pool table in back, greasy grill turning out late-night burgers and Hank-filled jukebox round out the grit fest.
3. Green Mill
Al Capone and other gangsters used to hang here in the 1920s, but these days it’s all about the music. Owner Dave Jemilo, who returned the club to its original luster in the 1980s, books smart bebop and free jazz with a discriminating ear. Local favorites Kimberly Gordon and Patricia Barber both maintain residencies throughout the year (Barber’s here every Monday, if she’s not on tour) while Tuesdays belong to the ferociously swinging Deep Blue Organ Trio. Come early, as it’s usually understandably busy.
This long, wooden bar is helmed by a few middle-aged women who, on Sundays, mix huge batches of kamikazes and sell them for $2 a pop—but the real draw here is karaoke. If you get there and the door’s locked, don’t get discouraged. Just ring the bell over and over again (sometimes the bartenders can’t hear it over yet another version of “Don’t Stop Believin’ ”).
5. Smart Bar
Originally on the fourth floor of the magnificent Wrigleyville building (also home to Metro), this venerated dance club is now in the basement. A makeover in 2006 slicked up the looks a notch and brought back a vibrant young crowd. But more important, the club boasts a world-class Funktion One sound system, which sounds tremendous on the central dance floor. Cutting-edge DJs from Europe, Detroit and Chicago form the bulk of the weekend bookings with house, techno and electro styles; but local mash-up and indie jocks rule on bargain weekday nights.
Still not tired? Check out the rest of Time Out Chicago’s list of the nearly 70 4am bars in Chicago.