There’s certainly no shortage of watering holes in Chicago, and they run the gamut from the downtrodden and dive-y to the dainty and distinguished. But with the number of bars/pubs/lounges/etc. in the city hovering somewhere around 2,000, often one can seem nearly identical to the next. Thankfully, there are a select number of establishments who differentiate themselves by adding elements unique to the typical bar experience. Here’s a list of venues that offer a little something out of the ordinary.
Turtle Racing at Big Joe’s
If you’re bored on a Friday night and want to do something unique, consider the spectacle of live turtles scurrying unpredictably across a wooden-topped pool table, with a small mob of bar patrons loudly cheering them on. Be sure to show up early, however, as the turtle table crowd gathers a couple hours prior to post time. If racing reptiles isn’t your thing, they also have billiards, darts and live jazz on Sundays.
Big Joe’s 2 and 6 Pub
1818 W. Foster Ave.
Chicago, IL 60640
Raunchy Bingo at Grace Street Tap
Grace Street Tap in Lincoln Square has free parking and wi-fi, great drink specials, arcade games and pool, but if dirty bingo’s what you’re looking for then Tuesday nights are your night. Lose your inhibitions on $2 Panty Rippa shots and at 9:00 p.m. let the raunchy bingo begin.
Grace Street Tap
3759 N. Western Ave.
Chicago, IL 60618
Board Games at Guthrie’s
A few bars around town may have some board games to pass the time with, but Guthrie’s Tavern in Wrigleyville is a board game destination. Possibilities for new drinking games abound with 50+ boards, a chill atmosphere and an impressive selection of brews.
1300 W. Addison St.
Chicago, IL 60613
Ping Pong at Happy Village
Ping Pong obsessives get paddle-happy at Happy Village, a low-key Ukrainian Village dive that also features a popular patio, pool and trivia games. The ping pong table has its own room and is open to all patrons. There’s a two-drink minimum to play, but with Hamm’s and PBR on the beer list it’s pretty easy to manage.
1059 W. Wolcott Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622
Mechanical Bull Riding at Hogs and Honeys
Weed Street is something of an adult theme park, with plenty of places to get your wild on up and down the block. If you’re looking to unleash the cowboy/cowgirl within, Hogs and Honeys is the place for you. Brave a spin on Benny the Bull in front of an enthusiastic crowd for a raucous and memorable night.
Hogs and Honeys
901 W. Weed St.
Chicago, IL 60642
Live Band Karaoke at Piece
If you’ve had the urge to rock out on stage with a live band and audience, head to Piece in Wicker Park on a Saturday night, choose your jam and add your name to the list. The rock & roll pedigree is solid here—Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick is part owner (and occasional karaoke judge). Of course, the pizza’s excellent, too.
1927 W. North Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622
Rock, Paper, Scissors at Ravenswood Pub
The grade school favorite lives on in tournament form every Thursday night at Ravenswood Pub. Rock, Paper, Scissors (RPS) competitions create a frenzied scene at this quirky and homey Edgewater sports bar. Previous winners have competed in the RPS World Championships (yes, there is such a thing). Also, for a truly hilarious bar experience, be sure to check their website for the next “Crapple” night.
5455 N. Ravenswood Ave.
Chicago, IL 60640
Super Jenga at River Shannon
Lincoln Park neighborhood pub River Shannon pays homage to the classic tabletop game of steady hands and sound judgment with a supersized version consisting of wooden bricks stacked several feet high. They actually have two, and if they’re in use, feel free to join a group in play—it’s a friendly crowd. If you prefer something more high-tech, there’s a selection of Wii games and a projection screen.
425 W. Armitage Ave.
Chicago, IL 60614
—Greg Wahl is a Chicagoan, a freelancer, a grad student, and a seeker of all things awesome & interesting throughout the city and beyond.