As a famous music town, Chicago has many bars where live music can be heard on a nightly basis, alongside many jazz and blues clubs, but which ones are the best? Here are our choices for music venues with great eats or drinks in Chicago.
This intimate concert venue has been a staple of Ukrainian Village since 1992. Proudly described by the owners as a “hole,” this indie-rock dive bar has built its reputation on cheap drinks, a lack of pretension, a dedicated crowd and, of course, live music. Over the years, it has hosted a ridiculous number of bands that have gone on to become huge, like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Flaming Lips, Vampire Weekend and The Strokes. The Empty Bottle is one of Chicago’s go-to venues for the hippest music, with craft beers and delicious cheap eats, known for having some of the best alternative concerts in Chicago.
Opened in 1954, Phyllis’ Musical Inn is the oldest music venue in Wicker Park. It is also famous for showcasing local bands. You can expect free live music most nights, with a cover on the weekend that depends on who’s playing. If hearing young Chicago bands while enjoying cheap drinks in a no-frills setting is for you, make Phyllis’ your next night out.
The Hideout, called a “regular bar for irregular folks,” is located in a 19th-century house between factories and empty lots along the North Branch of the Chicago River. Chicago legends Billy Corgan and Wilco have performed low-key and unusual sets here over the years, alongside acts a wide array of genres and styles.
Alongside the classy, retro interior and extensive range of classic cocktails, The California Clipper in Humboldt Park features live music most nights. A range of acclaimed acts play the Clipper, spanning soul, jazz, blues and more. Whether you settle into a booth bathed in moody red light or get up and dance with the regulars, you’re in for a quintessential Chicago experience.
Another Chicago institution, Roscoe Village’s Hungry Brain actually went out of business in 2014. But it soon made a comeback in 2016, offering the same improvised jazz shows that the bar had built its name on. It’s a quirky and intimate setting with a relaxed vibe and offers great value — many shows are free, the drinks are cheap, and you can bring your own food.
Schubas has a back area with a stage for those who want an up-close performance, or a front bar if you just want to hang out and have a conversation | Courtesy of Schubas
On the corner of Belmont and Southport in Lake View, the Schubas Tavern hosts bands from across the US and the world, but still provides an intimate bar setting. Don’t feel like paying the cover fee? You can hang out in the front bar and soak up the music and atmosphere from a distance.
Though it’s more a restaurant than a bar, live music seven nights a week and some of the city’s best barbecue make Smoke Daddy a must-visit on this list. Blues, jazz, alt-rock, folk, country and bluegrass are just some of the genres you can expect to hear every night of the week and on Sunday afternoons.
Pizza, craft beer and live music? Under one roof? Wicker Park’s Piece Brewery and Pizzeria is the place with it all, offering regular live music to complement the thin-crust pizza and beers like the Top Heavy Hefeweizen and Dysfunctionale. Live band karaoke is also held every Saturday. Expect to wait in line.