Get Looped In The Loop!
The Best Bars in Chicago's Downtown Business Area
Downtown is an after-work haven and home to the city's best blues club.
The Loop is the main business district of downtown Chicago. It got its name because the "el" train makes a loop around the area.
The Loop is home to the Chicago Board of Trade and the Chicago Board Options Exchange. And these guys and gals really know how to party when they are off the trading floor.
Most of the bars in the Loop are filled with jacket-wearing folks from the time the last bell sounds on the trading floor until about 6 p.m. By 8, they are pretty much empty, with notable exceptions such as Trader Vic's.
One of the more popular hangouts is the Cactus (404 S. Wells). There is great conversation as well as several TV screens for Chicago's sports fans. It's also a hot spot during lunch for those who like a liquid lunch. The owner is a huge Jimmy Buffett fan and has decorated the place with that tropical dreamin' theme. The outdoor patio makes for a nice scoping area to check out the people that are hurrying to catch the train back to the suburbs. It's the Best Friday Happy Hour Bar in Chicago, when it goes strong until closing at 11.
Across the street, Alcocks has an Olympic-themed deck/beer garden that is well-stocked with after-work patrons.
Hotel bars are also very popular within the Loop, and not just for tourists and business travelers. Many locals stop in for a drink in these more relaxed settings. The Big Downtown, located in the Palmer House Hilton, is a great place to hang out. Be sure and check out the hotel's architecture.
Trader Vic's is a Los Angeles institution that has made a name for itself in the Windy City. The Polynesian decor is mainly bamboo an sailor artifacts. There is usually a lively crowd anytime of the day or night, inspired by the potent tropical drinks.
Chicago's jazz and blues scene is legendary, and Buddy Guy's (745 S. Wabash) is the best place in town to hear it live. Local bands typically play during the week, but on the weekends, big-time favorites such as Eric Clapton take the stage. There is also a lot of blues memorabilia on display. Down the street, KoKo Taylor typically draws name national acts, as well.
When not patrolling the water or the town, Chicago's finest drink at Dugan's.
Who says you can't find a policeman when you need one? In Chicago, all you have to do is stop by Dugan's on Halsted in Greektown. This has been a cop bar since the early 1900's. It's very small but all the woodwork is original and there are a few video games to keep everyone amused. Don't go here expecting to get some fru-fru drinks – this is a beer-drinking establishment.
This is an old warehouse district which is now being rehabbed and turned into dance clubs and trendy lofts.
Two of Chicago's newest and most popular bars are in this area. Aqua (201 N. Green) is a twin-level club with three bars and a pair of dance floors. Each dance floor has its own sound and light systems for a totally different atmosphere. This place is popular and trendy, so be prepared to wait in line and look your best. Transit recently opened and is in the stages of proving itself on the Chicago scene, but early reviews are very positive.
If you spot an Old Style sign outside of an old brick building, you've successfully made it to the Artful Dodger. This place looks like a neighborhood tavern from the outside, but on the inside it's hip. It has treat techno music and a really laid-back crowd that likes to dance.
Grab a martini, have a seat in your favorite pink 1950's-style hair dryer chair and make yourself comfortable at the Big Wig. This place has a beauty parlor theme and is just a fun place to hang out. Some of the bartenders even take it to the next level and dress the part.
Some other worthy mentions in Bucktown are: Nick's, a laid-back casual bar that has a great beer garden. Leopard Lounge is popular with the younger crowd and plays great dance music. The Venice Cafe has great food and a cool after-work gathering place. Sears Tower Bar is a great place to watch the city from high up above.