The 3 “Star” Bars of Chicago’s Wicker Park

It just so happens that three of my favorite spots happen to have “star” in the name, a shared commonality that can only be fate.

Flickr Bobby Bowers Big Star Chicago bar
Photo: Flickr/MA1216

When it comes to Chicago bars, I’ll be up front with you: I get around. Listen, how can you expect a girl to commit in a city like Chicago? I’ve pounded the pavement from the stiletto hell of the Viagra Triangle to joints that play jazz after 3 AM in Logan Square. Over time I have become fairly loyal to the west side of the city, where they accept my shrunken T-shirts as going-out-wear and don’t lose their train of thought when they see my nose ring. It just so happens that three of my favorite spots for hitting the sauce trace a 1.6 mile line through Wicker Park, from Chicago Avenue to North Avenue. Each also happens to have “star” in the name, a shared commonality that can only be fate. I get randy just thinking about the bar crawl possibilities for you visitors from out of town. Faux rip your jeans and get ready for a night out in the hipster bunghole of Chi-City I know and love.

1. Big Star

1531 N Damen Chicago, IL 60622 (map, website)

Big Star is a drunchies-haven for the starving Wicker Park crowd. After a night of bar hopping, the outdoor seating beckons you to take a load off and enjoy some dank tacos al fresco. When it comes to their drink menu, I’m a sucker for the Big Star Margarita ($9), made with Lunazul Blanco tequila, Vida Mescal, Maria Brizard Orange Curacao, and lime. My taco of choice is the Taco Al Pastor ($3), made with marinated spit roasted pork shoulder, grilled pineapple, green onion, and of course – fresh cilantro. My heavily intoxicated friends often prefer the Walking Taco ($3). This portable Frito bag is pumped with spicy pinto bean dip, tamazula salsa, crema, chihuahua queso, onion, and cilantro. At 3 bucks a pop it’s easy to go crazy on these tacos, and I heavily recommend you do so immediately.

Facebook Big Star bar Chicago
Facebook/Big Star

2. Five Star

1424 W Chicago Avenue Chicago IL, 60642 (map, website)

Five Star is a low-key dive bar with an excellent draft beer selection. Located in West Town, the bar draws locals for a game of pool and some surprisingly gastronomical pub-grub. The Duck Ruben ($13) will knock the beanie off your head, a savory mouthful of Pastrami Spiced Maple Leaf Farms Duck Confit, gruyere, duck cracklin’s, Russian dressing, and pickled cabbage on marbled rye. For those busy playing pool, try a Chicago-brewed pale ale like the Half Acre Daisy Cutter ($6, ABV 5.2%), with some Fried Chickpeas ($2) to nibble on – they’re spiced with something delicious that I can’t identify, maybe paprika? Find out for yourself and let me know.

Flickr lindsaybayley Chicago Big Star bar
Flickr/lindsaybayley

3. Gold Star

1755 W. Division St. Chicago, IL 60622 (map, website)

Gold Star fits the revived grunge scene perfectly, a dimly lit dive that draws the flannel and torn-jean crowds of Wicker Park. There’s no kitchen, but the Tamale Guy stops in often to provide sustenance to the drunk and hungry. Gold Star is no high-heels high-hopes bar: it is a Division Street landmark with a free pool table, cheap beer ($4), and a crowd of regulars smoking cigarettes out front. Its charm lies in the well-stocked juke box, full of jazz and indie crooners that offer great relief from the Top 40 that shrieks and bumps through the North Side.

Flickr Laurie Chipps Chicago bar Gold Star
Flickr/Laurie Chipps

Lena Kazer

Lena is a Chicago native, her travel style consists of red cowboy boots that make her feel like she can take over the world. She adores Peru and can't travel without her journal to draw or write in.

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