Looking for blues on the North Side? Let Tony Mangiullo show you the way.
You can't spend more than a few days in Chicago without hearing about its longstanding blues legacy. But just because the history is there, it doesn't mean that every venue will fit your needs when you're craving some weepin' and wailin'. Study this list of our favorite Chicago blues clubs before hitting the town.
Best for Foodies FitzGerald's
Ok, so it's not actually located within city limits (it's in Berwyn), but if you want some solid food with your tunes, we can't think of a better spot. The club (which you may have seen parts of in films like "Adventures in Babysitting" and "A League of Their Own") has partnered with Southern-cooking standout Wishbone for a full menu featuring catfish cakes, jambalaya, brisket, hoppin' jack and much more. Oh yeah, the music ain't too bad either - blues, jazz and country are all well-represented here, with the occasional legend (like Koko Taylor) stopping by for a visit. Cover is generally between $5 and $15. Upcoming events at FitzGerald's.
Runners-up: Kingston Mines, Smoke Daddy
Best for Serious Fans (North Side) Rosa's Lounge
The self-described "friendliest blues bar" in Chicago is also one of the most authentic places for enjoying real blues in a laid-back, diverse environment. Both the old guard and the young guns are well-represented here, with guitarist Melvin Taylor bridging the gap on a regular basis. It's also a family-run spot, meaning owner Tony Mangiullo (who sometimes guests on drums) might be taking your $5-$15 cover. Upcoming events at Rosa's Lounge.
Best for Serious Fans (South Side) Artis's Lounge
You want an authentic Chicago blues experience? Oh, OK. Well, how about cramming into a tiny bar with a six-person band jamming two feet away from you, while they break out classics like "Strokin'," "Members Only" and "While You Were Steppin Out, Someone Else is Steppin In"? Sound good? If you're not a native South-Sider, you'll be in the minority at this 20-year-old club, but all you need to know is that you're expected to pay attention to the performers, tip well and sit where you're told. Enjoy. Upcoming events at Artis's Lounge.
Runner-up: Lee's Unleaded Blues
Best for Casual Fans Buddy Guy's Legends
Call it a tourist trap if you must, but Buddy's backs up its cover charge (regularly $15) with top-notch acts, above-average food and a fun atmosphere (you don't have to buy the merchandise if you don't want to). Plus, there's always the chance you catch the owner himself; the man doesn't appear to have aged a day. Upcoming events at Buddy Guy's Legends.
Runners-up: B.L.U.E.S., Kingston Mines, Checkerboard Lounge, Underground Wonder Bar
Best for Dancing Blue Chicago
You're not gonna get scolded for strutting your stuff at most any place (though good luck finding room at some of the smaller clubs), but this River North club - and its sister down the street, Blue Chicago
on Clark - actually encourages it. Shake it to "Sweet Home Chicago" and then plop into one of the oversize booths and gaze at the cool paintings on the wall. Upcoming events at Blue Chicago.
Runner-up: East of the Ryan (steppers only!)