Take a Step Back in Time at the Oldest Bars and Restaurants in Chicago

When you think of ancient cities, Chicago is not typically the first to come to mind. But, despite its young age, there are plenty of bars and restaurants around Chicago that are as old as the city itself.

After the Great Chicago Fire in 1871 that incinerated miles of wooden walkways and buildings, Chicago was determined to rebuild itself and stand tall for good this time. That included constructing long-lasting, local haunts that would remain open for over a century, and then some, so even modern Chicagoans can feel the history in the air when they frequent these places.

If you’re interested in visiting some of the oldest bars and restaurants in Chicago, we put together a handy bucket list for you to explore in the new year.

Experience a sliver of Chicago history at the oldest bars and restaurants in the city.

Marge’s Still

chicago
Photo Credit: Marge’s Still

Est. 1885 | 1758 North Sedgwick Street

Located in the Old Town Triangle, this place was once a real-deal speakeasy, back when alcohol was a no-no. It had all the musts – a secret entrance, an antique wooden bar that still stands to this today, and gin a-brewin’ in a bathtub upstairs. Now, it’s your classic (and totally legit) neighborhood joint serving good drinks and tavern eats.

The Chipp Inn

oldest restaurants chicago
Photo Credit: Yelp

Est. 1897 | 832 North Greenview Avenue

Another neighborhood bar serving cheap drinks, this Noble Square establishment may have operated as a speakeasy at some point too, but the details are a bit blurry. Once you walk in, take in the vibe, and see all the vintage furnishings, it’s hard not to imagine this place having a colorful past.

The Berghoff

oldest bars chicago
Photo Credit: The Berghoff

Est. 1898 | 17 West Adams Street

Founded by a German immigrant who sold beer in Chicago at the 1893 World’s Fair, this family-owned business has become a Chicago legend. Unlike more rebellious establishments, they kept things kosher during Prohibition by stepping up their food game and offering non-alcoholic beer, until of course, they became the very first place to obtain a liquor license after the ban was lifted. ‘Know what else is crazy? They only served alcohol to men (ouch), that is, until 1969 when Gloria Steinem protested for women’s rights. ‘Cause ladies like a cold one, too (thanks, sister).

The Walnut Room

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Photo Credit: Macy’s

Est. 1905 | 111 North State Street

Perched atop the Macy’s flagship on State is The Walnut Room – the “first-ever restaurant to open inside a department store.” Just take a look around – sophisticated and classy is what this place is all about. Plus, if you’re planning on taking a day to shop, one of the oldest restaurants in Chicago is the perfect place to “drop,” if you will.

The Green Mill

The Green Mill
Photo Credit: The Green Mill Facebook

Est. 1907 | 4802 N Broadway

The home of jazz legends Von Freeman, Franz Jackson, and Wilbur Campbell, The Green Mill is still operating today as one of the best jazz clubs in Chicago. The Green Mill served Al Capone in the famous booth where he and his henchmen could keep a wary eye on both of the club’s entrances. Still as sophisticated as it was in its prime during the ’30s and ’40s, this jazz club-turned-cocktail bar maintains its vintage charm and excellent service in today’s world.

Pompei

chicago oldest restaurants
Photo Credit: Pompei

Est. 1909 | 1531 West Taylor Street

There’s something about Italian food that it just seems to taste better if it’s made with generations of family tradition behind it. An absolute staple in the Taylor Street area of Little Italy, it’s a true veteran of Chicago’s oldest restaurants, and the food will have you coming back for more, guaranteed.

Green Door Tavern

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Photo Credit: Green Door Tavern

Est. 1921 | 678 North Orleans Street

Built shortly after the Fire, one of the city’s most well-known, long-standing establishments was one of the only wooden buildings left after a law was passed to prohibit them. The name comes from its green door – a secret code that served as a beacon for anyone trying to get some of that giggle water. Today, it has a modern speakeasy downstairs called The Drifter, where you can experience what it may have been like to come here in the ’20s.

Lou Mitchell’s

oldest restaurants chicago
Photo Credit: Youtube

Est. 1923 | 565 West Jackson Boulevard

The level of hospitality provided at this place rivals none, and anyone who’s been there can attest! The second you walk in, you’ll feel like you’re dining with family, and it’s been that way for decades. This breakfast diner is known throughout the world, having been visited by politicians, celebrities, and athletes alike, making it a staple among Chicago’s oldest restaurants.

