From strolling through the Magnificent Mile to eating your weight in Chicago-style hot dogs and deep-dish pizza, there’s no shortage of things to do in the bustling city of Chicago.
You’ve probably dined in some of the best restaurants in North River already. But once the sun has set and you’re ready to salut to the day’s good fortunes with one (or five) libations, we say when in Chicago, drink as the Chicagoans do—and no place in the Windy City does drinks quite like the River North neighborhood.
Whether you feel like keeping it casual at a no-frills pub or want to go full 1920s glam at an underground speakeasy, River North bars have it all, and we’re here to guide you to the most unique of the bunch. Check out our list of the 11 best bars in River North to try.
#1 The Untitled Supper Club
Looking to eat delicious restaurant food and drink craft cocktails at the same time? Hit the rewind button as you enter this Prohibition Era-style bar, where you’ll find classic cocktail concoctions and delectable dishes aplenty. From shareable bites to an extensive raw cocktail bar, there’s no limit to what you can—and should—enjoy.
And this isn’t just any run-of-the-mill juice joint. While sipping on libations, you can feast your eyes on their weekly live entertainment acts. From vintage cabaret and burlesque shows to soulful blues and R&B performances, you’ll feel like you’ve transported yourself to a simpler and more glamorous time.
#2 Broken Shaker Chicago
If you want to treat yourself to a drink with panache, take a chance at the Broken Shaker. This bar’s highly skilled (and very trendy) mixologists are known for creating cocktails with names that are almost as delicious as the drinks themselves. We’ll take two I Don’t Want No Shrubs, please.
As you sip on your perfectly blended combination of magical elixirs and world-class spirits, you’ll feel as hip as the bar’s cool, contemporary atmosphere. And if you get a little snackish, you’re in luck. The Broken Shaker also offers a variety of flavorful, international dishes on their street food-inspired menu. One order of plantain nachos with shishito peppers and avocado yogurt crema?1 Yes, please.
#3 The Green Door Tavern
If you’re looking for a watering hole with history, this is the place.
The Green Door Tavern first opened its doors after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.2 Although it didn’t don the same moniker at the time, it reopened in 1921 with—you guessed it—a bold green door at the entrance. During the Prohibition era, this was the hush-hush way of letting patrons know the establishment was an underground speakeasy.
Nowadays, the tavern offers a fun and friendly atmosphere, with vintage knick-knacks proudly pinned to every corner of the establishment. Stop in and party like it’s 1921 with an ice-cold lager and some of your favorite traditional bites. The Green Door Tavern proudly serves up corned beef, burgers, and other American fare options sure to keep you coming back for more.
#4 The Drifter
You may think that if you’ve seen one speakeasy, you’ve seen them all. But The Drifter will prove you wrong.
Located beneath The Green Door Tavern, this River North hidden gem offers a rotating menu of over 100 ethereal cocktails chosen from a stack of tarot cards each night—not to mention, eclectic live performances Wednesdays through Saturdays.
Whether you’re a tarot lover, a cocktail aficionado, or Gatsby era-influenced adventurer, The Drifter is sure to quench your thirst in more ways than one.
#5 El Hefe
From margaritas of every flavor to picante Palomas, your Taco Tuesdays just got a lot spicier. And speaking of tacos, you can’t come to El Hefe without treating yourself to their one-of-a-kind taco creations.
Each taco is colorfully crafted, with zesty fixings that give them an undeniable blast of flavor. Choose from an assortment of tantalizing tastes, like:3
- Taco Americano
- Chicken tinga
- Carne asada
- Crispy cauliflower
- Baja shrimp
While you may come for the bites and beers, you’ll be more than tempted to stay for the taqueria-turned-nightclub atmosphere after the sun goes down.
#6 Watershed Bar
When you just want a cozy place to relax with friends, take a stroll over to Watershed Bar, the warm and inviting pub you’ve been searching for.
Located underneath Pops for Champagne, Watershed exudes major comfy living room vibes. It’s the ultimate place to kick back with friends and enjoy whatever libations your hearts desire, like:
- Craft brews with hops of all kinds (stouts, ales, and IPAs—oh my!)
- A glass of wine for every palette
- Carefully curated classic cocktails with equally thoughtful names (Analysis of Cork-Based Networking, for instance)
#7 Three Dots and a Dash
Give yourself the gift of a tropical vacation in the form of this Polynesian-themed hideaway. Tucked away under River North’s busy streets, you’ll find your fill of cocktails so alluring (and appetizing) that you might mistake them for works of art.
