In case you didn’t hear, it’s still winter in the Midwest. Chicago is notorious for its brutal weather (see In Spite of the Polar Vortex), however I had comparatively minimal complaints this year. Last year we had an epic winter and I felt some sense of pride in my ability to “rough it” in treacherous weather conditions. Tromping around Chicago’s frosty tundra pretending I was an arctic explorer, or on really rough days an astronaut. This winter’s weather hasn’t been nearly as bad, but I’ve all but lost my motivation to go outside unless I’m going to work (I don’t really have a choice in that matter if I want to stay employed). On the weekends I have little desire to leave the confines of my bedroom. Who can blame me with so many Netflix shows to be watched and so many take out options nearby? But after a weekend of binging on Netflix I feel hollow and unfulfilled in the harsh Monday morning light; regretting all the unheard music, the drinks I’ll never know, and the prime Instagram moments gone unshared. March and April are particularly difficult months for the Midwest because they’re supposed to signify spring, but we’re still getting snow. So for the past few months I’ve been dedicated to going out at least once a week because “but, it’s cold” is not a valid excuse to miss out on Chicago night life (even if I’ve used that excuse before, and maybe you have to). Here’s a round-up of my favorite spots that got me through (still getting me through) winter. If you want a real-time feed of the places I visit, follow me on Instagram @artythealien!
Timber Lanes – Irving Park: Starting off with an unlikely spot for going out, a bowling alley. Somehow we got the idea for my birthday that we should go bowling, even though I haven’t been bowling since I moved to Chicago… probably not even since high school, but seemed good. It was my 25th so I didn’t want to go to just any bowling alley, I wanted to go somewhere cool and memorable to help me ease into my quarter-life crisis. But in my search I found that a lot of the places in Chicago were either in weird locations, had gaggles of children running around, or were super expensive – I just wasn’t feeling it. Somehow I came across Timber Lanes’ sensible website and knew I had found the one. Timber Lanes is super low-key, located right near a train, cheap, with a friendly and patient staff. Scoring is old school, paper and pen, which is half the charm, and gets really funny after a few too many pitchers. I found out bowling and drinking don’t mix well for me, but was one of my best birthdays to date. While I don’t plan to go every weekend, I wouldn’t hesitate to have another shindig here and I dub it the best bowling alley in Chicago (even though I haven’t been to any others)! Click me.
Cheesie’s Pub & Grub – Lake View: Here’s another unlikely spot for you, and also part of my birthday saga. Anyone who knows about Cheesie’s knows it as the magical Chicago fast food spot that specializes in grilled cheese. Everyone likes grilled cheese! However, what many neglect to remember is that it also has a bar. Cheesie’s is either that place where you can go to get your second wind (with a shot of a whiskey and some cheesy fries) before going next door to Berlin to dance the night away; or it’s where your night ends (also with a shot of whiskey and some cheesy fries). I feel that it’s underrated as a going out spot and worth mentioning. Get your cheese on.
aliveOne – Lake View/Lincoln Park: aliveOne is one of my favorite Lake View gems. Best known for it’s all live music jukebox and walls lined with memorabilia from across the ages. Walking into aliveOne is like walking into the den of a legendary music manager; dusty lighting, a well-loved pool table, vintage leather bar stools, moments of rock history littering the walls, and sweet tunes. This is all just in the front bar. Move toward the back and you’ll find a lounging nook, second bar, stage, and dance arena where aliveOne hosts live music and dance parties weekly. The best part? There’s never a cover charge! And always daily drink specials. Granted, it can get pretty packed on the weekends, but you won’t find the typical college crowd that infests bars surrounding DePaul, which makes it worth it! aliveOne is always a good bet for a fun time. find out more
Kingston Mines / B.L.U.E.S. – Lake View/Lincoln Park: While Kingston Mines and B.L.U.E.S. are different venues with distinct vibes, they have the same mission – bringing the best live jazz to the people of Chicago (they’re located right across the street from each other and considered “sister” clubs). B.L.U.E.S. is smaller, intimate, and more like a dive bar. While Kingston Mines is the larger and livelier of the two; boasting two stages and accompanying dance floors, and plenty of room for sitting, not that you’ll want to! Cover can seem a little steep ($12-$15), but drink prices are reasonable, and there is live music literally all night. On the weekends Kingston Mines is open until 4:00am! This is a great place to take the fam when they’re in town. While it’s loud and fun, it’s not drunk and sloppy, and there’s always a great mix of people. For tickets and info Kingston Mines B.L.U.E.S.
Metro – Lake View: Metro is the venue connected to, or rather above, Smart Bar (a deep house club) but is a completely different vibe. It’s a venue for starters, with a wide range of pop-electronic, rock, indie, and rap shows. You’ll find well-known and popular artists playing, including the likes of Ok Go, Pennywise, The Airborne Toxic Event, Of Montreal, Kid Ink, and even ILOVEMAKONNEN. But it’s also a good place to see local artists you’ve never heard of, or obscure indie bands just making their way onto the charts. I stay on their mailing list just to see what’s going on, and for information new artists to check out. Ticket prices are pretty average ($20-$30), same goes for drinks, but every show is such a unique experience because each one draws a different crowd. The venue itself is old, but has a lot of character. It’s a medium-sized venue; there’s a bar, an upstairs balcony, and a pit. I’m more of a pit girl myself, and if you’re the same – beware. Don’t wear clothing or shoes that you’re not willing to sacrifice to the music gods, and try to finish your drink before the main act, or else it will end up all over you. For a list of their upcoming shows click here!
