Discovering Chicago's Speakeasy Bar Scene: 7 Hidden Neighborhood Spots
Alcohol may no longer be an illicit substance, but the allure of the secret, speakeasy-style bar created during Prohibition endures today. Indulge in the mystique and exclusive nature of these seven Chicago speakeasies located down allies, up narrow flights of stairs, or open only to members.
Bordel - Wicker Park
Bordel is tucked away above Wicker Park tapas restaurant Black Bull. Once you find your way there, you’ll see sumptuous red velvet booths and dim lighting, an ambience inspired by Parisian cabarets and the Prohibition Era in Chicago. You can catch live cabaret and musical performances nearly any night of the week. Plus, Bordel has a Speakeasy social club. Order drinks like the Cherry Boom Boom (bourbon, apple brandy, tart cherry, and cinnamon) and The Stranger Things (vodka, sherry, Concord grape, lemon, and ylang ylang flower) from the house cocktail list.
Chicago Magic Lounge - Andersonville
Chicago Magic Lounge just opened its doors in Andersonville this winter. This 1940s-style bar and theater celebrates the undercover speakeasy vibe with a laundry front that leads back to the main action. The 7,200-square-foot art deco venue has secret doors and even a museum dedicated to the art of magical presentation. Sip on magical signature cocktails like the Dark Arts of the Sleight of Hand. Simply enjoy the drinks and the atmosphere, or get tickets for a show.
The Library at Gilt Bar - River North
The Library is a smaller, more intimate space beneath the swanky Gilt Bar in River North. Slide into one of the long, curved velvet booths arranged around dark wood tables. As the name suggests, you’ll be surrounded by shelves of books and the quiet glow of lamplight. Drink classic cocktails made by an expert hand, and if you are feeling hungry you can order off of the full Gilt Bar menu.
The Office - West Loop
The Office might take the cake for being the most exclusive speakeasy in the city. Located beneath the already exquisite and enviable bar The Aviary, The Office has just 14 seats. To nab one of those spots, you’ll need to pay a reservation fee. Once you’ve made it, you’ll either be served from The Office menu or you’ll choose the a la carte experience. If you are feeling extravagant, you can opt for the Dusty Bottle Experience, a pricey option that treats you to vintage cocktails made with spirits dating as far back as the 1960s.
The Pub - Hyde Park
The Pub is a members-only bar for the University of Chicago students and staff. If you don’t attend or work at the university, you’ll need to know someone who does to get into this Hyde Park bar. Once you have your in, you’ll need to buy a $3 guest pass and stick with your host the entire time you’re at The Pub. While you’re enjoying the academic atmosphere, you can order off of the beer list, wine list, and deliciously greasy and fried food menu.
Room 13 - Lakeview
Room 13, a slightly ominous and certainly intriguing name, is picky about its patrons. You’ll have to be a guest of the Old Chicago Inn or a Room 13 member. Once you have the membership, you’ll have to keep up with the changing passwords in order to gain entry to this speakeasy. You’ll also have to follow the cocktail and business casual attire dress code (leave that all-purpose athleisure wear at home). The Jazz Era cocktails make all the hoops you have to jump through to get into this hidden Lakeview speakeasy worth it.
The Violet Hour - Wicker Park
The Violet Hour in Wicker Park isn’t so secret that it has escaped accolades. In 2015, the speakeasy won a James Beard Award for an Outstanding Bar Program. Still, the bar retains the mystery of a speakeasy with just a single light bulb markings its entrance. Plus, guests will need to follow the house rules, including a dress code and a no-phones policy. The Violet Hour serves artisanal drinks inspired by the pre-prohibition years.