A Guide to Chicago Dive Bars

It is often said that Chicago is a city of neighborhoods. It should come as no surprise then that it is also home to some of the most colorful neighborhood taverns as well. This list is by no means complete as there are always hidden gems out there to be discovered by the brave soul. This list may serve to get you started on enjoying the lesser travelled watering holes of the city and will no doubt get you good and drunk for a fair price.
One of my personal favorites is Tuman’s at the corner of Chicago and Leavitt in the West Loop Ukranian Village neighborhood. This cozy little spot has fair prices and friendly bar staff. It has been cleaned up in recent years following a change in ownership but maintains an unpretentious easy-going atmosphere. I was saddened to have recently seen PBR drafts raised in price from $2 to $2.50, but I suppose that is still a fair price. The place never has a cover charge, but will get crowded on the weekends when they have DJ’s. The clientele is a mixture of what is a diverse neighborhood of artists, professionals, bike messengers, and hipsters. It is a friendly bunch though and you’re sure to meet plenty of nice people if you stop in for a drink or to eat as the food is quite good as well.
Another old favorite of mine is Weed’s on the corner of Dayton and Weed St. This place is known for its wide range of live acts as it hosts a poetry reading night (Monday), jazz night (Thursday), and assorted live performances from country and rock acts to stand up comedy as well. The decor is highlighted by hundred of bras stapled to the ceiling and a vast collection of eclectic art work. Weeds also has a nice back patio for the warmer months. It is a no frills place and I have been in there when it has been packed and when it has been me and the bartender. It is worth checking out for the live performances or just for a quiet drink when the urge hits you.
When you get in the mood for some country music there aren’t many honky-tonks you can turn to in the windy city, but the closest I’ve found is Carol’s Pub on the corner of Clark and Leland. This place has capitalized on a lot of recent publicity as being a great dive bar (and being open late-night) so expect a crowd late on the weekends. There is room for everyone though to enjoy the music of the house band, Diamondback. The band plays country classics and is always up for friendly requests (improve you chances with a generous tip). They have Karaoke on Thursdays and I spent St. Patrick’s day here once and had a decent corned beef and cabbage dinner. It is still a fun place despite its growth in popularity and the raising of its prices (I remember when those Busch bottles were $1!).
I hope this short list of a few of my favorites gets you out drinking in few of the character filled spots around town. Come humble and with an open ear and you can truly meet some of the most interesting people this great city has to offer…and you’re sure to get rip roaring drunk at the same time.