Why the Chicago Reader’s Chicago bar guide sucks

How many bars are there in Chicago? And why do the Redeye and Chicago Reader only promote the same dozen or so bars in the city?

chicago bar

The Violet Hour picture via chicagomag.com

There are almost 2,000 bars within Chicago, so why do we keep reading about the same over-priced and over-crowded bars in the city? This year’s Chicago Reader Bar Guide once again featured the city’s typicals and expectedly promoted the over-promoted. Do people really like fighting the crowds to order a $8 beer because the Reader tells them to?

Of course an $8 beer in this feature would be more on the lower side of a list that includes the John Hancock Signature Room. Seriously? The Signature Room? How does that even count as a Chicago bar? Unless you’re proposing to your lady or something of that nature, I am still not sure what justifies a trip to the signature room in the John Hancock building.
Has anybody in the history of Chicago ever said, “Hey its Saturday night, how about we skip out on all the bars in Lincoln Park and hit up The John Hancock Signature Room?”

photo: chicagoreader.com

Point is: It shouldn’t be on the list. But ignore the downtown section and the pricey Gold Coast lounges and check the local lists and you’ll see more of the same. The Wicker Park chunk of the list had the Debonair Social Club, The Violet Hour, and The Beachwood Inn… you know, the places my wallet and I try to avoid on a night in Bucktown or Wicker Park.

I’m not saying to cruise the local hole-in-the-wall bars rather than spend a night out, but there are decent places where you can get a fair-priced drink with a good crowd without sacrificing the hipster-to-PBR ratio.
I have my go-to spots, but you know what? I’m not going to post them up on here in fear that it might be in next year’s Chicago Reader Bar Guide and then my spots get over-promoted and the prices get jacked. It might happen eventually, but until then I will secretly continue to enjoy my $1 margarita spots and my 1/2 price burger spots while the rest of you try to enjoy the Chicago Reader’s recommendations and wait in a 3 hour line to eat Kuma’s burgers.



  1. All of the same bars and eateries that keep showing up in Chicago Reader smacks of “paid” advertisement. Chicago is not that small that the same plugs should show up constantly. Sigh.

  2. that my friend we call “business” and they are paying to be advertised, sad enough the people are the ones getting the short end of the stick since they will never (unless someone else tells them) find out about the other awesome places this city has to offer.

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