Chicago’s lively sports enthusiasm, Irish infused pub culture, and urban atmosphere makes for an exciting and diverse array of dive bars, taverns, pubs, and lounges. Here, I’ve narrowed the extensive list down to five key categories so that you and your group may enjoy a great brew and a good time on your trip to Chicago.
Best Sports Bar - Timothy O’Toole’s Pub
Established in 1992, Timothy O’Toole’s has been the leading sports bar in Chicago for 23 years. Over 70 HD TVs line the walls so you can see Mayweather and Pacquiao duke it out or catch the World Cup with crowds of enthusiastic fans. Not only is it within walking distance to the Magnificent Mile and the Navy Pier, but O’Toole also has everything to offer from 48 beers on tap and 97 bottles to stand-up comedy every Wednesday, trivia, pub games, and a full menu. Take the “Big Timmy” burger challenge and see if you can win a free T-shirt or grab a booth with a bowl of their Guinness beef stew.
Best Pub Food - Duke of Perth; Pump Room; The Gage
With as many pub/restaurants as there are in Chicago, it’s difficult to choose just one. First off, the Duke of Perth pub is a laid back Scottish pub offering reasonably priced Great Britain updated pub classics like haggis wings, Scotch egg burger, a Sean Connery burger, and Ghillie’s meatloaf. Zagat rated as one of the best pubs in the city for food, the Duke of Perth always delivers simple excellence and, of course, a fully stocked bar ready to hand you a cold Guinness.
For an elegant gastropub, try the Pump Room or The Gage. The former is more related to a restaurant/lounge with 1940s decor to give off the aura of glamorous sophistication. The Gage is similarly classed though of a contemporary American feel. To give you a varied selection, both of these gastropubs are more expensive although you definitely get what you pay for. Try the New England lobster roll sandwich or the Alaskan halibut en croute at The Gage or the caramelized filet mignon, prosciutto-wrapped pork chop, or the housemade ricotta ravioli at the Pump Room.
Best Irish Pub - Fado Irish Pub
Irish pubs in Chicago are a dime-a-dozen, but few are as good as the Fado Irish Pub. Gaelic for “long ago,” Fado is dedicated to the Irish way of life, the culture, and the spirit of storytelling through good food and excellent drinks. Fado is both amiably relaxed and lively, that unique blend that is quintessentially Irish. Come on Saturdays and have your fill of their amazingly extensive whiskey menu and then come back on Sunday for their Rehab Brunch for $3 mimosas and a traditional Irish breakfast complete with all the trimmings.
Best Pub for Craft Beer - Haymarket Pub and Brewery
This pub/brewery has won over 50 awards for their Belgian and American style craft brews. The 32 taps handled bar always has ten house-brewed creations on tap and dozens of bottled favorites among the full menu of cocktails and wines. Haymarket is intensely proud of its brewery and will give your group a tour and the opportunity to buy a 64-ounce growler of one of their brews. Pull up a barstool and try some hot pretzel sticks or the steamed clams with a Beer Muse Lemon Rye Saison or an Aleister Double American brew.
Best Overall Atmosphere - Miller’s Pub
What makes a good pub atmosphere is cleanliness, service, friendliness, and the quality of the menu, both for food and drink. Several of the other pubs on this list rank high on all fronts through Miller’s Pub on Wabash Avenue meets and exceeds expectations. Opened by three Greek Gallios brothers in 1950, Miller’s Pub has continued to be a haunt of celebrities and locals alike. Walk into the comfortable bar and your eye scans the dozens of photos, paintings, and decor lining the wood-paneled walls. You see the famous faces of regulars like Marilyn Monroe, Tony Bennett, and sports broadcaster Harry Caray next to decorative oil paintings and house crests. The bar offers patrons 23 beers on tap and 61 bottles among the full menu of cocktails, red and white wines, and tasty food creations. Miller has met the balance between the traditionally lively Chicago feel and a relaxed atmosphere perfect for still being able to hear what the person next to you is saying while having a good time.
With over a thousand bars and taverns, it can be difficult to find a good pub in the Windy City. When you’re done walking the Navy Pier, touring the city’s best museums, or after you’ve been to a game at Wrigley Field, pull up a chair at one of these excellent establishments to let the good times roll.