Each of Chicago's 77 neighborhoods has its own identifiable cultural landmark or characteristic, be it a statue, museum, or local dive bar. Some residents find a neighborhood becomes a true community when they locate their no-frills watering hole. If you want to truly drink like a local, then these are the pubs to know.
Most locals know the best dive bars offer cheap beer in an unpretentious atmosphere. Walk into any of them in Chicago and, while each has its own DNA, they all have the same thing in common: a handful of stools, bare bones tables, and cheap beer. Also—in a departure from what we normally think of as divey, Chicago's pubs are immaculately clean. Most look like a grandmother's basement—from the 1960s—and most drinkers like it that way. While over time some spots have transcended into hipster meccas, these local spots still keeping things real, complete with cheap drink specials, a reliable, nostalgic jukebox, and the friendliest bartenders around.
Lest visitors think the best dive bars are on the north side, this Bridgeport staple has been around for half a century. On any given night, regulars and visitors alike can enjoy $2 PBRs. Wednesdays is the night for Splingo, its version of prize-winning Bingo, and Thursdays are for open mic performances.
It would be easy to call Carol's Pub in Uptown a country bar—it's among the few country western bars in Chicago. There's live music four nights a week until 4:00 a.m. by the resident band, and cheap domestic beers that push it to country gold standard. It's also where one can order Old Style by the pitcher.
Galway Bay Irish Pub
The basement vibe is real in this Irish Pub in Lincoln Park, which lets customers play old school Sega and Nintendo systems while imbibing, and offers them couches, darts, board games and free popcorn, too. 500 W Diversey Pkwy; (773) 348-3750.
L & L Tavern
Known for entertaining the likes of serial killers Jeffrey Dahmer and John Wayne Gacy, the tin-roofed bar in Lakeview is small enough to feel cozy but large enough that when one wants to be left alone at one of the sticker-covered stools that line the bar, they're not fighting for space. The abundance of old signs, cheap PBR, shots of Malort, and the jukebox are among the many reasons this bar has a steady stream of regulars. 3207 N Clark St.; (773) 528-1303.
If it seems like Simon's Tavern in Andersonville has been around forever, it's because it's been a staple in this Swedish-American community for generations. Well-known for its glogg (served with a gingerbread cookie), the Vikings paraphernalia throughout the bar, and jukebox playing Erasure, add to the ambiance. Like most dive bars, this one only takes cold, hard cash. 5210 N Clark St.; (773) 878-0894.