A self-proclaimed dive, Old Town Ale House doles out drinks until just before dawn in a dim, often-cramped space that exudes an enticing dinginess. Its proximity to Piper's Alley--home to The Second City--as well as to Zanie's Comedy Club and the Orchid Theater almost guarantees a steady crowd of performers and theatergoers who sidle up to the cash-only bar for beers on tap, shots, and cocktails. There’s not a lot of fuss here, but that’s where its charm comes from. The bar is cash-only and a bag of chips is the only available entrée option. Even the jukebox is filled with old-timey crooner tunes and jazz. It’s the type of music that was appreciated by the hotshot newspaper reporters, such as Roger Ebert, that called this place their late-night haunt of choice and their preferred spot to duck in during killer-bee attacks. Portraits of famous faces stare down from the walls, frozen in pigment by artist Bruce Elliott, whose paintings depict notable Chicagoans, Second City alums, and naked women in equal measure. Visitors can check out renditions of famous Old Town Ale House regulars, such as John Candy and Jim Belushi, and also ogle at paintings that have garnered national attention, such as nudes of Sarah Palin and Rod Blagojevich. Mr. Elliot is not only the bar’s interior decorator, he’s also the one running the show. Mr. Elliot befriended longtime owner Beatrice Klug over the more than four decades that he was a regular at the bar, and she decided to hand over the keys to the joint after she fell ill with cancer. Beatrice bequeathed Old Town Ale House to Mr. Elliot and his wife under the condition that they would not make any changes. Since opening in 1958, Old Town Ale House continues to remain suspended in time.
Ranked as some of the Best Barbecue in Chicago by CBS News, Honky Tonk Barbecue is the brainchild of pit-master, chef, and owner Willie Wagner. Within the Pilsen space, Wagner rubs and smokes his famous pulled pork for 17 hours, using the same recipe and technique that won him third place at the world Championship Barbecue Cooking contest in 2008. Barbecue-loving Midwestern crowds—and celebrity chef Guy Fieri—flock to Honky Tonk for not just the pulled pork, but also to sample bacon candy, beef brisket sandwiches, and bold slabs of dry-rub St. Louis ribs.
Situated on a quiet corner in Lakeview, Cody's Public House embodies the spirit of a neighborhood tavern. The dog-friendly drinking hole doles out beers on tap in a casual atmosphere bereft of much glamor, and that's how most patrons like it. An old-school jukebox pumps music across the expansive main bar area, which features a pool table, and into an adjacent room where dartboards line the walls. Cody's ample square footage extends outside onto a large back patio featuring TVs, bags, and even more dartboards. To complement the libations, guests can fire up their own meats on the outdoor grill or snag a handful of pretzels from the bar.
Windy City Inn's bartenders wet parched whistles with beer by the glass, bottle, and bucket, as well as cocktails and myriad libations, late into the night seven days a week. Wall-mounted televisions pour sporting events into fans’ thirsty eyes at this friendly North Center pub. Its atmosphere drew praise from the Chicago Bar Project, which wrote, "the camaraderie at Windy City Inn is amazing." Occasional music and open-mic nights accompany the melody of clinking ice cubes, and a brief menu of bar nibbles keeps stomachs from growling out sea chanteys.
Having served as Wrigleyville’s preeminent dive bar since 1951, Nisei Lounge continues to harbor friendly vibes, cold brews, and a selection of hard liquor and wine. In between tossing darts, playing pool, or choosing a Dick Cheney lounge-jazz tune on the jukebox, bar-minglers can toss back a carefully concocted Bloody Mary ($5 on Saturdays and Sundays). A group of barley guzzlers can make a toast with a bucket of domestic beers ($15 on Wednesdays), while champagne sippers can daintily clasp their monocles while drinking a mimosa bucket of mini splits and orange juice ($15 on Saturdays and Sundays). Additionally, Nisei offers an array of quality wines and craft brews, so you can taste meticulously crafted libations.