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South Side

Must visit: Tac’s Lounge

5114 S. Prairie Ave., 773-536-2500

“Who you looking for?” I was asked upon stepping into this dimly lit Washington Park establishment, the first sign that it doesn’t attract too many outsiders. But after I said I just wanted a beer, I was welcomed in, and within minutes I was introduced to nearly everybody in the place.—Mick Dumke

Runner-up: Reese’s Lounge

1827 W. 87th, 773-238-1993

With two blue bars on either side of a narrow room, and mirrored walls and blue bar stools and just the right amount of neon, Reese’s is embarrassingly comfortable. Beer was cheap; cocktails went unsampled but looked like they would do the trick.—Sam Worley

Runner-up: Jeffery Pub

7041 S. Jeffery, 773-363-8555

A venerable old south-side institution, the Jeffery Pub is a gay bar just off the tail end of Lake Shore Drive. We stumbled into the middle of what might’ve been a birthday party, on a Sunday afternoon, when the place was packed with extremely fancy lesbians with thoughtful hair and excellent dance moves. Patrons drank brightly colored cocktails out of pitchers, and the emcee was bent on getting everybody riled up.—Sam Worley

Find more south-side bars.

Wicker Park & Bucktown

Must visit: Violet Hour

Wicker Park’s hidden Violet Hour is a dark, sumptuously appointed retreat from the harsh world outside, attended by nattily dressed barkeeps who exhibit a balletic facility with jigger, shaker, and glass.—Mike Sula

Runner-up: The Charleston

See all our Wicker Park/Bucktown bar listings.