Rest assured, they’re crafted with only the finest exotic fruits, distilled spirits, and house-made juices and elixirs—and they’re yours for the drinking.
If you’re interested in becoming more intimate with your concoctions, waltz on over to the Bamboo Room, a hidden River North bar nestled within Three Dots and a Dash. There, you can receive a delicious education in the world of rum, with classic cocktails with a twist like:4
- The Caipharinia, a perfected take on the classic cachaça-based cocktail
- Rhum Highball, an appetizing, amber-hued combo of house-made rhum agricole, honey, and carbonated water
- Growers Ti Punch, a sweet and bubbly concoction featuring rhum agricole, champagne, and fresh sugarcane syrup
#8 Bub City
As the only country-themed bar in River North, Bub City promises to be a rip-roaring good time. As soon as you walk through its doors, you’ll likely find yourself tapping your feet to the constant twang of country music while enjoying the details of the bar’s countrified aesthetic—an American flag made out of beer cans and a simple list of bar rules, like No drama or know-it-alls.
Once you’ve settled in, grab a bite of their southern cooking and, if you’re feeling on-theme, pair it with a Bud Light. If you prefer something with a little more bite, they also offer a variety of beers on tap and freshly prepared cocktails.
#9 The Bassment
River North, Chicago bars are no stranger to being underground or hidden—and The Bassment is no exception. Located below the Hampton Social, you enter this hideaway through a secret door and are immediately transported to a mix of modern-meets-1960s British Invasion.
Luxuriate in one of their velvet or leather couches while you sip on a specialty cocktail, like:5
- The Artist of the Month – A flavorful take on an espresso martini, the Artist of the Month is made with gingersnap vodka and Mr. Black Coffee liqueur.
- The Bathtub – Living up to its name, The Bathtub is a bubbly cocktail made with vodka, cucumber jalapeño, and lemon foam (to give you that bubble bath vibe).
If you happen to find your way in on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night, you can expect to be serenaded by live musical performances featuring Blues, R&B, and other soulful melodies.
#10 Gilt Bar
With ambient lighting, dark floral wallpaper, and brick accents, Gilt Bar’s opulent atmosphere will leave you wanting more; more of their handcrafted cocktails, more of their upscale American fare, more of their sultry vibes.
And they deliver.
Head to the basement where you’ll find The Library, a bar within a bar filled with vintage velvet booths, fringe lamps, and of course, a library full of well-worn-in books—the ideal location for sipping your Old Fashioned or your Dirt Martini.
#11 Parlor Pizza Bar
We can’t think of anything that pairs more perfectly with a craft beer than a warm slice of pizza—except for maybe the whole pie. Fortunately, the Parlor Pizza Bar offers just that. With both indoor and outdoor seating, you can cozy up with a pint and a pie, and enjoy the buzzing city streets.
After savoring a slice (or two, or three), consider stopping in for a second or third drink at one of the many other River North bars in the area, like:
- The Berkshire Room – Located in the Acme Hotel, this cocktail lounge offers a bright and crisp ambiance, along with a variety of colorful cocktails and New American bites.
- Arbella – Take your drinking to an international level with globally-inspired drinks in a globally-inspired setting.
- Rossi’s – A self-proclaimed dive bar, Rossi’s is the ultimate no-frills destination to enjoy a beer while watching the big game. Before you head out, be sure to stop by their on-site liquor store to keep the party going once you’re home.
Try Everything River North Has to Offer with Common
From dives to speakeasies, the bar options in River North, Chicago are endless, but there’s so much more this unique Chicago neighborhood has to offer. Fortunately, when you rent a home through Common, you can make Chicago your permanent stomping ground and explore to your heart’s desire.
Whether you prefer to live in a vibrant downtown district like River North or a walkable area like Lincoln Park, Common homes are available in some of Chicago’s best neighborhoods. Not to mention, they come with stylish furniture and incredible amenities like onsite laundry, free WiFi, and regular cleaning services—all at an attainable price point.
Learn more about Common and begin the search for your new Chicago home today.
- Broken Shaker. Handhelds. https://www.brokenshaker.com/chicago-menus/#food-chicago
- Green Door Chicago. https://www.greendoorchicago.com/history/
- El Jefe. Chicago Food Menu. https://elhefe.com/chicago-il/chicago-food-menu/
- Three Dots Chicago. The Bamboo Room Drink Menu. https://www.threedotschicago.com/thebambooroom/the-bamboo-room-menu/
- The Bassment. Menu. https://www.thebassmentchicago.com/drinks