Slippery Slope – Logan Square: Over the summer “The Slope” was the place to be. Weird, red, dark lighting, unique cocktail options, ski-ball, photo booths, and good dance tunes – what else could you want, right? Right! The unfortunate thing about cool places in big cities is they don’t stay a secret for long. The last time I was there in early winter it was PACKED. Just last week I drove past it and there was a line wrapping around the corner. That said, it’s still a fun place to go, just maybe not as much fun on the weekends, or when it’s still cold outside. It would be the perfect place to get hit up mid-week in spring! Get Slippery
Empty Bottle – Ukrainian Village: Empty Bottle is a great place to discover and see new music in Chicago. Though I rarely recognize the names of bands as I’m scrolling through EB’s calendar of events, that’s half the fun for me. No matter what kind of music you like, you’re likely to find something at Empty Bottle. There’s usually is a $5-$15 cover, and it’s cash only, but drinks are pretty cheap, there’s a photo booth, and the crowd is usually chill.. In addition to daily shows, EB also serves almost as a cultural center for hipsters. It hosts pop up sales, book fairs, record release parties, charity shows, dance parties, and there’s a great BYOB restaurant attached to it called Bite. My favorite event at EB is Windy City Soul Night, a gathering of great vinyl and soul djs that keep you moving all night. If you’ve never been before, this is a great night to go, but they aren’t kidding when they say get there early. There’s a line by 10:30! EB Shows
Thalia Hall – Pilsen: Thalia Hall is the creation of Empty Bottle and Space (music venue in Evanston connected to Union Pizzeria – both are really great) owners, Bruce Finkelman and Craig Golden. Thalia Hall alone is truly beautiful venue, unlike any other I’ve been to in Chicago. Not only is the architecture amazing, but it’s a huge space so there’s actually room to move and dance (fancy that). However, Thalia Hall is a part of something much bigger, and cooler. The two aforementioned owners had a 3 pronged vision for the refurbished property that Thalia is a part of. Thalia Hall serves as the music and event space for the community, but attached you’ll also find a unique punch focused cocktail bar (appropriately named Punch House), and a beer-inspired restaurant named Dusek’s Board & Beer, after the original owner John Dusek who owned the property and ran a tavern in the late 1800’s. Unfortunately I have yet to make to Punch House or Dusek’s because they were so packed the last time I was in the area, but I’m determined to make it there this spring. This property is the perfect combination of historic and modern-day Chicago, a city famous for its food, music, and ability to drink. If Pilsen seems a little far for you, I guarantee the bus/cab/uber ride is worth it! Thalia Hall
BARS ‘N’ COCKTAILS
Delilah’s – Lincoln Park: Delilah’s is another one of those great places where you can (usually) escape the frat-crowd found in most Lincoln Park bars. Historically, I think it’s a rock/punk bar, but they play everything from Metal, R&B, Soul, to Rockabilly. It’s basically a dive bar, but the combination of good music and black and white movies playing throughout gives it a unique vibe. Drinks are always super cheap (maybe you see a theme emerging here) and if you can secure a booth, it’s a good place to hunker down for the night with good company. There’s also apparently a second floor, I don’t know what’s up there, or even how to get to the second floor as I’ve never seen it myself, but people keep telling me about it. Delilah’s isn’t that big so I’m not sure how I’ve missed the stairs to this mythical upstairs, hopefully I’ll get there someday. On a final note, I just found out Delilah’s plays movies and live show recordings weekly – for more info on what they have going on click here.
Barrelhouse Flat – Lincoln Park: Barrelhouse Flat is a specialty cocktail bar tucked away in Lincoln Park, often described as a “speakeasy”. There isn’t a more creative way I can think of to describe Barrelhouse because that’s exactly what it feels like stepping into the dimly lit corridor, the sounds of jazz piano and cocktail shakers greeting you. I had the pleasure of sitting in the second floor lounge, which is more intimate than the first floor bar. It’s the perfect place to take that special lady or gentleman in your life. The second floor lounge it full of red velvet and leather, with a pianist to serenade you; it’s the kind of place I can see myself spending hours sipping cocktails and talking in hushed voices with my friends. Not that I typically do this, but I could at Barrelhouse. If you’re looking to have a low-key night, or a romantic evening, this is your place. Click here for the specialty cocktails of the week and location.
Lost Lake – Logan Square: Lost Lake is a new tiki bar located on the border of Logan Square and Avondale, and I wish I had been sooner because it’s an automatic cure for the winter blues. The decor is what I would call “vintage” tiki, reminiscent of a scene right out of Gilligan’s Island. Colorful and festive lighting, wicker stools, thatch ceiling, attractive-smiley bartenders, and relaxed island tunes. Every cocktail is a masterfully crafted piece of art. When I finished my drink I was torn between sadness for having finished it, and excitement for ordering the next. One may be quick to compare Lost Lake to another fan favorite, Three Dots and a Dash, since there a few bars that can pull off the tiki theme well, they are markedly different. Most notably different is the waiting area. My main complaint with Three Dots and a Dash is that you have to wait outside next to dumpsters, and in the winter it’s the worst kind of hell, half give up and leave the line in my experience. Lost Island has seemingly solved this problem by having it’s entrance funnel through an American Chinese food takeout storefront called Thank You. Thank You also serves food at Lost Lake. So, you’re able to wait in line inside (thus not freezing to death), and while you wait you can even order a snack or one of their select beers. Though the waiting area probably only fits 10 people, it’s a vast improvement to outside. For menu items and other information tiki here.
The sun will return someday. Until then, I’ll be at the bar.
Arty the Alien