Italian Village

oldest bars chicago
Photo Credit: Italian Village

Est. 1927 | 71 West Monroe Street

Treat yourself to not one – but three restaurants in a single, historic location. This family business has worked for decades upon decades to provide top-notch, regional Italian eats, and has one of the most impressive collections of wine in the city to back it up. Although it dates back to the ’20s, step inside this vibrantly decorated space and it’ll instantly feel timeless.

The Zebra Lounge

oldest restaurants chicago
Photo Credit: Groupon

Est. 1929 | 1220 North State Parkway

This piano bar in the Gold Coast proudly totes the third oldest liquor license in the city. Discreetly located underneath the Canterbury Courts apartments, this is the place to go when you want to sing the night away. Having been frequented by a variety of personalities and iconic names throughout its history, visiting here will make you feel apart of something larger than life.

Orange Garden

oldest restaurants chicago
Photo Credit: Mark 2400 via Flickr

Est. 1932 | 1942 West Irving Park Road

Serving up traditional Chinese eats to hungry locals since the ’30s, this place has never left its spot in Irving Park. So they must be doing something right. Don’t be fooled by its somewhat nondescript appearance. This place dishes out massive portions, so be sure to come with an appetite.

Twin Anchors Restaurant & Tavern

oldest restaurants chicago
Photo Credit: Twin Anchors

Est. 1932 | 1655 North Sedgwick Street

When Frank Sinatra is one of your regulars, you know you’ve made history. The impact this place has on Chicago history speaks for itself – just browse through their collection of memories submitted to their website by nostalgic patrons. According to them, the building itself was formerly owned by Schlitz during the first World War. And (of course) it operated for a while as a speakeasy. So yeah, they’ve seen it all.

The Burwood Tap

oldest bars chicago
Photo Credit: Burwood Tap

Est. 1933 | 724 West Wrightwood Avenue

Named after the corner of Burling and Wrightwood where it stands, this Lincoln Park dive is beloved by the neighborhood. Owned by the same family for three generations, it began as a totally innocent (ahem) “soda shop” during the tail-end of the nation’s dry years. After the ban ended, it was in the group of the first Chicago establishments to receive a liquor license. So, as you can imagine, it was probably pretty rowdy back then. And it’s still known for getting pretty rowdy now.

Kelly’s Pub

kellys pub
Photo Credit: Flickr

Est. 1933 | 949 W Webster Avenue

An Irish mainstay, Kelly’s is one of the oldest family-owned pubs in Chicago, opening just after Prohibition was repealed and the alcohol flowed freely again. This bar is well-known by DePaul University students who frequent here on the weekends, and god knows also the weeknights. Originally called El-Side Tavern for its location beneath CTA train tracks, Kelly’s Pub is a great spot to reminisce the history of Chicago.

Coq d’Or

oldest bars chicago
Photo Credit: Chicago Bar Project

Est. 1933 | 140 East Walton Place

Located in The Drake Hotel, a Chicago landmark, this place is the definition of old-time-y elegance. The intimate lounge wouldn’t be slinging the delicious cocktails they are today without becoming the second place in the city to obtain a liquor license after Prohibition. If you’re looking for a place where you’ll feel completely transported back in time, this is it.

Jake’s Pub

jakes pub
Photo Credit: Yelp

Est. 1933 | 2932 N Clark Street

Originally a penny candy store-turned-liquor store on the other side of Prohibition, Jake’s Pub is cash-only and loads of fun. Sporting a digital jukebox that might have replaced a vintage one from back in the day, you can dance all night long without judgment at a place like this. Best part? Jake’s has free popcorn, waiting to cure your munchies at a moment’s notice.

Simon’s Tavern

oldest bars chicago
Photo Credit: Chicago Bar Project

Est. 1934 | 5210 North Clark Street

Brought to life by a Swedish immigrant, this bar is one of the focal points of Andersonville’s deeply rooted culture. Complete with nautical fixtures and Viking memorabilia, come here to sample a great variety of Swedish beers or to take a warm sip of glögg, a Swedish mulled wine.

