Get ready to raise a glass and immerse yourself in Chicago’s buzzing bar scene as we uncover the city’s hottest new bars. From trendy cocktail lounges to chic speakeasies, these establishments are making waves with their innovative concepts and captivating atmospheres. Join us as we explore the vibrant tapestry of Chicago’s bar scene, where mixology meets creativity!
Fulton Market’s After comes courtesy of Curtis Duffy and Michael Muser, whose two-Michelin-starred restaurant Ever is next door. Modern luxury is the order of the day–even the bar stools are plush and backed–as guests can sip a classic cocktail or one of the house creations. Walk-ins are welcome, but reservations are recommended, and can be made up to two months in advance.
A potential antidote to the hip clubs that populate River North, No Vacancy bills itself as an “elevated dive bar.” Right down to the flickering neon sign in the window, this certainly applies. No Vacancy’s sleek decor emphasizes the “elevated” aspect, as does the craft beverages list. The food menu offers gastropub approaches to burgers and other sandwiches, with birria egg rolls and pretzel-crusted chicken tenders as appetizers.
Steps away from the bustling Belmont CTA station in Lakeview is Lost Reef, where visitors are surrounded by eight tanks comprising 2,500 gallons of fish and coral. The aquatic paradise theme is boosted by a large list of innovative cocktails and spirits, and the cold kitchen features charcuterie boards, a crudo bar and raw protein entrees. Lost Reef also partners with organizations devoted to preserving and restoring marine life.
Tetto brings the ambiance of an Italian rooftop bar to the West Loop. In full view of the Chicago skyline, guests can enjoy wines and traditional Italian drinks with a view. Concoctions such as the espresso martini, Aperol spritz and the Negroni are all inspired by the flavors of Italy. The food menu comes from Tony Scardino, who bills himself as “Professor Pizza.”
As the first cocktail lounge in Chinatown, Nine Bar opened amid considerable publicity in the summer of 2022. Tucked behind Moon Palace Express, the dimly lit speakeasy has a decor inspired by back-room bars in Tokyo and Hong Kong, and the movie Blade Runner. Its drinks incorporate Asian ingredients like Chinese five spice, Sichuan peppercorns and orange-lemongrass tea.
Opened in Wicker Park by a pair of experienced sommeliers, Le Midi draws its inspiration–and its name–from the wine bars of Southern France. In addition to featuring more than 20 wines (from a rotating selection of 250 labels) by the glass, Le Midi has a shop with wines from around the world and a small menu of bites to pair with its selections. The bar also hosts occasional tastings.
River West’s newest hotspot transformed one of Chicago’s beloved Irish pubs into an Old London lounge. The Pearl Club is the brainchild of Boka Restaurant Group’s Rob Katz, who recruited noted local mixologist Paolo Acuna. Together, their cocktail menu alongside their drapes and brass accents create a remarkable atmosphere. Indulge in The Pearl Club’s wide selection of whiskeys, tequilas and wines as you take in the energy.
In the summer of 2023, the Meadowlark is celebrating the 130th anniversary of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. The new menu, called “The Magic City,” features 16 drinks, as well as small plates, inspired by the fair, which introduced Chicago to the world. The speakeasy, found behind an unmarked door near a Logan Square alley, only seats 30 people. It was also named one of the best new cocktail bars in the central U.S. by the influential Tales of the Cocktail!
Situated atop The Robey Hotel, 13 floors above the heart of Wicker Park, The Up Room offers 180-degree views of Chicago’s skyline at night. Its seasonal cocktail list adds five summer-themed drinks to the regular menu, which includes an extensive whiskey selection and exotic rums and tequilas. While drinking, guests can explore the hotel’s terrace and grotto, and snack on a charcuterie, cheese board, marinated olives or mixed nuts.
Outside of a few of the house cocktails, there’s nothing fancy about Logan Square’s Quality Time. Between the booths, old-school vibes and a patio perfect for summer drinking, Quality Time feels more like a neighborhood bar that’s been around for decades than a place that opened in the summer of 2022. DJs spin vinyl on Friday and Saturday nights and curate the bar’s monthly playlist on Spotify.