With the recent opening of the Barrelhouse Flat at Lincoln & Wrightwood, we got to thinking – is there a better street in Chicago for quality drinking than Lincoln Avenue?
While it’s probably safe to say that the best street for quantity drinking is Clark Street between Belmont and Irving, notably all those magnificent macro-pourers that live and die by Cubs home games. However, after a solid few minutes of dedicated thinking, we can’t come up with a better stretch of pavement for quality booze & brews. Stretching from Lincoln Park to Lincoln Square, here’s the list (not in any particular order, but kinda south-to-north) of fine and acceptable drinking establishments and providers of craft beer, curated cocktail lists, and even a couple good ol’ dives.
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Bricks: Nestled at the base of Lincoln Ave near Wells St is Bricks. We’ve heard their pizza’s good, but the real reason to visit each winter is for their yearly vertical of Sierra Nevada Celebration. They only have six beers on tap, but once Celebration is released to the world half of Bricks taps will be taken up by Christmas beer staple. This year it was 2009, 2010 & 2011. Better get there early, craft beer fans are catching on (helped along by this Sun-Times piece) and the 16 oz pours go quick.
Barrelhouse Flat: The newest on this list, and already a destination for Lincoln Park and Lakeview craft cocktail connoisseurs.
Rose’s Lounge: Yeah, it’s a dive. A supreme dive. Go in, order an Old Style, and I dare you to not immediately fall in love with the place. Far preferable to joyless joints like the Two Way or other “cooler” shitholes. Besides, if you’re a craft beer fan that doesn’t have room in your heart for the occasional Old Style and shot of Beam, then you need to realign your fun sensors.
Delilah’s: The place to be for about forever. Home to a zillion whiskeys before it was cool to do so, and an early destination for beer events when only Map Room, Hopleaf and Quenchers made up the list of beer bars in Chicago. One of my first beer tastings – an array of pumpkin brews back in…’06, I think – happened at Delilahs. It quickly got out of hand (as can be the case at Delilah’s) but for about an hour or so, I had free reign over at least a dozen pumpkin brews which set me on a path of pumpkin addiction and obsession that I’m still getting over.
Lincoln Tap Room: Another longtime location for a wide beer list, even if the craft beer revolution has kinda passed it by. But I mean, come on – they list Iron City as an option, which you have to applaud them for.
Chizakaya: Craft cocktails curated by an ex-L2O’er. Japanese whiskeys. Sake and soju. And a list of craft beers that includes Goose Island, numerous Hitachino, a random offering of Fort Bragg Blue Star. Sure, you probably know it as “that place with skewers of chicken gizzards” but the booze goes way deeper. Worth inclusion.
Becketts Public House, Fizz, Northdown Cafe & Taproom and The Green Lady: Rather than break all these into individual entries, we’re bundling them all since they’re pretty much spitting distance from each other. Fizz and Becketts deserve mention because they’ve got a well-curated tap and bottle list, while Northdown and Green Lady recently opened and represent another couple solid options at the Belmont/Ashland/Lincoln intersection. Northdown seems to routinely land some hard-to-find Three Floyds beers on tap so it is always worthwhile to keep tabs on what is pouring there. What The Green Lady doesn’t offer in food (anything) they make up for with a lengthy tap list and chill atmosphere. All these places are within about a 5-iron of each other – one could put together a quality beer crawl and only travel a couple blocks.
Trader Joes: Sure, the Two Buck Chuck gets the press, but they also have a pretty well curated selection of craft beer. Even their house brand is brewed by Unibroue. You can take TJ’s off the list if you don’t feel it counts, and the list suffers not a bit.
Brownstone: A prime spot to go for good food, apps and a game – if you hail from the Lone Star state. It’s worth a visit if you can’t quite make it up to some of the bars below without refueling. The tap list won’t blow you away, but you can always find something worth drinking. Monday’s ($3.50 drafts) and Thursday’s ($4 craft drafts) are well worth the price of admission.
Half Acre Brewing Company: Duh.
Wild Goose: Sure, it looks like a tool factory from the outside and it’s definitely a full-on sports bar, but they host one of the best deals on craft beer in the city (IMHO) every Thursday night, where nearly every tap is $3.50. Offerings like Alpha King, Anchor Xmas, a rotating Half Acre and numerous other craft beer options are insanely priced – and go well with all the appetizers that are also discounted to $3.50. A dozen wings and a pint of Cane & Ebel for $7? Sign me up.
The Bad Apple: Easily one of our favorite places to stop in for a quality bite and a dependable tap list. Try the Elvis burger with peanut butter and order it medium-rare. You’ll thank us. Pair it with a Dortmunder Gold – Bad Apple’s typically got the best price in town on it.
House of Wah Sun: Okay, yeah, it looks like a tired old chop suey joint from the outside, sure. But have you been inside? The cuisine is quality, but that drinks list! Oh, man. If there’s a more classic selection of true old-school drinks in town, we’re hard-pressed to name it. Rusty Nails. Harvey Wallbangers. Zombies. Samoan Passion. All frothy and hypercolored and served in classic tiki ware. Are they going to make it on anyone’s list of best drinks in the city? Not on your life. But they’re unique and they’re definitely worth a shot.
Tiny Lounge: Good vibe, good beers, great cocktails (try the Sazerac) and pretty underrated.
Huettenbar: A special favorite of mine (it’s our local) and if you can find a finer spot to sit down and comfortably enjoy a few German beers, I’d love to know about it. Glunz, Hansa Clipper, and even stalwarts like the Brauhaus or Laschett’s don’t come close to the vibe at the Huet, and they’re even planning to expand out of the all-German tap lineup to include a few American crafts in the coming weeks and months. (We’ve had more than our fair share of Anchor Xmas there thus far this year.)
We could even go on: this list even excludes much of the stretch of Lincoln from Addison to Irving because we’re honestly not that familiar (yet) with places like Mrs. Murphy’s and Martyr’s Lounge. Also, since places like Globe Pub or Cork on Addison aren’t specifically on Lincoln they don’t count – but since you can physically see them from the intersection, might as well mention them.
If you can think of a better street than Lincoln Avenue on which to imbibe with care, precision and quality, tell us. We don’t think you will, though. Until a better candidate emerges, join us in celebrating Lincoln Avenue as Chicago’s best drinking street.