If you love live music, you undoubtedly know Chicago's most famous venues. But did you know this city is full of smaller, more intimate settings for music lovers as well? Come along as we walk through some of the best in the city.
1. Andy's Jazz Club
Just like it sounds, Andy's Jazz Club is a historic spot that serves up delicious food and cool jazz. This venue hosts Chicago's top jazz acts in an intimate lounge atmosphere featuring local bands and musicians as well as in-demand, world-touring musicians as part of their "Spotlight Performer Series." With two bands nightly, diners can make reservations to ensure a spot close to the stage or enjoy the melodies from the bar area.
2. Green Mill Cocktail Lounge
For better or worse, Chicago and Al Capone are often mentioned in the same sentence. If you enjoy the local lure of this infamous mobster and you want to visit one of his alleged haunts, the venerable Green Mill Cocktail Lounge is a great one. Known for its warm atmosphere, its reputation as a traditional jazz club is morphing to include a much broader range of music. They have live music every night with a cover charge but no drink minimum. Guests love the retro design elements almost as much as the music. But come with your wallet. The Green Mill Cocktail Lounge only accepts cash, just like in Capone's time.
3. The Hideout
The Hideout is like visiting your best friend's grandparent's living room circa the 1970s but with better sound. With its wood paneling and balloon-frame design, it's no surprise that this club's story began during prohibition. 100 years later, it's still serving up strong drinks and great tunes. Most people love the feeling of family that pervades this once illegal operation. The Hideout describes itself fittingly as founded on "the old restless roots of hard-working, hard-playing creative artistic expression and intellectual freedom. More New Deal and less New Age. The Hideout is small, and small is beautiful. It's not for everyone, but for every one!"
4. Buddy Guy's Legends
Buddy Guy's Legends bills itself as the premier blues club in the world, and rightfully so. Top-names seem to play this club nearly every night, and the venue and food are like a bit of New Orleans dropped right into the middle of Chicago. While you can buy tickets to their shows online, seating is first-come, first-served, and the place fills up early. A ticket to watch a performance is not a guarantee of a table seat. Attendees to performances after 8 p.m. must be over 21, but they offer a live video feed of some of their shows.
5. Cobra Lounge
Potentially one of the coolest-named venues in the city, the Cobra Lounge is the spot to catch punk bands. The club prides itself on showcasing "regional underground and emerging talent." If you love good sound and prefer an intimate, unpretentious atmosphere, the Cobra Lounge is a great pick. It's located next to Union Park so its energy often spills out into the nearby surroundings.
6. Cole's Bar
Cole's Bar is an unpretentious storefront on Milwaukee Avenue. You might not notice it at first, but step inside and you'll be treated to an eclectic mix of open mic comedy, folk singers, DJs spinning funk and disco, and impressive live performances from up-and-coming locals and traveling musicians. This club's intimate atmosphere doesn't have a lot of frills, just good music and an energetic neighborhood audience.
7. Honky Tony BBQ
Okay, so this is a list of music venues, not food ones, but it would be an oversight not to mention this live music venue's melt-in-your-mouth BBQ. But don't assume that BBQ equals country music. Their stage is home to a variety of musical styles including rockabilly, folk, Latin, Cuban, Americana, Jazz, and the blues to name a few.
8. Chicago Cultural Center
Music aficionados aren't the only groups who are drawn to this historic landmark in downtown Chicago. Preston Bradley Hall is home to the world's largest Tiffany dome. Marble walls, Art Deco lighting, mosaic touches are a few reasons that make this one of the most unforgettable arts experiences in the area. These classical, jazz, and blues performances are also often free to the public making it a must-see venue for the smart Chicagoan or tourist.
9. Lincoln Hall
Lincoln Hall is a former theater turned music venue. Guests love hanging out on the balcony and catching an early glimpse of the next up-and-comer on the music scene. You'll hear a lot of talk about seeing groups here before they hit it big. Owned by Schubas, this Lincoln Park venue is best known for its rock and pop acts.
10. Thalia Hall
What this venue lacks in intimacy it makes up for in majesty. It began its impressive run as an opera house in 1892. It is now home to well-known traveling bands. Guests who come to Thalia Hall enjoy its ambiance and design elements and the nearby restaurants and bars. Three of Pilsen neighborhood's best bars, Dusek's Board & Beer, the Punch House, and the Tack Room, adjoin the historic venue. Michelin-rated Dusek's has even been featured on the Food Network and is an award-winning local favorite.
11. The Vic Theatre
While we're focussing on historic venues, we can't leave out the Vic. Built originally as a five-story vaudeville house in 1912, it has gone on to become a major venue for headliners like They Might Be Giants and other well-known names in rock/pop and indie music.
The Vic leads a double life. When it's not hosting musical acts, guests can enjoy a movie and an adult beverage when it becomes Brew & View. But Brew & View is no passive, movie-watching experience. The crowd often sings along and dances to musicals, like Grease, and other classic movies, making even the movies a live music extravaganza.
So there you have Salvi Media's top pics for best live music venues in the city. What did we miss? Drop us a line below along with why you love the venue and we'll add it to our selection.