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The Top 4 Must-See Bars In Chicago


Chicago and alcohol have a turbulent history together. The nearby suburb of Evanston was ground zero for the Temperance Movement, a group often credited with bringing about Prohibition. Ironic, considering how the resulting increase in black market liquor would lead to the rise of notorious crime bosses like Al Capone barely a half-hour drive south into the city proper.


Today, Chicago's bar scene is exploding. Since the creation of the Goose Island Brewing Company in 1988, Chicago has seen a steady increase in the sale and consumption of high-quality beer at a variety of venues. Other microbreweries have followed suit, and the Illinois State Senate's 2011 decision to allow microbreweries to distribute their own products has led to the creation of a wide array of bars, pubs, and restaurants, each as original as the next. This diverse assortment of venues, coupled with Chicago's oft-underrated cuisine, makes the city a world-class destination for lovers of both the sugary party cocktail and the calm after-work pint. Here are a few of the best destinations for any bar lover hoping to get the Chicago experience.


1. Kuma's Corner (View info and get directions)

Kuma's Corner JessyeAnne

Brace yourself. The music blares, the wait is long, and the wait staff has tattoos. The drinks aren't always cheap. The place is always packed to bursting.

The beer and food are also some of the best you will find in any pub in the world, hands down.

Kuma's Corner sits on Belmont St. in the Avondale neighborhood, an unassuming little nine-table beer pub with a rabid following. It opened in 2005 but it already competes with the best burger joints in Chicago, no mean feat for a city that once produced 80% of America's beef. It has a heavy metal theme; its burgers feature the names of hard rock legends like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, with a line of "Burgers of the Month", each as hearty and delicious as the last. Kuma's Corner proudly eschews common fare like Miller and Budweiser in favor of local brews and imports like Three Floyds and India Pale Ale, upping the price but also the quality. If the wait doesn't appeal to you, check out the newer location, Kuma's Too, at 666 W. Diversey over in Lincoln Park. The selection is different but just as good. No self-respecting bar fanatic can withstand Kuma's charms.


2.  The Duke of Perth (View info and get directions)


If a calming sip of brandy is more to your liking, Lakeview's Duke of Perth is your place. It boasts a Scottish flair, with low-key comfort foods like fish and chips and potato pie that perfectly complement the extensive list of ales and stouts. The scotch list is also a major draw. The wait staff is extremely knowledgeable about good pairings, and they're eager to offer flights of different scotch samples if you'd like to experiment. A lack of blaring televisions and hyper-enthusiastic waiters adds to the old-world charm, an aesthetic many bars aspire to but few can accomplish with such grace. Overall, Duke of Perth is a perfect spot for low-key date nights or gatherings of friends who don't mind actually conversing while they eat and drink.


3.  The Berghoff (View info and get directions)


Moving into the heart of the Chicago Loop we arrive at The Berghoff, a bar/restaurant/cafe combo over a century old. Chicago royalty like Mayor Rahm Emmanuel have been known to frequent the bar, enjoying the beer and food in equal measure. It has survived through four generations of the Berghoff family to become a Chicago staple. Take a seat at the bar to find out why.

In addition to offering fantastic German fare like sausages, venison, fresh-baked pretzels, and approximately one billion different kinds of mustard, the restaurant is renowned for its homebrewed beer. Their flagship product comes in a dozen varieties, each loaded with character and brimming with unique flavor. They tend to stay around the 5.5% ABV range with a light amber color and rotate with the seasons so the selection always feels fresh and new. You can get a flight of the stuff if you want to try it all in one sitting.

The restaurant itself can incur a bit of a wait on weekends and during dinner hours. If you'd like a lighter meal or just want a few good pints you can always step into the bar area or go downstairs into the café, where the lines move much quicker. It's also convenient to all the fantastic distractions on State Street. If you want a fun night in the Loop, make The Berghoff your first stop.


4. Lion Head Pub (View info and get directions)

The Lion's Head is a double-decker treat. Set in the midst of the bustling Lincoln Park bar scene, Lion's Head offers a gorgeous old-style sports bar on the ground floor and a hip pseudo-dance club called "The Apartment" up top. Both bars offer some absolutely mouth watering deals on booze and grub, including free wings with the purchase of a drink on Friday from four to seven. The food is excellent pub fare, with large burgers, salads and tater tots. You can also enjoy live music, pool, darts, and some tasteful gogo dancing at both venues at various times of the day or night.

Be warned, the Lincoln Park crowd is notoriously rowdy, and thus the wait staff is sometimes a bit on edge. It's justifiable considering how rough the crowds get, but sometimes the service quality suffers as a result. Having said that, the wait staff are highly paid and always professional and they'll treat you as well as you treat them. They offer plenty of suggestions on cocktails and beer. If you want a fun night on the town, Lion Head has to be on your list of stops.


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