June and I flew home to visit Oregon yesterday, so I’m coming to you from the West Coast! (And I need about a million more cups of coffee.) I am excited to disconnect a bit over the next few days to spend time with my family who I haven’t seen since before Christmas! Today, I’ve got a great roundup for those of you Chicago locals (or Chicago visitors who are looking for great local hangouts)!
I feel like there are two kinds of people in this world: those who always sit at the bar at restaurants, and those who don’t. (We fall into the first category. ?) People who love to sit at the bar are VERY passionate about sitting at the bar. It’s the best–you get to know your bartenders on a deeper level–you learn lot’s of fun tidbits about the restaurant you wouldn’t know otherwise. You make friends with other fellow bar-sitters. It’s a very social experience. The bar-sitters like to be where the action is.
On one of our recent date nights, Neal said, “you should do a roundup of the best Chicago restaurants to eat at the bar!” and I thought it was a pretty great idea. So I took to Instagram stories to ask all of you, because you always have the best inside scoop! I received SO MANY submissions, but narrowed it down to the most popular suggestions. Below, you’ll find my favorites, as well as yours! (Please note, this is different than “bars with good food”–maybe that should be our next roundup? ?)
Where to eat at the bar in Chicago
24 Great Chicago Restaurants where the bar is the best seat in the house:
If Neal and I had to vote favorite place to have dinner at the bar, it would be a tie between Club Lucky and Boeufhaus (below). Club Lucky is an old-school diner feel serving up very hearty American Italian food–they have the best martinis and the best bartenders! Whether you’re eating at the actual bar, or you can get one of the few booths in the bar area, both are great options. A Bucktown institution.
Tied for first, in our opinion, of best place to eat at the bar. Boeufhaus is known for their steak, but they have a really amazing farm to table menu. The bear truly is the best seat in the house, as you can watch the chef and kitchen staff working their magic in the kitchen, and the bartenders are always phenomenal. Highly recommend the seasonal market salad (usually a plethora of shaved vegetables tossed in a magical goddess dressing–it’s so good. How can a salad be so good?), the ribeye, and the sides are always amazing–especially the polenta and the frites. Also don’t miss the au poivre sauce for the steak.
This place is an absolute GEM. Not sure if this would be considered Humboldt Park or Ukrainian Village–and I think because it’s a little off the beaten path, it has remained a bit of a neighborhood secret. It’s a chic (but very unstuffy) space with an awesome bar–which, of course, are the best seats in the house. They have an Eastern European focus to their food, in addition to, of course, caviar! The bartenders are a key part in making it such a wonderful experience–this is the kind of place where you feel like a regular after your first time visiting. Don’t miss their cocktails with house-made shrubs, or their house-made dumplings!
I lived across the street (above Four Farthings) for years in my early twenties, and my roommates and I would always scrape together our money to sit at the bar and split steak frites for dinner. It was the best then, and it’s the best now! They make the best sidecars in town, too, by the way! The bar service is always top notch. Best seats in the house! A Lincoln Park favorite.
You may wait weeks to get a reso at Top Chef Stephanie Izard’s most famous restaurant, but the secret is to walk in and grab a seat at the bar! GTG has never disappointed, and has remained a West Loop icon since it opened years ago!
Known unofficially as the best steak in the city. (Totally rivals Boeufhaus–I think it’s a toss up, IMO). If you want a nice, swanky steakhouse, there is no better place than Bavettes!
I haven’t made it here yet, but it looks SO cool–and I have heard nothing but great things! An English pub, but swanky, with amazing cocktails and English/Indian fare. Definitely looks like a great bar to dine at!
A popular Lakeview suggestion serving Southern Italian food in a chic but welcoming environment!
Not a big bar, but one of the best spots to sit if you can snag a seat! Hint: Get the burger.
It’s hard to go wrong with anything the menu at Etta! Plus, one of the few cute/nice spots open for weekday lunch in Wicker/Bucktown! They also have a second location in River North.
I had never heard of this place, but multiple people recommended this River North pasta bar!
Such a fun and classic old-school vibe, obviously, as the name suggests–very famous for crab, oysters, and other seafood fare!
Haven’t been here in years but I’m glad to hear this Pilsen favorite is still going strong based on your reccos! Multiple people said grabbing dinner at their beautiful bar is a must! It’s located in Thalia Hall, which makes it a great spot for dinner before a show–don’t miss the other awesome bars in the building–the Punch Bowl, and Tack Room! If you aren’t familiar with Thalia Hall, the building is well over 100 years old and was modeled after the Prague Opera House. It’s been restored beautifully, so each spot has tons of unique charm.
One of my best friends has been raving about Sal’s to me for over a year now, and I am still dying to go! It’s very much a neighborhood love of all Lakeview residents–great service, great Italian food, and an amazing martini! Many of you agree–it was a very popular suggestion!
A no-frills, old-school (underground!) seafood tavern in Lakeview. Feels like you’re in a Boston crab shack in the middle of the midwest! (A little research tells me they’re cash-only, not sure if that’s still true in this pandemic world, but probably worth bringing some cash just in case!) I’ve been dying to take Neal here forever!
Have been meaning to get here for YEARS but this was a very popular Logan Square suggestion. A cozy restaurant with an upscale menu from Europe’s Alpine region. The rustic bar looks like a great place to pull up a seat!
Top Chef contestant Sarah Grueneberg’s contemporary Italian restaurant and one of the West Loop’s mainstays. One reader mentioned that if you sit at the bar, you can watch them make the pasta via the mirror on the ceiling!
We love this Spanish tapas spot in Wicker! While their adorable outdoor patio with lots of greenery is adorable against their hot pink facade, the insiders know that the bar is the best seat in the house. You must order their G&T and head upstairs to the speakeasy for a drink and a burlesque show after dinner!
A tiny unpretentious hole in the wall French bistro with INCREDIBLE classic, rustic French food. It only has a few bar seats. One of our favorite date night spots.
Lula is a very iconic Logan Square spot (that we have yet to make it to!) It’s got a heavily seasonal, organic, farm-to-table style menu in an unpretentious, homey, cute diner-vibes setting.
An ICONIC Chicago rib joint, which Frank Sinatra used to frequent. It’s an old-school tavern that get’s very busy, but if you can snag a seat at the bar, do it!
A cute Logan Square spot for tacos. We love sitting at the bar here, and it was also one of your popular suggestions! Don’t miss their downstairs speakeasy for a drink after dinner.
One of my neighborhood favorites–a small curated menu of Indian small plates in an English pub setting! They make their own tonic and have G&T’s on draft!
Another go-to favorite of ours. We’ve never sat at the bar though–so have to try that next! Their farm to table menu changes seasonally and I’ve never had a less than incredible meal here! It’s dark and candlelit which makes it extra cozy in the winter, but they have a big garage door they open in the summer to make it breezy. Their wine selection is amazing and unique–have your server make recommendations fo you. Yes, it is in a bizarre location in a middle of a bunch of warehouses behind Home Depot, so don’t worry–your Uber driver isn’t taking you somewhere to murder you.