Looking for a bar with retro, speakeasy appeal? You have to try out these Chicago favorites
Chicago was once home to an incredible amount of speakeasies, due to the effects of Prohibition. Although the sale and consumption of alcohol was outlawed, that didn’t stop citizens from getting their boozy fix! Hidden bars and secret pubs popped up all over the Windy City, thanks in large part to the high demand, and the criminal elements willing to bring alcohol to the people. The need for speakeasies may have subsided with the passage of the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution--which repealed Prohibition--but their cool vibes and deliciously different drinks never seemed to go out of style!
We’ve put together a list of some of the best bars in Chicago that continue to give off that swanky, retro vibe of a speakeasy!
If you want to try something a little different this weekend, why not visit one of these secret spots? Better yet, why not pay for your drinks with a GiftYa electronic gift card? It’s the easiest and most convenient way to enjoy an authentic speakeasy experience--and you’ll never have to worry about forgetting it at home!
676-8 N New Orleans St.
River North | thedrifterchicago.com
If you’re interested in hanging out someplace a little different from the norm, consider stopping by The Drifter. This speakeasy-style bar is located in the basement of the Green Door Tavern, and is as authentic as you get. Choose your drink from a rotating menu over over 100 craft cocktails, so you’ll never need to have the same drink twice--that is unless it’s your new favorite!
Not only are the cocktails at this place spot on, they also go above and beyond when it comes to live entertainment. Their burlesque shows are some of the best in the city, and they also feature hilarious stand-up comedians’ shows. Check this place out and take a step back in time!
“Wow what a cool place to have a drink.Great place to bring your out of town friends.” -Yelp Review
11 E Walton St.
Near North Side
This beautiful art deco restaurant draws its decor and culinary inspiration from Paris of the 1920s, when the arts were flourishing and people were seeking new ways to express themselves creatively. Located on the third floor of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, Margeaux Brasserie is a great place to relax and unwind among a beautiful well-lit space and artisan drinks.
Their menu is well known throughout the city as offering some of the finest in French cuisines, so consider trying the duck breast, lamb, or the popular escargots bordelaise. You’ll also need to try out their cocktails--or their extensive French and American wine list--and don’t forget to ask about the neverending rose with brunch!
“I loved my visit here! I went for my anniversary and all the waiters were very attentive. The food was delicious and the portion size was huge!” -Yelp Review
200 N Green St.
Near West Side | lazybirdchicago.com
As soon as you step through the doors of Lazy Bird, you feel like you’re being transported to another time. Located in the cellar of the Hoxton Hotel, this bar definitely has some speakeasy vibes going on. Perhaps it’s the list of over 50 creative and hand-crafted cocktails for you to choose from, or maybe it’s the sound of some sultry jazz that fills the room as you lounge and sip on your drink.
You’ll be impressed by the understated yet chic decor, that seems to go right along with the chill and laid back vibes of this cocktail bar. Whether you stay for a few drinks, or just one, make sure to come a little on the early side to guarantee a seat in this popular spot.
“Amazing cocktail bar!! I always love a good speakeasy and this is perhaps my new fav in Chicago! To start, this place has amazing cocktails!” -Yelp Review
1520 N Damen Ave.
Wicker Park | theviolethour.com
This spot is a must-visit for all of those cocktail connoisseurs, and you definitely won’t be disappointed! The bartenders here take a lot of pride in their concoctions, and want to offer you the best, and freshest drink that they can. If you’re unsure what to order, simply ask them to recommend something, and they’ll be more than happy to do so!
The cocktails change seasonally here, so you’re guaranteed to be able to try some items that are a little out of the ordinary. Be adventurous and try something you might not typically be drawn too! If you’re in the mood for some bites, there are artfully prepared small plates that change depending on the season and what the chef decides to whip up for guests!
Don’t forget to sign up for the cocktail classes as well, where you can learn how to make drinks like the pros.
“The drinks are fantastic. Using unusual ingredients and they all work together. The bar snacks are a perfect combo of spicy, sweet, salty, and a bit of fat...” -Yelp Review.
1212 E 59th St.
Back in the day Chicagoans had to hide their illegal alcohol consumption, which is why there were so many speakeasies! If you’ve always loved the feeling of a members only joint--and one that might be a little difficult to locate-- then the Pub on the University of Chicago campus is for you. Although it was designed for students and alumni of UC, you can also gain admittance if you pay the cover fee, and it’s completely worth it! This pub is located in the cellar of Ida Noyes Hall, and has some of the best draft beer selection in the area.
As if a secretive spot that has amazing beer isn’t enough, they also have a full menu that’s just asking to be tried! In case you’re in the mood for some games, the Pub has you covered, and you’ll find pool, darts, as well as some fun board games. If you’re not an alum or a student, you can still get one to sponsor you, so do yourself a favor and sign up!
“This place has it all: good beer selection, TVs, billiards/Foosball and vintage decor with tons of character. There's something for everyone!” -Yelp Review
3632 N Clark St.
Lakeview | mordecaichicago.com
Hush Money is one of Chicago’s favorite whiskey bars, it seems to perfectly blend old drink favorites such as Manhattans and Side Cars, with new and interesting drink creations such as Vip and Vigor-- that combines burdock, tequila, and vermouth--as well as the Carthuseum Serum-- that expertly blends green tea, gin, citric acid, and egg whites.
This spot is only open Thursdays through Saturday, so make sure to stop by then and ask the bartenders to whip up one of your favorite drinks! Hush Money is located on the second floor above its sister restaurant, Mordecai.
“Love the low key atmosphere! Exposed ductwork has an industrial feel, which is offset by the cream colored bar. Really enjoyed the experience and will come back again.” -Yelp Review
2013 W North Ave.
Wicker Park | estelleschicago.com
Estelle’s is one of Chicago’s favorite places to grab a cocktail, relax, and enjoy the ambiance of low lighting and comfortable decor. Here you can choose from classic speakeasy staples such as the Gimlet, the Manhattan, and a Hot Toddy. Each of these drinks are made according to your order by some incredible mixologists. If you prefer to have a beer instead, you can choose from a huge selection of draft, bottles, and even cans.
Estelle’s is very popular with the late night crowd, and stays open until 4am. But if you’d rather go for dinner and drinks, that works too! Their menu has all your favorite pub favorites, such as burgers, nachos, BLTs, and grilled cheese.
“A very cool moody vibe bar. Right on six corners! I liked the drink menu and bar staff.” -Yelp Review
312 W Chestnut St.
Near North Side | facebook.com/pg/Janitors-Closet
If you’re up for something completely different then you have to stop by the Janitor’s Closet, which set up shop in a former janitor’s closet in the lower level of the FieldHouse Jones Hotel. This interesting concept boasts of 15 bar seats as well as booths designed after school bus seats. The cocktails are extremely differeny, and definitely draw from the Chicago speakeasy era.
Popular options include the Brown Line, 9 Mile, and Lily’s Pad. Once you’ve tried any of these cocktails you’ll be back for more janitorial-inspired fun!
“The cocktails are made with care and take some time, but they are definitely worth it. There is bar seating and some lounge area as well.” -Yelp Review
There’s something that’s just fun about heading into a secret bar--especially if you’re in the mood for some pretty eclectic cocktails! Chicago has a long history of speakeasies, and as this list shows, many of them are still alive and well! Where’s your favorite place to grab a Prohibition-era drink? Let us know in the comments!