In honor of our epic L Bar Crawl on September 30th, we'd thought we'd highlight some of the best bars around the L lines. If you’re like many of us Chicagoans you’re looking for a good night out on the town, but you’re looking for a way to get around at the same time. Driving is out of the question you tell yourself. And an Uber/Lyft can be expensive, not to mention a hassle. No one's a fan of handing out 5 bucks for cancellations that weren’t your fault, right?
How about the L?
Ah yes, the L. Cheaper and easier, but you just gotta make it through those damn gates!
Your next question is probably “Where are the best spots around the L to drink at?" Well good thing you’re reading this cause we got you covered. Welcome to our 4 part series of “The Best Bars Around the Chicago L” (creative, I know). We’re going to go over the 5 best bars around the various stops on the Pink, Red, Blue and Brown L lines. This piece will be about the Pink Line. Let's hop on this train and get going!
L Stop: 18th Street
Nothing screams the creativity and culture of Pilsen like Simone’s. This neighborhood staple is a must drink at if you’re in the area. As soon as you walk in you’ll understand why. Or maybe not if you’re like me, trying to decipher what parts of what Simone’s has creatively used for decoration and furniture. Look in the middle and you’ll see a bar that’s made from a bowling alley lane. Look up from your seating booth made from 7th grade chemistry lab tables and you’ll see the colorful board of pinball tables hung on the walls repurposed as wall art. It’s absolutely amazing what you can do with some imagination and some recycled “junk”.
But it doesn’t stop there, Simone’s is environmentally conscious (certified by Green Restaurant Association) too. There’s a rooftop herb garden with banks of solar panels powering the music you’re bumping your head to from the cage wrapped DJ booth. And lastly, my favorite part about this place is that they are a true local bar, serving the Pilsen community's artists and businesses. On the walls you’ll be in awe of the huge canvases of eye popping graffiti and on the menu you’ll find delicious microbrews you’ve never heard of and now wish you could have every night.
Neighborhood: University Village/Little Italy
L Stop: Polk
Ever feast on tacos or dance to Beyonce surrounded by mahogany colored wood, stained glass chandeliers, flowing red-velvet drapes and a Prohibition-era ambiance? I didn’t think so! But now you can at Vintage Lounge. This spot is easily the place you want to be around UIC no matter what you’re looking for. Whether it’s joining the casual early evening crowd, or the late-night party crowd, you’re sure to have a fantastic time sipping on their signature Banana Split Martini’s.
If you’re looking to stop by for food, definitely stop by on Taco Tuesday, they’ll make any bad Tuesday great! The chef prepares a specially made verde hot sauce that’ll make your taste buds sizzle. Thursday nights, be prepared to enjoy the American classic, but even better: way above average pizza and $5 pitchers. Yum. After you’re done munching, enjoy a game of pool while you sip on your beer or maybe grab the cornhole boards and set up a game of good ole’ bags around the corner from the dance floor.
With the awesome atmosphere the staff brings, delectable food and the classy theme of Vintage, you may think this might be a little fancy for you, but I assure you that you’ll be pleasantly surprised. You might even put this on your ‘go-to’ list for when friends come in town.
Neighborhood: Medical District
L Stop: Polk
Located inside Rush Medical Center, Park Tavern is the cure to all your sports and happy hour needs. Watching the game will never be the same after walking into this gigantic 10,000 square foot urban lodge looking gastropub. Shuttles provided of course! This is an official Blackhawks bar! Oh and I can promise that you won’t miss a play or have to squint, there’s a massive projector screen smackdab in front of you and TVs in every direction.
Too crowded inside or trying to catch a breath of fresh air? Perfect, grab a seat outside on one of Chicago’s largest outdoor patio in Park’s beer garden. Or head upstairs and go head to head with your friends for a round of cornhole or some arcade games.
There’s a reason why Park Tavern is the recommended sports bar by doctors everywhere. Personal tap systems, post-game dishes like “Animal Tot’s” and a sports fan aura that is just good for your soul, find out for yourself next time you’re near the Medical District.
Neighborhood: West Loop
L Stop: Ashland
The West Loop ain’t what it used to be, that’s for sure. Warehouses and industrial complexes would be the only types of buildings you’d see for blocks just a couple years ago. Here and there you might see a few restaurants tucked between the large blocks of brick and metal.
But when the development boom happened in this area, whole blocks transformed into a new inviting and innovative urban area of Chicago. And one of the most inviting place in this new mini-metropolis is WestEnd.
A sprawling 5,000 square foot sports bar lined with oak wood from the floor to the bar to the massive wooden columns. Lining the walls are 33 plasma TV’s and some classic Blackhawk and Bulls memorabilia. If you’re a Chicago sports fan, welcome to heaven. With shuttles available from and to United Center, this is the spot for pre and post gaming in the West Loop. And if that wasn’t enough, take a seat outside on WestEnds patio space on a nice summer day with some friends. Oh and while you’re out there, definitely take a look at the cocktail list. Close your eyes and point your finger at any cocktail, you really can’t go wrong.
Stop around the West Loop and you’re bound to see tons of potential places to check out in every direction. Cut out the noise and head to WestEnd. Whether it’s to watch the game, have a nice meal or just enjoy a beer, you can’t go wrong.
Neighborhood: West Loop
L Stop: Morgan
One word: cocktails. Here’s another: cocktails. If you want a true cocktail experience, look no further than Aviary. There’s a reason Aviary has made the World’s Best Bars of 2016 list. No detail is missed and mixing cocktails are treated like a science and art. I almost feel bad drinking works of art, but the regret quickly passes as my tastebuds are inundated with explosions of lime, whiskey and a thousand other things I can’t even describe.
But it isn’t just the cocktails that hit the senses, Aviary itself is a work of art. The term “lounge” does a disservice to this place. Plush lounges, candle stands, funky colors and beautiful wall canvases are just a few things to describe your immediate surroundings. You’d have to see for yourself to come up with a word, but be sure to make a reservation beforehand. The World’s Best Bar isn’t one you just stroll into!
Five great spots for the Pink line for you to check out. There are plenty of more bars along this route but since we cannot make them all, check out these five first. Let me know what you think in the comment section below!