There's something reassuring about a little bit of dirt and a whole lot of darkness. In these Chicago lairs, the essence of punk that reigns is that there is no essence, and wearing khakis might be the punkest move of all. The important thing is that there's always cheap swill and you can come as you are. So break out the Ramone's tee and your best Johnny Rotten sneer and take a ride to the best drinking caves in town.
Rig up the piercings before hitting Exit
Exit's lonely lighted skull sign on this desolate strip of North Avenue is like the bat signal for the tattooed, pierced and leather clad. If you're looking for a spot to celebrate Satan's birthday or catch a bondage show, there's no better punk palace. Gas masks and grenades are strewn across the liquor cabinets and the suicide girls set clack its black platform heels across concrete floor. Watch your back or you might get skewered by an errant piercing or a sharp bit of chain link fence. While this is no place for frat boys looking for cred, the goth metal folks doesn't want to be judged, nor do they have any interest in judging you if you play it cool. Don't miss Thursday's $2 black and blues, a twisted brew of PBR and Guinness.
Be a punk but don't drink like one at Delilah's
Morrissey and the Misfits make nice, Maker's Mark and moonshine glint side by side on the shelf, and Lincoln Parkers rock it out with Humboldt Parkers. If the ideal of punk is to reject conformity, Delilah's is punk nirvana. There is no better bourbon selection in the city, which works its way from $2 Jim Beam to $20 dollar shots of 20-year-old Pappy VanWinkel. Owner Mike Miller might be the most knowledgeable grain alcohol purveyor outside of Kentucky. Despite the regal liquor reserves, this bar is a dark and dingy lair chockfull of duct-taped torn vinyl and year-round strings of Christmas lights, with a Catwoman lamp that's among the best pieces of bar kitsch around.
Take a dive into the Mutiny
Don't leave the Purell at home. If you're looking for the world's worst urinal and the dirtiest bathrooms in the city, the Mutiny is your place. Don't worry, after a couple of the signature mini-pitchers, where $6 gets you the equivalent of three beers, you'll think you're at The Bar in the Peninsula hotel. The decor doesn't always jibe with the punk and avant-garde styling of weekend bands—Sportscenter blazes on the television, while a smattering of vinyl stools and a bevy of beer signs cast a neon halo over the crowd. You get the feeling there really was a Mutiny, that this was once an Irish or Polish storefront bar raided by a ragtag Jack Sparrow led group of thirsty hipsters.
Get on the skids at Cal's Liquors
Nothing's more punk rock than being able to stumble out the bar with a pint wrapped in a brown bag. This combination liquor store and bar is your one stop for package goods and pints of PBR. Cal's Liquors is a skid row era shoebox rivaling the close confines of The Matchbox. Located in the shadow of the Board of Trade, the neon sign on the corner of Wells and Van Buren that was once a siren call for winos and working stiffs is now a beacon for bike messengers and brokers. Later on in the evening while garage bands shred, black shirts replace black suits.
Kick out the jams at Cobra Lounge
Detroit might be known as Motown, but it's also the birthplace of Iggy and the Stooges and the MC5, where "Kick Out the Jams" was the punk anthem of 1969. There's no better Windy City punk tribute to the Motor City than the cement block and barred windows on this lonely corner of Ashland and Lake. Hunker down under the rumble of the L and throw back the champagne of beers, Miller High Life in this bordello of high-gloss red paint and low-slung vinyl chairs. Alternatively pull up to the black lacquered tables or lean back against the chipped brick walls and hoist a shot, rock-city style.