6 Secret Bars in Chicago (That Aren’t Violet Hour)
A little mystery makes everything better. Case in point: white Airheads and these six secret bars. You’ll have as much fun finding them as you will hanging out at them. Keep reading to find out the secret passwords, unmarked doors and former-basement speakeasies to look out for.
The Booze Box
A night here is the next best thing to traveling to Tokyo’s famed Golden Gai neighborhood, a warren of dive-y, hole-in-the-wall bars. Tucked away in Sushi Dokku’s basement, it’s got moody ambience in spades. Munch on Japanese bites like tako yaki (battered octopus with mayo, unagi sauce and bonito flakes) and sip cold draft sake (a rarity in Chicago) amid the cedar-lined walls.
823 W. Randolph St.; 312-455-8238 or sushidokku.com
We didn’t think it could get any better than drinks at The Aviary until we learned about its private room, The Office. Book it for a night of sipping inspired cocktails like a barrel-aged martini with vermouth and gin on leather club chairs and surrounded by modern art—this beats any day at the actual office.
955 W. Fulton Market; 312-226-0868 or theaviary.com
To enter this speakeasy, you’ll need to proceed down an alley past a red-lit gate, then utter the secret password, which changes frequently. It’s shared with members (you can apply for an annual fee) or guests at the upstairs Old Chicago Inn. Trust us, the Manhattans and crowd of dapper guests (there’s a dress code) are definitely worth it.
3222 N. Sheffield Ave.; 773-472-2278 or oldchicagoinn.com
Everyone knows Pops for Champagne—it’s been around 30 years! What you may not know is that it has a downstairs bar that’s every bit as good as the upstairs. Dedicated to craft beers, artisanal spirits and wines from around the Great Lakes region, it has a menu featuring cocktails like La Vie en Rose (elderflower liqueur, sugar cube, Peychaud’s and brut). The home-grown beverages find their match in a low-key atmosphere (think: cushy armchairs), making this the ideal place to wind down a night in River North.
601 N. State St.; 312-266-7677 or popsforchampagne.com
Gilt Bar has a dark little secret. It’s this cozy subterranean den lined with shelves of leather-bound books. Grab a seat in a tufted red booth, order up a whiskey sour and start penning your own great American novel.
230 W. Kinzie St.; 312-464-9544 or giltbarchicago.com
A typical night here includes racy burlesque acts, flamenco dancers and a pisco punch bowl big enough to get you and five of your friends a little tipsy. Sound fun? Just head upstairs at tapas spot Black Bull and find the unmarked door.
1721 W. Division St.; 773-227-8600 or bordelchicago.com