The promise of summertime in Chicago is the reason we all put up with the sub-zero winters that seem to last for two-thirds of the year. Now that it’s finally here, take advantage of the beautiful weather by checking out some live music and grabbing a beer. Fall will be here again before you know it.Read More
Where to Find the Best Music, Food, and Drink in Chicago
The California Clipper
Stepping into the California Clipper is a little like dropping into a David Lynch movie: Low red lighting, dark wood, and deep black booths all add to the effect that you’ve stepped into another decade. And in a way you have — the Clipper dates back to the 1930s, and the Prohibition-era vibe is still strong. The drink list is extensive, but you’ll have plenty of time to work your way through it as you enjoy one of the eclectic selection of performances on the intimate stage. From jazz to country to a free, constantly updated jukebox, music is central to the California Clipper experience, so come ready to dance, or at least sway in your seat.
Green Street Smoked Meats
Located off the main drag of the West Loop’s Restaurant Row, Green Street is a haven for all things barbecue. The airy warehouse space is anchored by a 360-degree wraparound bar, where they pour beers by the glass, pitcher, and bottle, all chosen specifically to complement the various meaty treats on the food menu. Order your food cafeteria-style and sit at one of the communal picnic tables as you try your best not to get barbecue sauce all over your face. It’s going to be a losing battle, but totally worth it in the end.
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Opened in 2009, Lincoln Hall is a newer addition to the Chicago music scene, but it has deep roots: The owners, Chris and Mike Schuba, also founded the iconic Schubas Tavern, known for its before-they-were-famous showcases for bands like Dave Matthews and My Morning Jacket. Lincoln Hall is a bigger space than Schubas, drawing bigger musical acts to the Lakeview neighborhood, as well as events like comedy festivals and podcast tapings. Grab a beer and enjoy being part of another Chicago performance tradition in the making.
Alice’s isn’t hip. You won’t find a mixologist or even a website for this Avondale dive, but what you will find is karaoke. Lots and lots of karaoke. The drinks are cheap and plentiful, the snack mix is free, and it’s open until 4 am, so even if you’ve been out all night, Alice’s will still be there for you. And isn’t that the best time to do karaoke anyway? Loosen up those pipes with a couple of beers and get ready to belt out your best version of “My Heart Will Go On.”
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The Boiler Room
Chicago-style pizza doesn’t lend itself to just grabbing a slice the way that New York-style pizza does, which makes Boiler Room’s something of a rarity in this city. In addition to a wide array of whole thin-crust pies, there’s always a veggie option and an omnivore option available by the slice, as well as their “Purist” margherita pizza. The bar is extensive, with a huge beer selection in addition to a nice signature cocktail list. (Though really, what goes better with pizza than beer?) Still craving something extra after your “If I Were A Soy” vegan pizza? Don’t miss out on the Jameson soft serve. It’s the perfect thing to help you beat that Chicago summer heat.
The Empty Bottle
The Empty Bottle bills itself as “music-friendly dancing,” so that should tell you everything you need to know about this small, energetic space that straddles the Ukrainian Village and Humboldt Park neighborhoods. It’s a no-frills kind of place, with a solid beer selection, stiff pours, and above all, live music. You’ll hear everything from thrash to indie pop to alt-country, and sometimes all three in the same night. If you’re hungry, don’t miss Bite, their next-door sister restaurant — the vegetarian poutine is the best (only?) in Chicago.
If you take your karaoke seriously, then you’re going to want to check out the private rooms at Lincoln Karaoke, where you and your friends can do your best Mariah impressions aided by a flat-screen TV, comfy couch, and selection of snacks that includes something called a “Bacon Basket.” Rooms can fill up fast, so it’s recommended that you make a reservation. There’s also a minimum spend per guest, but considering that they also provide light-up tambourines, that seems pretty reasonable.
Metro is a gritty, punky, snotty anomaly in the hyper bro-y Wrigleyville area, and its patrons like it that way. It was an early home to Chicago natives the Smashing Pumpkins, and has hosted acts ranging from local pirate ska bands to national names like Fall Out Boy. If you’re looking for the next band to make it big in Chicago, chances are you’ll find them on the stage here. (Chance the Rapper seems to be doing all right.) It’s a cash-only bar, so make sure you have some dollars on hand if you want a side of beer with your grunge.
Parlor Pizza Bar
If you’re going to eat at Parlor, you want to go now, when the enormous patio and rooftop deck are available to take advantage of the city’s fleeting good weather. At the chain’s original West Loop location, you can choose from 18 signature pizzas, as well as a beer selection of 60+ different varieties. There’s nothing that says “Chicago summer” like a 312 in the sunshine, so slap on some sunscreen and head on over.
Still wearing your dancing shoes when other bars close at 2 AM? East Room is there for you. This late-night Logan Square hangout is a neighborhood spot that attracts a diverse crowd, and the music reflects that. DJs spin everything from Top 40 to mumblerap, often in the same night. Need a little liquid courage before you dance in public? The bar is cash-only, so have some real money on hand to grab a beer or three – you’ll be glad you did.
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