Lincoln Avenue: Is It Still Chicago’s Best Drinking Street?

In Beer News by Karl

A few years ago, we decided Lincoln Avenue was the best street for quality drinking in Chicago. Does it retain its status in 2015?

lincolnaveA little over two years ago, we asked this question“Is there a better street in Chicago for quality drinking and drinking variety than Lincoln Avenue?”

We’re still waiting for a response that disputes our claim.

It’s hard to believe, but in the last two years, the strip of Northwest-pointing pavement has gotten even better for drinking options. In fact, some have become so well established we can’t quite believe they weren’t there when we looked at this last time. Certainly the map point for total quantity drinking still deserves to be planted in Wrigleyville, but that crown is quickly becoming a shared one, with Division in Wicker Park threatening a new version of general debauchery.

How a city changes in two years. Still, we are secure in our statement that amongst all of the many thoroughfares in our fair city, Lincoln reigns supreme as stretches of asphalt are concerned.

(double-click the left mouse button to zoom in or the right mouse button to zoom out)

Here now, are the new additions, the constant destinations, and a few that have had to drop off for one reason or another.

J. Parker (NEW): Right at the base of Lincoln Avenue, we find our very first new entry to the list. Even if the drinks were bad, the view would be worth the price of admission. Thankfully, even in whiteout conditions, you can still get a fine cocktail poured atop the roof of the Lincoln Hotel.

Bricks: Still a destination for pizza and craft beers that go great with them, Bricks is only overshadowed by its new big brother, appropriately named Big Bricks. (You might see that name later as well…)

Red Lion Pub (NEW): Personally, we are devoted fans of the Lincoln Square Red Lion, but it being over on Rockwell we have to settle for this one on this list. Settle isn’t quite the right term, though – not when this temple to Anglo-everything exists and looks like this.

Barrelhouse Flat: One of the best cocktail houses in town, if its star has dimmed at all in the past two years, it’s only because of the many other great bars they’ve spawned. Still an absolute destination.

Rose’s Lounge: We’re just glad this one is still around. One of our favorite dives for any number of reasons, not the least of which is the authentic beat-to-shit rec room feel and cheap pitchers of Old Style with no judgement.

Atlas Brewing Company (NEW): Can you believe Atlas wasn’t quite around when we looked at this list last time? Now they’re a fully established local beer destination, soon to be adding a production facility as well.

Delilah’s: What we said before still stands (mostly because Delilahs’ doesn’t change too much). Whiskey, punk rock, beer, fin.

Beermiscuous (NEW): Enough about the name (we say grudgingly). This craft beer cafe fills a niche needed for some time – not quite bar, not quite bottle shop or liquor store, but straddles the line of all equally well. It almost makes us wish we were back freelancing so this could be our office.

Northdown Cafe: A go-to bar for beer drinkers as well as a number of brewers, Northdown has a devotion to local quality as well as global offerings, great events on a regular basis and even vegan food options.

The Green Lady: Probably the most underappreciated craft beer bar in the city. Seriously, what is wrong with you people. The taplist is reliably amazing with local offerings sharing space with great imports, always a great sour or two and just a damn fine place to sit and have a beer. (Disclosure: You should know this by now, but TGL is also the site of our annual South of 80 CCBW event.)

Big Bricks (NEW): The big brother of Bricks down the road has been around for around a couple years now. The menu, including some really good smoked wings and sliced brisket had our curiosity. The well-curated draft list earned our attention. And now that most if not all drafts are $4 every day, they have a lot more of our money.

Mrs. Murphy’s & Sons (NEW): We had this pegged as a place for a proper pint of Guinness, occasionally floated with Bass or Harp at the most. Lo and behold, they have brewery events and far more on hand than just macrobrews from the auld sod.

Half Acre Brewing Company: Duh.

Wild Goose: Is it a sports bar? Yeah. But it’s a sports bar with really good wings, a slightly-addictive chile-lime chicken quesadilla, and a wide variety of really good beers (including a reliable Three Floyds handle and some fresh Daisy Cutter from their neighbors at Half Acre) to pair with said bar food. We wrote it off for a long time as just another toolbox, but look a little deeper and you’ll find some things worth celebrating.

