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A dater’s guide to Chicago beer bars

How to navigate your summer romance and your love of beer in the Windy City.
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CHICAGO ROMANCESummer in Chicago is glorious: a time to enjoy music festivals, beer gardens, and—if you’ve been single and hibernating—dating. Thanks to the explosion of craft beer and online dating, it isn’t hard to find great beer or a po- tential schmoopie. But finding a place with great beer and appropriate dating mojo can still be a tall order. Here’s a romance-centric look at five of the best beer bars in Chicago.

Piece
1927 W. North Ave.; piecechicago.com

If you only had time for one slice-and-suds stop in Chicago, this would be the place: The New Haven-style pizza and Jonathan Cutler’s astounding beers (especially the IPAs, like Camel Toe and Cap’n Kickass) are must-haves. But the rowdy Wicker Park restaurant is just about the worst for a date. It’s usually too busy and loud; better to save it for watching the Bears with a buddy, not getting to know a prospective paramour.

First date rating: 2/5

Sheffield’s
3258 N. Sheffield Ave.; sheffieldschicago.com

With three different beer menus available simultane- ously, this Lakeview bar doesn’t lack for quality pours. But when it comes to dating, there’s one ingredient that’s even more important than hops: the beer garden. Sheffield’s picnic-table-dotted beer garden is one of the most popular in the city, and it’s absolutely perfect for a date. We all look a little better when the sun is shining and the beer is flowing.

First date rating: 4/5

Headquarters Beercade
2833 N. Sheffield Ave., 213 W. Institute Place; hqbeercade.com

Many a first date has fizzled because the conversation was awkward, slow and painful. Ease the pressure with low-key games alongside solid draught and canned craft beers. At Headquarters’ two locations, dozens of arcade and pinball games are free, so at the first sign of small talk slowdown, you can switch to Ms. Pacman or the Metallica pinball game. Warning: If you or your date is a competitive jerk, this could backfire. Extra warning: Achieving multiball together is not necessarily correlated with future dating success.

First date rating: 4/5

Hopleaf
5148 N. Clark St.; hopleafbar.com

It’s generally considered Chicago’s best beer bar, so Hopleaf’s appeal as a date spot might hinge on how beer-knowledgeable your paramour is. As my friend Eileen—a beer fan and dating enthusiast—says, “Its beer list can also be pretty intimidating to newbies, so you’ll be flying your beer geek flag proudly here if you order like you know what you’re doing. Plus, the lack of table service in the bar area means any date is full of pauses while someone goes up to get another round.” Of course, if the date is going badly, that pause could be a blessed relief—and perhaps a chance to flee.

First date rating: 3/5

The Long Room
1612 W. Irving Park Road; longroomchicago.com

This north Lakeview spot is pretty much the pinnacle of Chicago beer bars when it comes to a first date. The beer list—recently featuring Evil Twin Sour Bikini and locally brewed Begyle Hophazardly—is almost as lengthy as the bar itself, which is TV-free, with lighting just dim enough to create a mood while not totally obscuring the other person. The one downside is that if the date goes south, you will have no one to blame but your date and yourself.

First date rating: 5/5

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