The California Clipper

20s / 30s / Bar / Bluegrass / Board Games / Casual / Country / Couples / Dancing / Diverse / Easygoing / Flannel Shirts / Friendly / Good for Groups / Hippies / Hipster / Jazz / Laid back / Live Music / Live Music Venue / Locals / Low key / Movies / Music Lovers / Regulars / Southern Food / Specialty Cocktails / Young Professionals
The California Clipper "Opened in 1937 and still sporting the same name and style, The California Clipper is one of the oldest bars in Chicago. _x000D_ Chicago United States 41.8993543499592 -87.6969695091248
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The California Clipper - Bar | Live Music Venue in Chicago.
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Party Earth Review Opened in 1937 and still sporting the same name and style, The California Clipper is one of the oldest bars in Chicago. Located a bit off the beaten path in an area of Humboldt Park dotted by auto shops and abandoned... ... read full review

  • Hours:

    M–F, Su 8pm–2am, Sa 8pm–3am

  • Recommended as:

    • Night Spot

Party Earth The California Clipper Review

The Scene

"Opened in 1937 and still sporting the same name and style, The California Clipper is one of the oldest bars in Chicago. _x000D_

Opened in 1937 and still sporting the same name and style, The California Clipper is one of the oldest bars in Chicago.

Located a bit off the beaten path in an area of Humboldt Park dotted by auto shops and abandoned buildings, the venue is a retro southern bar known for its grape soda cocktails, jazz and country music, and congenial “Well, come on in” vibe – a vibe clearly embraced by the diverse mix of hipsters, young professionals, and older regulars who show up in leather jackets and fedora hats, along with the few dedicated hippies thrown in for good measure.

Patrons looking to down a few pints with friends settle in at the original long curved bar that runs down one side of the room, while groups of laid-back friends and music lovers fill the bright red booths on the other side to just kick back and chat or listen to the live bands that take the stage later in the week.

A varied performance roster reflects the bar’s mixed crowd, and ranges from drawling bluegrass tunes to upbeat New Orleans jazz, the latter of which draws lively couples to their feet to boogie across the linoleum.

There’s plenty of low-key fun earlier in the week as well, when a mellow crowd stops in for cult classic films and a few Purple Martins – a popular hangover-inducing blend of grape soda, lemon, and rum.

A long history, unique cocktails, and an easygoing atmosphere might entice patrons into The California Clipper, but it’s the strong dose of southern hospitality that keeps them there and makes them feel…well, peachy keen!

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Tip from Jonah:

There are a ton of old-school board games to play while you're here. Sure, you can climb Everest...but you haven't truly lived until you've gone a couple rounds of “Pretty Pretty Princess” between shots of Jäger and a few Purple Martins. That little tiara never looked so good!

  • Crowd

    Laid-back hipsters, young professionals, groups of flannel-clad friends, leather jacket greasers, and older regulars, mid-20s to late 30s+.

  • Entertainment / Music

    Live music Fridays, Saturdays, and some Thursdays featuring mostly honky-tonk, bluegrass, jazz, and country. Movie night on Tuesdays, ranging from cult classics to whatever happens to be on hand. Free board games. Check website for music calendar.

  • Food / Miscellaneous

    No food on site but food can be brought in and menus from local restaurants are available. Back room features tiki motif and bamboo lounge chairs and can be rented out. A beautiful ghost allegedly frequents the women’s restroom.

  • Prices

    Beer $3–$8, wine $5–$7, cocktails $6–$11.

  • What to Wear / Dress Code

    Casual: flannel, plaid, skinny jeans, old-timey attire, 50s-era leather jackets encouraged.

  • Hot Nights / When to Go

    Fridays, Saturdays, and select Thursdays for live music, and Tuesdays for movie night.

  • Close By

    Rootstock Wine & Beer Bar (954 North California Avenue) offers more upscale cocktails and a unique meal.

The California Clipper User Reviews

Average rating:
Dive Into The Clipper
Peter R. Feb 20, 2013
One of the better dive bars I've ever set foot in. On any given night you might wind up listening to a live bluegrass band, an exotic jazz fusion group, or playing in one of the odder bar trivia nights of all-time. The crowd is about as eclectic as it gets, ranging from barely legal hipsters to grizzled bar vets who appear on the brink of retirement. The lighting, sound, relatively cheap drinks and specialty cocktails based on the classics (e.g., Sidecar), along with its sheer roominess, make this one of the easiest bar hangout spots you'll find. Whether you're looking for a place to sit down and shoot the breeze with friends, or you want to dance to some live music, The Clipper (never actually refer to it as The "California" Clipper, everyone who's ever been there more than once simply refers to it by the shortened version) provides a excellent setting to sate your thirst, whether it be of the alcohol or social variety.
Go here!
Craig B. Dec 11, 2012
The California Clipper rocks. The best drinks are the kind you would find in a Turner Classic Movie (for example, a Singapore Sling or a Grasshopper). The staff are friendly, and they are more than happy to recommend a drink and then listen to your problems. The band that was playing the night I was there was great, but it wasn't the main attraction. Then again, it wasn't just some sideshow either. The Clipper is bustling but it's not so loud you can't have a conversation. And for whatever reason this place seems to engender long conversations with strangers. Very cool.
The friendliest bar in Chicago
Christina W. Dec 10, 2012
I love the California Clipper! And the review really says it all. It's eclectic, funky, bizarre (grape soda cocktails??) and friendly. Super emphasis on the friendly. It's as if everyone returns to their old-timey, classy, cordial ways when they walk into the Clipper. My first time there, I spent part of the evening in a booth just chilling and listening to the awesome New Orleans-style jazz, and then I moved to the bar, where I quickly befriended everyone sitting nearby. I could hardly believe it! Everyone is chatty, outgoing, and nicer than a peach pie. The downside is that it is far away. But the upside to that is that only people who really care and want to experience the goodness actually head out there. So the friendliness continues, and I hope it always will!
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