The Bad Apple: The Elvis burger is probably in my top five ever. The beer list is ever-changing and chock-full of rarities and cool stuff. The cheese curds are without a doubt, the best in the city. The beer list is…oh, wait, we covered that one, but yeah, it’s really pretty amazing, so let’s go ahead and mention it again.

House of Wah Sun: Basically everything is unchanged at this place, which means the faux-tiki circa-1974 cocktail menu is still completely awesome, especially when paired with egg rolls and some Hot Braised Chicken.

The Northman (NEW): Is it open yet? No, but when it is, we’ll take our chances when we say this cider-focused pub will more than qualify as a quality drinking establishment along Lincoln Avenue.  (UPDATE: The Northman finally opened on March 19,2016, just 50 weeks after we originally posted this piece.)

Tiny Lounge: Okay, technically this is on Leavitt but we’ll allow it. Seriously, it’s like 10 feet from Lincoln. Great drinks minus the fancy-pancy-ness of many other cocktail joints.

The Grafton (NEW): Around the time we wrote our last Lincoln ode, we were becoming aware of the local focus at the Grafton. In the past two years, it’s become an absolute destination for the many Ravenswood area breweries within walking distance of the bar and restaurant. It’s also one of the only places you can get Only Child beers on tap, which makes sense considering brewer Ben Rossi used to be the buyer there.

The Huettenbar: Our adoration of the Huet remains unchanged. They’ve added just a couple craft options, generally Anti-Hero and Great Lakes’ Ed Fitz, and at the holidays they have Anchor Xmas, but for a dark room with a great selection of German beers and a fantastic staff behind the bar, this place can’t be beat.

The Brauhaus (NEW): What were we doing leaving this off last time? If you can go to the Brauhaus on a Friday night and have a few BBKs and watch Gody lead the crowd with all his Austrian-Elvis charm and NOT have a good time, you’re probably dead or at least should be.

Gene’s Sausage Shop Rooftop (NEW): You do need to be strategic on when you visit the Gene’s rooftop — the small space means that it fills up quick and the cash-only policy means that there’s plenty of bitching among the stroller set and college-shirted crowds. But if you can find a quiet afternoon to sit with someone in the sun and relax with a pitcher of beer and a brat, you’ll see what we like about it. And they grow hops up there, too.

Lincoln Lanes (NEW): We should have included this last time for the classic 70’s era bar and ancient bowling setup.  This time we’re including it because the massive renovation breathed serious new vitality into a place that was otherwise on life support. The sentimental sliver of us misses the old two-half-moon bar and cheap High Life, the rest of us loves the new open layout, the energy of the place, the new kitchen and the cheap High Life. Oh, and they do have some pretty good beers on draft, too. (UPDATE: Lincoln Lanes burnt down in late August 2015. That sucks.)

Dancen (NEW): We stumbled into this hidden gem a year or so ago on a wander up to Jimmy’s Pizza Cafe. Sit at the bar next to the grill, get a pitcher of Hite (preferably two, you’ll need it) and get an order of Fire Chicken and you’ll understand why we like this little Korean bar and restaurant so much.

Hidden Cove and Lincoln Karaoke (NEW): We probably should have included these last time, but for some reason we stopped around Lawrence Avenue. Two sides of the same coin, both are great destinations for those who want to pick up a mic and holler their version of “Because the Night” until they get kicked out or until their room rental is up, respectively.

Off the list: Chizakaya (closed), Beckett’s (closed, rebranded and closed again) Fizz (it’s fine, though) Trader Joe’s, Brownstone (too many late-20’s frat guys reliving their early 20s) and the Lincoln Tap Room. We want to love it, but based on their website they seem to think that Rosa is a winter beer and that you can somehow distribute Yuengling to Illinois. You can do better.

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Karl has written about food, travel and beer for Chicago Magazine, Draft Magazine, Thrillist, Time Out Chicago and more. His book, Beer Lovers Chicago, comes out in early 2017, and if you're buying, he's likely having a porter or a pale ale.