The Weekender: Chicago’s best off-beat bars

The Weekender: Chicago’s best off-beat bars

Chicago has its share of destination bars - from the 96th floor of the Hancock to the basement vault of an old bank. All are deserving of a visit - or two!

But this weekend I recommend you take in some bars that aren’t quite as high profile.

Now these drinking spots aren’t exactly off the beaten path. But they are tucked inside other hot spot destinations. They may not be the main event, but each has appeals that make them worth a visit in their own right - and not just a stop on your way somewhere else.

Our first stop is where I first hit upon this concept - on my way to a movie at the Showplace Icon Theatre off Roosevelt Road. Head up to the second floor to see the space designed by long-time restaurateur Jerry Kleiner, a man who generates controversy for more than just his over-the-top sense of style. You can grab a drink or a snack to take into the movie. But I recommend you belly up to the bank of windows along the north wall, and take in one of the more spectacular views of Chicago. You’ll be far from the madding movie crowd and feel like you’re hovering above the city’s hectic holiday pace. Perfect.

Next stop: The Annoyance Theatre. Again, you could pay a visit pre- or post-show, and the current line-up looks in keeping with the raunchy reputation of the sketch-improv-play house. But two hints this bar isn’t playing second fiddle to the theatre: the large collection of board games, and the nightly drink specials. Add on the rather large Humpty Dumpty figure teetering on a shelf above the bartender and what’s stopping you?

Okay what could be more convenient than a bar located inside a liquor store? Among the best is the joint inside Cal’s Liquors. Sure there are fancier versions of the classic Chicago two-fer now available. But this rather simple space attracts a punk rock mix of traders, bike messengers and lost in the south loop souls. There are music shows on the weekend. And just because they’re a liquor store don’t bank on them stocking your favorite brew - as their web site says ‘sometimes we have it, sometimes we don’t.’ Now that’s Chicago style!

Bowling and beer are like bread and butter, they just bring out the best in one another! Again, in this city more options than strikes await you. But I’m shooting for the bar and pizza joint tucked inside Diversey River Bowl, which is also a bit hidden away. Here’s why: Many think the food is pretty good. And bowling always sounds great. And even if you don’t know a ten pin from a spare the action is mesmerizing. Plus all those flat screens means you’ll get your sport on, whether or not you pull on a pair of those funny shoes.

Finally, ‘tis the travel season and the bad weather season. So an airport bar may well be your best friend when you’re staring down a delay. But even if you’re not traveling Wicker Park in Terminal 2 at O’Hare is worth the trip. Okay the name is beyond confusing. But the ambience is great, plus the look says international jet setter better than anything else in the joint. And just like the person seated next to you on the plane, you’re likely not to cross paths again with your fellow bar mates. So sit back, relax and wing it!

The List:

1. Lobby Lounge @ Showplace Icon
1011 S Delano Ct E

2. The Annoyance Bar
Annoyance Theatre
4830 N. Broadway

3. Cal’s
Cal’s Liquors
400 S. Wells

4. DRB’s Pizzeria
Diversey River Bowl
2211 W. Diversey Parkway

5. Wicker Park Seafood and Sushi Bar
Terminal 2 - O’Hare International Airport
10000 Bessie Coleman Drive