Chicago Taverns Overview

Billy Goat Tavern - Dive Bar | Historic Bar | Restaurant | Tavern in Chicago

The category of “Chicago taverns” is so large that there are really two categories of bars in this city: taverns and not taverns. Taverns in Chicago seem to appear on every corner and often in the middle of the street. Each takes on the character of its neighborhood – skinny-jeans art students, frat bros, blue-collar workers – but they all somehow still share the same atmosphere. These ubiquitous narrow rooms, usually with old-fashioned tin ceilings, are welcoming sights to any thirsty pedestrian.

No matter what poison you pick, Chicago has a tavern for you. In Scandinavian-settled Andersonville, Simon’s Tavern has been serving the neighborhood since 1934. Now known for its excellent jukebox selections, the bar pays homage to its past with Viking paraphernalia and Swedish flags. In Lakeview, Schuba’s big-name and up-and-coming bands play in the intimate tavern room that has been around for a century. Despite its proximity to glitzy Michigan Avenue and the patronage of occasional celebrities, Pippin’s Tavern has stayed unapologetically in the 1970s, with old-world wooden paneling and cheap beer.

Brand new bars take a page from these throwbacks, capturing the old-school Chicago tavern atmosphere in updated settings. Watering holes like Brownstone, Gaslight, and WestEnd have set up shop in old buildings, reflecting the appeal of dark, cozy neighborhood taps. They may have flat-screen TVs instead of a static-y little box above the bar, but people still spontaneously show up to watch the Bears, Cubs, or White Sox with the regulars. No matter the income range of their audience, and whether the bartender is a sympathetic Sam from Cheers or prickly Moe from The Simpsons, all Chicago taverns offer up a barstool, a game playing somewhere, and lots of beers on tap.

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