How many times have you hit the town and been annoyed because no matter where you go, you always manage to see the same faces? I’m sure we can all agree that it’s cool to run into your people from time-to-time, but then there are other occasions when you just want to go somewhere more “low key”. You know, an unfamiliar place with a cool vibe, great music and strong drinks. Whether you’re planning a hot date with your significant (or not so significant other) or you just want a night out with friends, this article is for people who are tired of the usual. Check out some of Chicago’s coolest tucked away bars.
The Hyde (5115 S. Harper)
A 1920’s prohibition-inspired speakeasy awaits if you can provide the correct password. Once you arrive, cell phone use is not allowed (so as not to prevent your plus one from receiving your full undivided attention). The walls of the entrance are covered with old newspaper clippings and photos of mobsters and the space includes some private tables tucked between crushed red velvet partitions along with a larger sitting space. The DJ plays a mix of hip-hop, jazz and R&B. The menu is simple and small, nothing too fancy. I recommend the calamari and a glass of Pinot.
Blind Barber (948 W. Fulton Market)
Get a fade during the day and get “faded” by night at this 800-square-foot hot spot in Fulton Market. This part barbershop, part bar with locations in L.A. and New York is blessing the Windy City with an intimate setting, craft cocktails and good food…because who doesn’t want a grilled cheese sandwich at midnight? Guests enter through a discreet door just past the shop’s main room and the aesthetic reminds you of a 70’s man cave with a DJ.
The Drifter (676-8 N. Orleans)
Tarot cards and burlesque are the main attraction at this spot located in the basement of the Green Door Tavern. The building that the bar is housed in is over 100 years old and was an actual speakeasy in the 1920’s. So needless to say, you’re in for both an authentic and eccentric experience. From the antique cash register and circus paraphernalia on the walls to the creative cocktails printed onto tarot cards, this place definitely gives off an old-time vibe welcoming of gypsies and drifters (hence the name).
Money Gun (660 W. Lake)
Dark, unpretentious, great music and even better drinks. This hidden gem plays old school hip-hop and serves up creative dishes like savory sweet potato croquettes with bourbon toffee and grilled lamb ribs with spicy shrimp relish. The place doesn’t look like much from the outside (which is probably how it has remained just below the radar since its opening three years ago). The burgundy leather booths coupled with mirrored walls with names of the drinks served is a nice touch.
Dorian’s (1939 N. Avenue)
As Darius Lovehall in the movie “Love Jones” once said, “I still like that vinyl sound”. So if you’re anything like me, you’ll fall in love with Dorian’s in Wicker Park.
If you take a quick stroll through a tiny record shop with listening stations and walk through a sliding door, you’ll find a cool bar with tiki cocktails and a food menu that serves up Asian-inspired small plates. The owners wanted to recreate that old school vibe that happens when people come together and enjoy good music through records. I would definitely say they succeeded. This spot was a late find for me, but it is by far the most impressive on the list.
Featured in The Chicago Defender