The Pub Crawl Itinerary: Chicago's Wicker Park

The bar crawl is an often misunderstood adventure. Far from a belligerent stumble-fest, the well-executed bar crawl can be a way to reconnect to a neighborhood you’ve started taking for granted, or a motivation to explore a new part of the city. Plus, you know, with lots of drinking. It all depends on the approach, the chosen stops, and the company but we generally favor a plan of attack that involves choosing a particular neighborhood and sticking to it. This allows you maximum flexibility and, depending on city, easy moving about. Simplifying and minimizing the "crawl" always leads to maximum fun. For Chicago's crawl, we chose Wicker Park, with its cool, low-key vibe and exceptional variety of bars, galleries, and restaurants. It's the perfect place to wander, drink, and discover.

But first...some essential rules. Best practices ensure not only a hell of a time but the right amount of consumption. Read (and drink) on.

1. Pace yourself - It’s not a race. Like Frodo and those wee hobbits, you’ve got a long journey ahead of you.
2. Eat - Seriously, it’s important to fuel the machine and keep the alcohol absorption under control. You don't want to be tapping out at halftime.
3. Be consistent - Do your best to stick to the same position. Drinking all over the map can lead to dangerous consequences. We like to start with beer and gradually move into hard alcohol.

And now...on to the itinerary.

2013 W. North Ave.
Chicago, IL 60647
With an insanely good juke box, cheap drinks, hearty pub fare, and prime people watching, Estelle’s is a perfect way to start your crawl. It’s a bit divey (you can smell the authentic cigarette smoke absorbed into the booths) but that’s part of the charm. And by the time you’ve polished off a Point Break Burger and sampled an ale or two from their quality beer list, you’ll be in prime bar crawl condition. As an added bonus: there’s always something amazing playing on the tiny bar TV -- no sports here; think more along the lines of The Birdcage and Vanilla Sky.

The Violet Hour 1520 N. Damen Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622
A speakeasy with a “no cell phones allowed” policy? Sign us up. It’s dark, intimate, and a little surreal inside, and though the cocktails are a little pricey ($12-$15), they are expertly made -- and pack a punch. If you’re looking for something to nosh, try the fries with herb aioli. And we aren’t joking about the no phones policy; don’t be surprised to be tapped on the shoulder by the bouncer if you indulge the urge to check your email. The Violet Hour adds a bit of class to your crawl before you’ve become just a bit too inebriated to appreciate it.

Emporium Arcade Bar
1366 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622
We're obviously big fans of the barcade concept, so much so that we wrote about our favorites in a recent post. And while we didn’t include Emporium, that’s no excuse not to stop in for a couple of drinks and a round of NBA Jam. With two bars, dozens of arcade titles, and a killer beer list, Emporium is a way to ease back into the glories of drink and conversation after the darkness and intimacy of The Violet Hour. Word to the wise: if you tip well, the bartenders have been known to give free tokens -- and that’s more Duck Hunt for you.

Geek Bar Beta
1941 W. North Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622
A perfect segue from Emporium, no? While hip watering holes are a dime a dozen on Milwaukee Ave, Geek Bar Beta courts a different kind of patron: the sociable nerd. Pick up one of their many available board games (recommended: Settlers of Catan), grab a table and a beer, and let the buzzed fantasy conquests begin. With Game of Thrones-themed drinks and a commendable bar food menu (go for “Scott’s Tots”, crispy potato bits topped with pork shoulder, au jus, and cheddar cheese), Geek Bar Beta is for the nerd who lives in all of us.

Innertown Pub
1935 W. Thomas St.
Chicago, IL 60622
Figuring out where to end the bar crawl is an important, nay, essential decision. It must be supportive of your group’s multi-stop buzz. It must have character and ambience to spare. And, perhaps most importantly, it must promise to keep the vibe you’ve worked on all day alive and well. Innertown Pub fits the bill on all accounts, an artsy dive with good music, good people, and heavy pours. This no-nonsense drinking establishment that has been in business for over one hundred years and the Innertown Pub has what you need right now.

Craft an exceptional Snap Story, keep that one friend from sleeping at a table, and fortify yourself for the Uber home. This is sure to be a crawl to remember indeed (or not, as the case may be).

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