The Essential Guide To Chicago’s Music Bars And Clubs


Here at Impulcity, we know all too well what it’s like to walk into a bar that’s blaring music that you don’t exactly want to be listening to. We know that you don’t want EDM bumping in your ear when you just want to have a mellow conversation to some smooth jazz. Sometimes you just want to get your bump n’ grind on, but Toby Keith’s honky tonkin’ just won’t cut it. That’s why we went out to find the perfect bars for every type of music. Chicago, here is your guide to the best places to check out your favorite kind of music…

Rock Bars

1. Lincoln Hall

Surprise! Hard Rock Cafe didn’t make the list. If you’re not a tourist, Lincoln Hall is the best spot to check out all the local, live Rock Music that you can handle. With recent performances from some of the best up-and-coming bands in the area, this is the best spot to find the next band from Chicago that’s going to blow up.



Pro Tip: Things can get pretty crowded on the main floor, but going up to the balcony above will provide you with plenty of room to breathe, and the view is still fantastic.

2. The Hideout

The Hideout is one of those places where all are welcome. Well, all who love Rock Music, that is. This place has an extensive history. What once used to be a place for the average joes is still a place for average joes, but now they have one hell of a live music scene, and don’t kid yourself; they make one hell of a cocktail. Go with the Wooden Leg. It was named after an old bartender’s band. Gotta love some rye.


3. The Cobra Lounge

Like your rock to go a little harder than that “hipster music” that’s playing everywhere else? Well, good news, hard rockers! Not only does the Cobra Lounge have some badass music, but their food and drink selection is perfect to accompany your head banging. Whether you like metal, grunge, or anything else with epic distortion, this is your spot.


Pro Tip: Go on Thursdays for thirty-five cent wing night. Nothing goes better with hard rock than hot wings and cold beers.

Country Bars

1. Pitchfork Food & Saloon

Let’s face the facts: there certainly aren’t a lot of bars that will jam some oldschool Merle Haggard music in Chicago, but the ones that we have would make Johnny Cash proud. A prime example of that is Pitchfork Food & Saloon, where Toby Kieth can be heard deep into the night. Plus they have plenty of carb-filled comfort food to complete your southern-fried experience. Definitely go with the Ribs. They literally fall right of the bone and the sauce is too good for life.


2. Old Crow Smokehouse

You know a place is country as hell when they have Line Dancing Wednesdays. This is easily the largest Country Bar in the city. Not only is the place usually packed full of cowboy boots on Wednesdays, but you’ll also be able to sing all of the off-key Florida Georgia Line music that your heart desires on Karaoke Thursdays. Sure, you may get some odd looks for cowboy boots in the middle of the big city, but who gives a damn. Keep doing you.


Pro Tip: Go with the Kentucky Breakfast cocktail when you’re there. Maker’s Mark 46 is always what the doctor ordered.

3. Houndstooth Saloon

Did someone say… pig roast? Yeah, you heard that right: pig roast. One of the time-honored traditions of Southern living will be going down right in the heart of Chicago. Of course, it will have to have plenty of country music to make the event a success, and Houndstooth will supply both the pig and the music on Sept. 27th. You’ll get all the pig and Bud Light drafts your heart desires for $30. Damn, we love pig roasts.

Hip Hop Bars

1. The Shrine

You know if they held the official after party for the On The Run Tour earlier this year that The Shrine has to be legit. If you’re looking to check out live Hip Hop, Reggae, or R&B, there’s no better place. Every Friday night you will find some of the best up-and-coming artists from around Chicago an the rest of the Midwest. Even when there’s a DJ on the tables, you can still expect nothing but the best in all the latest hits.


Pro Tip: Go there when they feature a new bottle. Those are the best nights to get deals on drinks.

2. Funky Buddha Lounge

Funky Buddha Lounge has been around since the days of Biggie and Pac, and you can catch everything from the classics to today’s Top 40 Hip Hop at Funky Buddah. You’ll get a little bit of everything when you come in, and the decor is one of a kind, but it’s been one of the only mainstays of Hip Hop in the area since its creation. The Ciroc Cocktails are top-notch and you’ll still catch live music from time to time. Gotta love a place that gives respect to the classics.


Electronic Bars

1. Smartbar

If you’re smart, you know the right bar to go to if you want to dance your ass of to some of the best House Music in Chicago. For the rest of you, it’s time to wise up and get over to Smartbar. Their in-house DJs never disappoint, there’s no dress code, and you don’t have to worry about an astronomical cover charge just to get in. It’s just you, an epic sound system, and plenty of people ready to dance the night away in a trance.


Pro Tip: Get there around midnight on the weekend if you want to be able to breathe a bit before it gets crowded. The dance floor is always packed and it’s open until 5:00 A.M.

2. Dolphin Nightclub

It seems like mediocre night clubs are a dime a dozen around Chicago, but Dolphin goes above and beyond with the little details to make this one of the few spots worth popping into if you want to get reckless with a few other EDM-lovers. The lighting and sound systems are on point, and they always seem to have a DJ there that knows what the hell they’re doing. Sure, it should be expected, but you’d be surprised. This is easily one of the best places to dance in the entire city, and we love it.


Jazz Bars

1. Green Mill Cocktail Lounge

What’s that? You want to dance the night away to the smooth sounds of beautiful saxophones all night long? Well, you’re in luck, because Green Mill Cocktail Lounge is always bringing in bands with plenty of experience. This is the perfect place for an intimate date night with smooth music on some nights. The dim lighting and classic cocktails make this a romantic spot. On other nights, it’s a great place to come in with friends. The music is never overbearing, and you can always escape the noise. Plus there’s a whole hell of a lot of history here, and we dig that.


2. Kingston Mines

Okay, so technically it’s a Blues Bar, but it’s the oldest Blues Bar in Chicago, and that’s saying something. With live blues music every night of the week, you’re sure to feel like you’ve taken a step back into time any time you come in at night. Even if you’re just going for the cultural experience, you’re sure to find yourself fully immersed. It’s packed up to standing room pretty much every night, and they have some real pros on the stage. Just don’t expect it to be a mellow vibe. The people here know how to have a good time.

3. Andy’s Jazz Club

Ah, there’s nothing like the sound of a smooth trumpet floating through the room to calm the spirit. Well, that and some Cajun food that tastes like it’s straight from the Big Easy. What makes this a unique experience among the vibrant jazz scene in Chicago is their extensive food menu. Not only that, but you can also pair it with some of the fantastic local beers that the feature on draft from time to time. We’re glad someone brought the spirit of New Orleans to us.


Pro Tip: Cajun Shrimp Risotto. You’ll see.

Did we miss your favorite spot for music? Don’t be afraid to let us know in the comments below. We’re always looking for new music spots!