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Hidden gem bars in Chicago

Discover Chicago's best-kept secrets in our list of hidden bars that offer a unique blend of history, ambiance, and unforgettable experiences.

September 19, 2023
 min read
Last updated:
Jan 15
A view of the Chicago skyline, with the Chicago river in the foreground.

Chicago, the Windy City, is renowned for its towering skyscrapers, deep-dish pizza, and vibrant nightlife. But beyond the bustling streets and iconic landmarks, there's a world of hidden bars waiting to be discovered. These establishments, tucked away from the usual tourist trails, offer unique experiences that capture the heart and soul of Chicago. For those who crave a touch of the unexpected and a taste of the city's rich history, these bars provide an unparalleled experience. So, if you're looking to sip on a cocktail in a place that feels like a well-kept secret, read on.

The Violet Hour

Nestled in the heart of Wicker Park, The Violet Hour stands as a beacon of sophistication and elegance. Its exterior, devoid of any flashy signage, might make you second-guess its location. But once inside, you're transported to a world of opulence. The dimly lit ambiance, punctuated by plush seating and ornate decor, sets the stage for an evening of relaxation. The bartenders, true artisans in their craft, meticulously create cocktails that are both visually stunning and tantalizing to the palate. It's more than just a bar; it's an experience that lingers long after the night ends. 

Watershed Bar

Descending into Watershed Bar feels like discovering a well-guarded secret. Located beneath Pops for Champagne, this cozy spot is a tribute to the Great Lakes region. The decor, reminiscent of a vintage lakeside cabin, evokes feelings of nostalgia. Every element, from the wooden panels to the soft lighting, has been thoughtfully curated. The drink menu is equally impressive, showcasing local spirits and brews that celebrate the flavors of the region. It's a place where conversations flow as smoothly as the drinks, making it a must-visit for anyone seeking a genuine connection with Chicago's local culture. 

The Green Mill

Stepping into the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge is like taking a journey back in time. Located in Uptown, this bar has been a witness to the ebbs and flows of Chicago's history. Frequented by the likes of Al Capone, it has stories etched into its very walls. The jazz performances here are legendary, with musicians pouring their souls into every note. The ambiance, rich with the echoes of the past, is complemented by a drink menu that pays homage to the classics. It's not just a bar; it's a living testament to the city's vibrant cultural tapestry.

Three Dots and a Dash

Three Dots and a Dash is a delightful paradox in the heart of Chicago. While the city buzzes with its urban rhythm, this tiki bar offers an escape to a tropical paradise. The name, derived from a classic tiki drink, hints at the adventures that await within. Exotic drinks, adorned with elaborate garnishes, are served in unique mugs that tell tales of faraway islands. The vibrant decor, complete with bamboo accents and Polynesian artifacts, creates an immersive experience. As the rhythmic beats of island music play in the background, patrons are transported to a world where the spirit of aloha reigns supreme. 

Room 13

Behind the unassuming facade of the Old Chicago Inn lies Room 13, a bar that exudes an air of mystery and allure. This speakeasy-style establishment is a nod to the Prohibition era, a time when secrecy was the order of the day. To enter, one needs a password, adding to the intrigue. Inside, the ambiance is reminiscent of the 1920s, with art deco elements and soft jazz melodies filling the air. The bartenders, dressed in period attire, craft cocktails that are both timeless and innovative. It's a place where the past and present converge, offering patrons a taste of Chicago's clandestine history. 

Nine Bar

Situated in the vibrant neighborhood of Chinatown, Nine Bar offers a unique blend of modern aesthetics and traditional charm. Its entrance is discreet, making it a true hidden gem in the heart of the city. As you step inside, you're greeted by a sophisticated ambiance, with dim lighting and chic decor setting the mood for an intimate evening. The bar boasts an impressive selection of handcrafted cocktails, each meticulously prepared to perfection. The bartenders, with their unparalleled expertise, ensure that every drink is a masterpiece in itself. Whether you're looking to unwind after a long day or seeking a memorable night out, Nine Bar promises an experience that's both exquisite and unforgettable.

The Library at Gilt Bar

Tucked away below the Gilt Bar, The Library exudes an old-world charm that's hard to resist. As the name suggests, the decor is inspired by classic libraries, with bookshelves lining the walls and plush leather seating that invites patrons to settle in. The dim lighting, paired with the soft glow of candles, creates a warm and inviting atmosphere. The drink menu is extensive, offering a curated selection of spirits and cocktails that cater to diverse palates. It's a place where literature meets mixology, making it the perfect spot for those who appreciate the finer things in life.

Brando's Speakeasy

In the heart of the South Loop lies Brando's Speakeasy, a harmonious blend of vintage allure and modern vibrancy. The moment you step in, the rich history of the Roaring Twenties greets you, with art deco designs and sultry jazz tunes setting the mood. But what truly sets Brando's apart is its lively karaoke nights. Patrons can belt out their favorite tunes, adding a contemporary twist to the classic speakeasy vibe. The drink menu is a delightful mix of signature martinis and timeless cocktails, ensuring that there's something for everyone. It's a place where the past playfully dances with the present, creating memories that last a lifetime. 

Cherry Circle Room

Situated within the iconic Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, the Cherry Circle Room is a masterclass in elegance and sophistication. The bar's interiors, with rich wooden paneling and leather accents, harken back to a bygone era of luxury. Every detail, from the intricate ceiling designs to the vintage artifacts, has been meticulously curated. The drink menu is equally impressive, boasting award-winning cocktails that are as much a visual treat as they are a delight to the palate. With its blend of history and modern flair, the Cherry Circle Room offers a refined experience that's truly in a class of its own. 

Queen Mary Tavern

Wicker Park's Queen Mary Tavern is a nautical-themed gem that pays homage to Britain's rich maritime history. The bar's name is inspired by the legendary warship, and its interiors are a loving tribute to the seafaring life. Nautical instruments, ship models, and maritime artifacts adorn the space, creating an ambiance that's both cozy and intriguing. The drink menu is a voyage of discovery, with maritime-inspired cocktails that showcase unique flavors from around the world. Whether you're a history buff or simply someone looking for a distinctive night out, Queen Mary Tavern offers an experience that's both enriching and delightful.

In a city as dynamic and diverse as Chicago, there's always a new story waiting to be told. These hidden bars, each with its distinct character and charm, offer a fresh perspective on the city's vibrant nightlife. So, the next time you find yourself wandering the streets of Chicago, take a detour off the beaten path. You might just stumble upon a hidden gem that offers a taste of the unexpected. Here's to the adventures that await and the memories yet to be made. Cheers!


*Prices fluctuate based on season and day of the week.

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