Dive Bar Challenge


Chicago is full of watering holes. In case some of you don’t have any idea where to go for New Years, here are some ideas to kick off the Dive Bar Challenge.

The rules of this challenge are as follows: go to at least 3 of the bars and bring back some evidence of having physically been there (hazy memories don’t count, but the napkin-scrawled phone numbers of people you don’t remember meeting do). You get extra points if the bars are in a different neighborhood. The first to bring evidence to the MAPH office and present it to either me, AJ, or Whitney will receive some kind of awesome prize that will be decided if anyone actually goes through the trouble to do all of this.


You’ll be riding six white horses when you come to Zakopane

On to the bars…

Hyde Park

If you’ve been to the Cove, you know it feels like the kind of place where you could meet someone and realize that they’re a distant relative, many times removed, someone you’d never want to think you’re related to, but oh well, there they are sitting across from you, so why not have a beer together? Before I’d been to the Cove, an undergraduate told me it smelled like piss and had invasive bright lights. I’ve never been oppressed by the lighting in the Cove, however. By now many of you probably know it, and the people at the Cove know you, and have stopped letting you in since you blacked out and sang a duet of “Don’t Stop Believing”, just you and the jukebox.

Falcon Inn. Despite the intriguing name, I’ve never been in this bar. Nevertheless, it is a possible stop on the Dive Bar Challenge because of its glowing yelp reviews.

Jimmy’s. Is actually called the Woodlawn Tap.


Lincoln Park

Rose’s is a true gem. The bar is run by Rose, an elderly Macedonian woman and dyed-in-the-wool sweetheart. She loves to share stories of her past, to hear about your life, and to try and get you to marry other people at the bar.  She is an old school matchmaker. It’s usually pretty dead on the weeknights, but that’s fine, because you have your run of the pool table. During the weekends, it tends to fill up with random people and Depaul students, so you will have more luck finding your future spouse. A typical night consists of a few locals (one of who will challenge you to a contest of reflexes and steal a quarter form your hand), a group of young people, a couple on their first date, a couple on their last date, and Rose.

Go meet Rose

Delilah’s. My friend once said that Delilah’s is great because if you go there and you’re not dressed to the nine’s, no one will pay attention to you. I don’t know if that’s true, but it I guess it’s true that people there are usually dressed in an edgy but chic way.   There’s two floors, with a pool table on the second, and vintage porno and horror movies that sometimes play on the TV’s behind the bars. They have an enormous whiskey selection and dj’s and movies on certain nights.


Ukrainian Village

Rainbo. It’s good enough for David Berman!

Gold Star Bar. Apparently one of the bartenders once killed several would-be robbers with a shotgun that was kept under the bar. Their spirits now inhabit the jukebox, which is amply stocked with a diverse catalog of your favorites.

Innertown Pub. A MAPH official once accused this bar of having “bad mojo”, but for me, it’s still a preferred place to grab a drink, and especially cozy in the winter. Its decorations seem to have been purchased entirely at the estate sale of someone’s Elvis-obsessed grandfather, or otherwise looted from their basement, leaving only a wall-to-wall shag carpet to warm its bare rumpus room. Their jukebox works, their ATM shoots your money out at you like it’s pissed off, and TV seems possessed and is always yellow for some reason.

Zakopane. This  bar is named after a town in southern Poland. Stop in for a smiling bartender and a Polish beer.



The Skylark has frequent musical events an extensive menu of tasty food. I told someone they had tater tots there and they said something about tater tots being ironic. I did not understand, because when you eat a food that is delicious, what could be more straightforward?


Logan Square

Whirlaway.This bar is one of my favorites. It’s named after a racehorse, who has been immortalized in a charcoal portrait behind the bar. This is great place to grab a drink or watch sports surrounded by friends or strangers. A very friendly woman named Maria runs things there most every night, and is well-known and beloved by all frequent patrons.

The horse that bought the bar

Cole’s seems like a chameleon bar to me: I always go there and see a different crowd of people depending on the band playing that night,  from people decked in metal and leather to those who favor folksie flannels, from punks to new-new-wavers, and bands that kept playing together even after they graduated and had to move out of the frat house. No matter who is playing, though, it’s commanded by a cool, friendly staff, exhibits the work of local artists, and has decent beers on tap. It’s a little tough to get in the queue for the pool table, though, if you’re interested in that.

California Clipper. I’ve never been here, but I keep meaning to. It comes highly recommended by one of your preceptors. Looking at their website, I can’t believe I’ve never been.


There are many more that I’ve left out, so feel free to create your own list of Dive Bars and pit them against those on this list. Enjoy a happy and safe New Year.

2 thoughts on “Dive Bar Challenge

  1. hilary

    i feel like we need to have another challenge, the ‘i challenge you to define ‘dive bar’ for me’ challenge … i’m pretty sure the falcon counts by any definition though.

  2. ben s

    I admit, I hesitated to include some, but thought they had divey elements enough to be hip bars that get honorable mention. I should’ve included J and M Tap in Uk Village (http://www.yelp.com/biz/j-and-m-tap-chicago) but when I wrote this I didn’t know the actual name. People always called it “Old Man Bar” or “Squirrel Bar” for reasons I don’t really know.

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