Drinks by the lake: Exploring some of Chicago’s best beach bars
Summer’s not over, so here are a few good spots to hit after a day at the beach
By Zak Waltner
Wells on Wells and Corcoran’s
Located side by side just blocks from North Avenue Beach, these two local mainstays are a great choice for a pre- or post-beach snack and cocktail. As Corcoran’s manager John Goodwin describes it, “If you take the normal path back from the beach, we’ll be the first bar that you run into.” Wells on Wells features great daily food and drink specials, including $12 buckets of Miller Lite on the weekends and half-price wine every Thursday and Sunday. At Corcoran’s, stop by on Sundays for their garden beach party, showcasing their large, wrap-around outdoor seating area. The party is fueled by $5 mimosas, $6 Bloody Marys, $4 Miller Lite pints, $15 buckets of Corona and $6 peach Arnold Palmers all summer long on Sundays.
1617 North Wells St.
1615 North Wells St.
Seated prominently at the corner of Diversey and Sheridan, Duffy’s Tavern and Grille is the place to go before or after a day at North Avenue or Fullerton Beach. A local hotspot for University of Michigan alumni and part the popular Bar1Events group, Duffy’s offers a fun and vibrant environment to enjoy a meal before the beach, or host your post-beach night out. Highlighted by their annual local singing competition “The Big Break,” Duffy’s sets out to offer unique events for its patrons. Every Monday from July 16-Aug. 20, “The Big Break” competition takes place, with the finals beginning Aug. 27. Duffy’s also offers one of the city’s favorite Sunday brunches, which includes unlimited mimosas and a buffet that features a chocolate fountain for $19.95 and a $6 build-your-own Bloody Mary bar.
420½ W. Diversey
Oak Street Beach Food & Drink
A newcomer to the city this summer, Oak Street Beach Food & Drink aims to offer the perfect beachside cantina atmosphere. Located at the epicenter of the fun at Oak Street Beach, this will be the place to be this summer for the Air and Water Show Aug. 18-19, as well as Red Bull’s Flutag Sept. 8-9. “We’re trying to offer a relaxed but enjoyable place to stop by during your day at the beach,” assistant manager Rob Harmon says. “Stop in, grab a drink and a quick bite, and then head back out to the sun.” Oak Street Beach Food and Drink is highlighted by their own unique “Good Libations” menu of beach cocktails, which includes three different hand-muddled mojitos. Don’t forget the live music every weekend all summer long.
1001 N. Lake Shore
One of the more popular pubs you’ll find anywhere downtown, Timothy O’Toole’s offers friendly service and a lively atmosphere, complete with 60 TVs, pool tables, dart boards, interactive trivia, Golden Tee, private party rooms and more. Since 1992, they’ve poured more than four million pints and served more than seven million wings, boasting a menu, weekend brunch (Bloody Mary bar) and daily specials that are hard to match. Just a short walk from Oak Street Beach and Navy Pier in the Streeterville neighborhood, it’s a basement-level oasis that shouldn’t be missed.
622 N. Fairbanks
The Dock at Montrose
Just before the Montrose Harbor, The Dock at Montrose is a great place for a tasty meal and refreshing drink smack dab on Kathy Osterman Beach. Besides its fantastic location, The Dock features a relaxing seating area and live music every Wednesday-Sunday. Every Wednesday night is reggae night, Thursdays offer live karaoke and Friday-Sunday showcases local acts on their beachfront stage. “While the local acts are great and can sometimes set the perfect beachside mood, Reggae nights are where it’s at,” according to the bartender, Patrick. Be sure to stop in and check out The Dock at Montrose Aug. 11-12 for the Chicago Beach Festival, featuring live entertainment and plenty of activities for kids.
200 W Montrose Harbor Dr.
A Chicago favorite since 1971, R.J. Grunt’s offers up world-famous burgers and chicken wings just a short walk from North Avenue and Fullerton Beaches. Boasting a robust food menu, seasonal drink specials and “the world’s first salad bar,” R.J. Grunt’s offers the best dining experience one could hope for just steps from the beach. Sporting its classic ‘70s style, music and décor, its not hard to see why R.J. Grunt’s has been a local hotspot for decades. The next time your day at the beach evokes some serious hunger pangs, take a stroll over to R.J. Grunt’s and see what all the fuss is about.
2056 N. Lincoln Park West
Another promising fresh face in the city’s bar scene this summer has been Caffe Olivia. Since opening their doors on Memorial Day, Caffe Olivia has been looking to make a name for itself in a city that’s not exactly ripe with beachside eateries. Located on the beautiful Ohio Street Beach, Caffe Olivia features a unique menu with items such as grilled pizzas and panini sandwiches. In addition to the edibles available, the drinks warrant just as much of a spotlight. Offering what would seem to be an obvious innovation in beachfront cocktails, Caffe Olivia serves up its adult refreshments ice cold right from the tap. Boasting 10 frosty cocktails daily (including the house-special mojito), Caffe Olivia looks poised to become one of Chicago’s go-to beach bars.
400 North Lake Shore