What are the best bars in River North in Chicago?

Answers from Our Experts (1)

Lauren Viera

River North is notoriously littered with nightclubs—one reason most locals flee before nightfall unless they’re dressed to the nines and prepared to party. But in recent years, the neighborhood’s bar scene has made progress toward catching up to its club scene. Attached to the well-heeled Hotel Palomar is Sable Kitchen & Bar, which boasts one of the better cocktail menus in town, courtesy head bartender and former chef Mike Ryan. And unlike most quiet hotel bars, Sable is known for high-volume, and was recently recognized as one of the best high-volume bars in the country by Tales of the Cocktail’s prestigious Spirited Awards.

A few blocks from Sable is the brand new Three Dots and a Dash, a tiki-themed joint in the basement of honkey-tonk restaurant Bub City. With decorated mixologist Paul McGee at its helm, Three Dots is a welcome breath of tropical air to a neighborhood known primarily for beer-and-a-shot bars.

I’m a big fan of the cocktails at all of the venues run by local restaurateur Brendan Sodikoff, including Gilt Bar, on the neighborhood’s western edge near the Merchandise Mart. All low lighting and chandeliers, Gilt is an aptly named cocktail haven tucked into an otherwise brassy restaurant row.

If you’re celebrating or simply in the mood for Champagne (and really, is there ever a wrong time to drink bubbly?), Pops for Champagne is a must-visit. Though most of its newer patrons may not be aware, River North's sparkling wine bar has been around for three decades, and still offers fresh, educated service with no pretense. Peruse the more than 200 bubbles on the menu, or simply ask for a recommendation.

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