Lottie’s Pub

lottie's pub
Photo Credit: Lottie’s Pub

Est. 1934 | 1925 W Cortland Street

This pub was originally Zagorski’s Tavern, owned by an intersex woman Walter “Lottie” Zagorski, who often dressed in drag. Lottie was a total BA, turning her neighborhood grocery store into a liquor store with a basement speakeasy—or rathskeller—that was ruled by Chicago’s gangsters and corrupt politicians. The rathskeller was known for its horse-betting, gambling, stripping, and other vices during the ’30s, which eventually got Lottie arrested in 1966 when the city started to crack down on criminal activity. But Chicago politicians wouldn’t have it. She died of natural causes following her testimony before a grand jury, forever a queer icon for the LGBTQ+ community.

Glascott’s Saloon

glascotts saloon
Photo Credit: Glascott’s Saloon

Est. 1937 | 2158 N Halsted Street

Serving the people of Chicago since the end of the Gangster Era, this Irish saloon is a North Side gem ready to quench your thirst for the Glascott special: Stoli O vodka, cranberry juice, and Red Bull. Still operated by the original Glascott family four generations later, this bar boasts having hooked up thousands of singles over the years, only to see their “inevitable move to the suburbs.”

Shinnick’s Pub

oldest bars chicago
Photo Credit: Shinnick’s Pub via Twitter

Est. 1938 | 3758 South Union Avenue

South Side pride runs deep here, given this Irish pub has been serving beer to the neighborhood since the late ’30s. As many others on this list, it’s been run by the same family for three generations. If you’re a White Sox fan, you’ll feel right at home here.

River Shannon

oldest bars
Photo Credit: River Shannon

Est. 1946 | 425 West Armitage Avenue

Although it’s the youngest on this list, this Irish pub in Lincoln Park has still had a pretty impressive lifespan, having been around since the late ’40s. It’s easily one of the most laid-back, inviting places in the area – somewhere you’ll always feel welcome. And so will your furry friend, for that matter, since it’s a dog-friendly bar.

 

At UrbanMatter, U Matter. And we think this matters.

Tell us what you think matters in your neighborhood and what we should write about next in the comments below!

Featured Image: Coq d’Or vintage postcard

 

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11 Comments

  • connorkn@gmail.com'
    Kevin
    Posted Aug 27, 2019 4:21 pm 0Likes

    So many of these bars are in Lincoln Park: Twin Anchors, Kelly’s, Glascott’s, Burwood, River Shannon, Marge’s, and Jake’s is just over the border in Lakeview. Is that just a coincidence? My very uneducated guess is that it has consistently had a wealthy enough population to continually support these places, but is not so centrally located (i.e., in the Loop or Gold Coast) that normal pubs would be run out of the neighborhood by soaring rents. Maybe it’s just a coincidence. Interesting fodder for thought though. At any rate, I’ve been to every one of those pubs (and several others on this list), and they’re all great.

  • loef0036@gmail.com'
    tim loeffler
    Posted Aug 27, 2019 2:46 pm 0Likes

    Harbees Liquors in pilsen beats all of them with opening in 1878

  • Npfennessy@gmail.com'
    Fenn
    Posted Mar 22, 2019 8:50 am 0Likes

    Daley’s on 63rd has been open since worlds fair (although it is due to move across the street real soon). Shinnick’s is closed since the dad died, I believe.

  • Janineevanelson@hotmail.com'
    Janine Nelson
    Posted Jan 26, 2019 10:04 pm 0Likes

    What about Kelly’s on Webster? Established in 1933.

  • s_mulvanny@hotmail.com'
    Scott
    Posted Dec 27, 2018 9:32 pm 0Likes

    Durkins should be on that list….est.1933

    • Kali Cramer
      Posted Jan 7, 2019 6:11 pm 0Likes

      Hi Scott,

      Good call! We must have missed that one in our research. We’ll consider adding it next time around.

      Thanks for reading!

  • Misterduke74@sbcslobal.net'
    Justin Torres
    Posted Dec 27, 2018 4:00 pm 0Likes

    What about the great escape … 9540 w Irving 1889 original bar….

    • Kali Cramer
      Posted Jan 7, 2019 6:13 pm 0Likes

      Hi Justin,

      Don’t @ us, but we’re not counting Schiller Park as part of Chicago! Sorry!

      Great shoutout, though. Thanks for reading!

  • morticiadusade@gmail.com'
    Morticia
    Posted Dec 22, 2017 11:52 pm 0Likes

    Loved this article but surprised to see Green Mill and it’s rich history (est 1907) wasn’t on here!

    • Jessica Hamrick
      Posted Dec 23, 2017 11:16 am 0Likes

      Hi Morticia,

      Thanks for the info! We’ll be sure to check Green Mill out!

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