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Chicago's Best Gay And Lesbian Bars

By Staff in Arts & Entertainment on Jun 26, 2013 7:30PM

Hundreds of thousands of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and LGBTQ-friendly folks will descend on the annual Chicago Pride Parade route this weekend, celebrating their uniqueness and diversity.

But the party doesn't stop after the last float has passed, especially at these bars where everyone is welcome.

Second Story Bar (Photo credit: Chicagoist/Tony Peregrin)

What a dive, but I love this place. It's located above Sayat Nova and next to a cheesy fortune teller's lair, a stone's throw away from the Gap on Michigan Ave and all the annoying hustle and bustle of shoppy-boppy tourists. So, it's like this hidden oasis that you kind of have to be in the know about, or you'd swan right by it. It's dark, very dark inside. Cozy. Cocktails are cheap (cash only though, kids) and on slow nights the bartender will even order in food for you, if you want. I love that there is a video monitor so you can see who is coming into the bar as the entrance is this super-long, sort of intimidating stairway. —Tony Peregrin

Second Story is at 157 E. Ohio Street; 312-923-9536

Located just steps off Clark Street in Andersonville, Marty’s Martini Bar is one of the premier gay bars in Chicago quite simply because it’s not a gay bar at all, but rather a charming little tavern that just happens to attract like-minded people, no matter who they do the fandango with in the boudoir. With a subtle interior that calls to mind Toulouse-Lautrec and Montmartre, Marty’s has an attentive, but never over-solicitous staff who I find as refreshing as their cucumber martinis. And speaking of the martinis, be sure to check out the lemon drop and pear martinis as they are particularly satisfying during the warm, summer months.

The intimate 560-square foot bar can hold about 43 people, although owner Marty Rogo is carefully eyeing an expansion next door if and when Huey’s Hot Dogs decides to hang-up its shingle and call it a day. Until then, enjoy a cocktail at the convivial, custom-built bar (mahogany, cherry and oak) or at the outside patio during warmer months. Another reason to raise a glass to Marty’s—Rogo’s generous community involvement. Typically, the bar will donate the profits from Sunday afternoon sales to various local charities such as the American Theater Company Youth Ensemble, the National Runaway Safeline, or Team Cheetah’s Ride for AIDS. Shaken or stirred, Marty’s Martini Bar offers tasty cocktails and a fabulous mix of gay and straight patrons. —Tony Peregrin

Marty’s Martini Bar, 1511 W. Balmoral Avenue, 773-561-6425

Photo via The Glenwood's Facebook page/Kirk Stokes.

Despite my status as a confirmed homosexual, I'm not generally a gay bar patron. I'm not a huge Bud Light drinker, Absolut isn't my spirit of choice and, while I love a pretty man as much as anyone, I don't generally need a shirtless one serving me my alcoholic slushies. That's why I love the Glenwood in Rogers Park. It's relatively quiet, comfortable, serves a mixed crowd of all ages and has (gasp) an actual selection of interesting craft beers. They make a mean martini, you can hear your date and if you walk in without your hair done, no one will throw any shade your way. If you're looking for a slightly hipper scene with more of a cocktail focus, head down the street to Sidecar, a GLBT cocktail bar from the same owner. —Anthony Todd

The Glenwood is located at 6962 N. Glenwood Ave., 773-764-7363

A divey environment makes Spyners the perfect laidback gay bar experience. It has a reputation as a lesbian bar, and it's packed with ladies, but it's a welcoming environment for everyone every time. Bartenders Maureen and Irma serve up good, cheap drinks with a smile. Karaoke every Thursday, Friday and Saturday is the main attraction to Spyners, and it's the best place to try it for the first time. The best part of singing karaoke at Spyners is the friendly crowd. You never feel alone when you're singing, even if it's an off-key rendition of an obscure Letters To Cleo song. The crowd will clap no matter how much you suck. The lady-heavy environment ensures the karaoke song rotation will include more Alanis Morissette than Bon Jovi. This is a very good thing because when you take a tequila shot while the bar sings "You Oughta Know" at top-volume, you don't even notice the harsh taste. —Samantha Abernethy

Spyners is at 4623 N. Western Ave.

It's only a matter of time before young Chicagoans transplanted from another Midwest state make their way over to North Halsted to see what Boystown is all about. I was first lured there by Sidetrack's "Musical Mondays." I thought to myself, I get to watch clips from musicals, sing along loudly, dance and drink—in public?! It's a night worth checking out if you're into having fun. Sidetrack is a great hang out on any night of the week though. A beautiful interior, multiple bars and an outdoor space makes it spacious enough to hit the dancefloor or find a quiet corner to sip down a few alcoholic slushies. Oh, yes, that's the other thing you should know about this place. A rotating lineup of fruity frozen alcoholic beverages curated by local mixologists will keep your sweet tooth happy. Sometimes people shy away from the popular choices when it comes to choosing a bar because those choices might seem too "mainstream." Sidetrack is no secret. It's one of the most popular bars in Boystown, but you're missing out if you let that keep you from coming here. —Katie Karpowicz

Sidetrack is located at 3349 N Halsted St., 773-477-9189.

Photo credit: Mike Travis

The Lakeview nightclub can now be considered an institution on its longevity alone. Now in its 30th year, the secrets to Berlin's success are its eclectic DJ lineup and its welcome, accommodating vibe. Gay, straight, bi-, bi-curious and transgendered are all welcome on the dancefloor and the scene picks up significantly here after midnight, when the 24-hour party people converge to dance until the morning light. —Chuck Sudo

Berlin Nightclub, 954 W. Belmont Ave., 773-348-4975

Instructions on how to enjoy Big Chicks: 1. Shake til you sweat on the hopping dance floor. 2. Cool off on the back patio. 3. Grab a drink at the bar, where the bartender probably remembered your name and last drink order, no matter how crowded the bar is. 4. Repeat steps 1-3 and repeat and repeat. 5. Sleep it off. 6. Wake up Sunday and return for brunch. 7. Make happy hour plans to take advantage of stellar weekday specials like $1 burger night. —Samantha Abernethy

Big Chicks is at 5024 N. Sheridan Road.

This Ravenswood/North Center bar has been one of the few gay and lesbian bars in the nieghborhood since 1997. The martinis here are large and strong, there are plenty of HDTVs available for the sports nuts, a Wii for the gamers, and an inclusive vibe that makes us disregard the Internet jukebox. It's cash only, but there are plenty of ATMs nearby, it's steps from the Montrose Brown Line stop, and one of the bars closest to Sunday's Pride Parade route. Get there early and be fabulous. —Chuck Sudo

Scot's Bar is located at 1829 W. Montrose Ave., 773-528-3253.

Honorable Mention: Crew Bar & Grill (4804 N. Broadway); Scarlet (3320 N. Halsted St.); Kit Kat Lounge & Supper Club (3700 N. Halsted St.); The Baton Show Lounge (435 N. Clark St.)