Chicago Bars & Nightlife

Establishment neighborhood
Spilt Milk
2758 W. Fullerton Ave., Logan Square
There’s no shortage of bars worth a visit in Logan Square, but Spilt Milk stands out for its dimly-lit, Prohibition-era mood, with elegant William Morris floral wallpaper and a forty-foot mahogany bar. The menu is short and sweet, and there’s nothing typical about it—we love the Turkish Delight, made with Prairie organic vodka, pistachio, lemon, pineapple and rose petal, but the local beers on tap (including brands like Moody Tongue and Solemn Oath Brewery) provide a few more reasons to stop in.
2901 N. Sheffield Ave., Lincoln Park
While Mexican fare is the anchor of the Barcocina menu, the food takes cues from other parts of the world, too, like Korea (short ribs with kimchi) and Thailand (a chicken quesadilla with spicy chiles and peanuts). It’s a testament to chef Matt Williams’ skill that everything is equally great, and the large, warehouse-style space is made cozier with communal tables and wood-paneled walls that give off a warm, welcoming feel. There’s a fire pit on the patio for pre- or post- dinner cocktails. Our favorite is the House Fire, made with Cointreau, jalapeno-infused tequila, and the homemade sour mix.
180 N. Morgan St., West Loop
It’s always a good sign when you need sunscreen for lunch. Federales is such a place. It has a retractable roof above a massive patio, serves the perfect spicy-but-not-too-spicy margaritas, and the homemade tortilla chips and guacamole are the kind that could sustain you until tomorrow. It’s the kind of place you want to bring a group of friends—or hell, strangers—and stay for an entire afternoon under the sun. Those lively afternoons turn into even livelier evenings once the tequila starts flowing (there are over forty varieties) and the tacos (adobo shrimp, pulled chipotle chicken) are some of the best in the West Loop.
The Garden at Celeste
111 W. Hubbard St., River North
Celeste is divided into several different floors, and while they all share the same elegant aesthetic, the rooftop garden is far and away our favorite. The intimate space is decorated with white Victorian couches and chairs, and the brick walls are softened with vines and planters. While the punchbowl is considered one of the city's best, we usually spring for one of two frozen drinks (an Electric Pisco Colada and a Nuclear Caipirinha) that you can only get on the roof.
Salone Nico
1015 N. Rush St., Gold Coast
COVID-19 update: Temporarily closed. Nestled a stone's throw from Nico Osteria at the Thompson Hotel, this upscale lounge leans heavily on low-proof drinks (juleps, spritzes, and the like), meaning you can indulge without getting too sloppy. One of Nico’s most prominent design features, other than the luscious stretch banquette and pops of jewel tones, is a plant wall which, in addition to lending a dreamy indoor-outdoor quality to the space, absorbs noise.
Sable Kitchen & Bar
505 N. State St., River North
Located in Hotel Palomar, Sable is the destination for a few drinks or a full meal. They serve gastropub dishes with an American twist, and a long list of wood-fired flatbreads. Their 14-page cocktail menu is garnering plenty of attention, too, for its mix of old-fashioned drinks (a long list of options for a good old Martini) and new twists (Ice & Fire, for example, is a tequila-based drink with Sriracha, cucumber, agave, and fresh lime).