Chicago’s food scene is among the country’s best, so it was only a matter of time before the city’s knack for slinging drinks and brewing beer got the credit it’s due. As much as we dig it, a pricey cocktail smoking with dry ice at the Aviary can’t be a nightly ritual. And with a soul-crushing winter around the bend, it’s time to take a break from gawking at skyline views, drink in hand, from the J. Parker rooftop. Luckily, there are other options. In the shadow of time-honored dives like Delilah’s and renowned breweries like Goose Island, not every establishment gets the praise it deserves. Here are eight bars that locals know deserve your patronage.

Marble

3281 W Armitage Ave, Logan Square (773-252-9652, marblelogansquare.com)

underratedchi_marble

Logan Square is chock-a-block with boozing destinations—Scofflaw and Billy Sunday among them—but Marble has always been decidedly understated. That’s about to change. New owners have given the “fancy cocktail bar” a playful upgrade with drinks served out of metal soup cans, and cognac-and-housemade-ginger-beer Kentucky Mules on the soda gun. Zany predilections aside, it might be the only neighborhood joint where you can wash down poutine with a tasty libation on a sweet patio. (Photo: Facebook)


Black Bull

1721 W Division St, Wicker Park (772-227-8600, blackbullchicago.com)

Black Bull

One usually hightails it to this Wicker Park tapas shrine for pan con tomate and tuna empanadas, but the inventive drinks, which go well beyond requisite pitchers of sangria, are worth a visit. Spain’s signature cocktail, the Gin Tonic, appears in interesting guises here, flaunting ingredients such as diced apple and coffee beans. Of-the-moment sherry also gets much love in creations like the Bailador, with Scotch, ginger, lime, and soda. (Photo: Black Bull)

The Winchester

1001 N Winchester Ave, East Village (773-698-8703, winchesterchicago.com)

underratedchi_winchester

Now that East Village brunch favorite The Winchester has started to serve dinner, locals are slowly realizing that there’s more to look forward to than comforting pot roast and miso-ginger mussels during the evening hours. Well-regarded barman Peter Vestino has dreamed up an elegant little cocktail list revolving around potables like coffee, amari, and pastis. Try the Cold Stare (mezcal, cold press coffee, amaro, raspberry liqueur, walnut bitters) to for an eye-opening nightcap—then keep drinking. (Photo: Facebook/The Winchester)


The Motel Bar

600 W Chicago Ave, River North (312-822-2900, themotelbar.com)

The Motel Bar

Curvy couches and splashes of mod orange give The Motel Bar a distinctly retro Vegas feel. But this River North lounge isn’t a gimmick. Instead, it stays true to a bygone aura with a devotion to affordably priced classic cocktails. The Motel Bar may lack the buzz of other watering holes, but sipping a $6 Dark and Stormy alongside a blackened tilapia sandwich in such old-timey digs is an underrated way to spend a Friday evening. (Photo: The Motel Bar)

Weegee’s Lounge

3659 W Armitage Ave, Logan Square (773-384-0707, weegeeslounge.com)

underratedchi_weegee

The presence of a shuffleboard table automatically makes Weegee’s Lounge a relaxed neighborhood escape. But this Logan Square mainstay, now going strong for a decade, shouldn’t be overlooked for its cocktails. Bartenders here turn out exquisite classics like the Sidecar, an apt complement to the dimly lit ambiance. (Photo: Groupon/Melanie Bartelme)


Joie De Vine

1744 W. Balmoral Ave, Andersonville (773-989-6846)

Joie De Vine

This live music-fueled Andersonville spot is a cozy place to unwind with a glass or three of wine. When you’re craving something stronger, however, don’t be deterred by the lack of cocktail menus. Here, the knowledgeable bartenders simply listen to your preferences and whip up a bespoke drink on the spot. Tell them you have a thing for cognac, and a well-wrought Sazerac might magically appear. (Photo: Luci Creative)

Homestead on the Roof

1924 W Chicago Ave, Ukrainian Village (773-332-2354, homesteadontheroof.com)

Homestead on the Roof

Walk through Roots Handmade Pizza to find your way to the serene Homestead on the Roof. The alfresco patio is surrounded in lush greenery, and the bounty of organic fruit, vegetables, and herbs translates to fresh, quality cocktails on par with those found at more crowded drinking dens. Here, drinks brightened with honeycomb, agave, lemon, and egg white are a fitting prelude to the likes of kale salad with apples and burnt cheddar. (Photo: Homestead on the Roof)


Local Option

1102 W Webster Ave, Lincoln Park (773-348-2008, localoptionbier.com)

Local Option

Beer-loving Chicagoans have no shortage of ace brewpubs to hit up for a pint. Because of stalwarts such as Hopleaf, Fountainhead, and Maria’s Packaged Goods, Lincoln Park haven Local Option often flies under the radar. It shouldn’t—not when there are nearly 30 beers on tap, inlcuding funky house-made brews like the Schmetterling Gose. Satisfying pulled pork sandwiches and catfish tacos offer an excuse to linger and make your way through more than 100 bottled selections, as well as solid cocktails. (Photo: Good Beer Hunting)