We all love knowing that we’re visiting somewhere that not many people know about. You want to head off the beaten track, find a hidden gem, and go where the locals go. What’s better than doing this while also being immersed in some of America’s Prohibition-era history? Well, if you want to achieve this, then you need to head to one of a number of hidden speakeasy-inspired bars dotted around Chicago. Check out these five speakeasy bars in some of my favorite Chicago neighborhoods that offer that hidden gem feeling along with some of the best cocktails around.
Image via Flickr by Robot B
The reason this bar may feel like a speakeasy is that it actually was a genuine speakeasy in the 1920s! Located in River North under the Green Door Tavern, this bar holds the authentic speakeasy feel that many wannabe speakeasies try, and fail, to attain. This bar is full of old antiques, signs, and memorabilia to remind you of the old Prohibition days. There are no signs, so inside you should head through the green door, downstairs, and enter the door next to the toilets. Good cocktails and reasonably priced start around $12.
The Library at Gilt Bar
To access The Library in the basement of Gilt Bar on West Kinzie Street, you need to head down the spiral staircase that takes you to a door that is barely visible. Once you enter, your eyes will take a while to adjust to the light in the dimly lit room. When they do, you will find a small room with red booths surrounded by shelves upon shelves of classic books on rich mahogany wood. You can still order the same food that you would find upstairs in Gilt Bar, just in a cozier, warmer, and dimmer space. The average price of a cocktail is $12, which is well worth it considering the atmosphere and decor.
Image via Flickr by star5112
Situated on Division Street in Wicker Park, Bordel is hidden inside the Black Bull Tapas Restaurant. To get here, head through a wooden door and up the spiral stairway. You will enter a very dimly lit venue with many booths and small rooms where you can hide away. All throughout, there is a burlesque theme with red and black seats and gold accents. The intimate venue hosts burlesque shows and live music. The average price of a cocktail is $15 or more, but they are some of the best you’ll find in the Windy City. Try the Old Fashioned or the Spanish coffee.
If you want a challenge, then The Pub at the University of Chicago is the place for you. Situated underground below one of the university halls, the pub offers beer and bar food in a classic pub atmosphere. You can’t enter on your own unless you are a member, student, or guest of either of these two. If you know a member, great. If not, I guess you could hang outside and ask to be someone’s guest!
Baby Atlas is the secret gem that is hidden away below Matilda’s Bar on N Sheffield Avenue in Lakeview. Outside Matilda’s, down the side of the bar, is a sign that simply reads Baby Atlas. This will take you to the bar downstairs that is the loudest one on this list. The alcohol will be flowing, the music will be pumping and you’ll be surrounded by plenty of locals in this hidden party paradise.
These five great speakeasy-inspired bars will be sure to give you that off-the-beaten-path feeling. If you can find your way in, you can enter a whole new world, mingle with the locals, bask in a Prohibition-era atmosphere, and enjoy some of the best cocktails Chicago has to offer.