Drink and don’t drive at these transit-friendly taverns


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[This piece also ran in Time Out Chicago.]

Metra’s beloved bar cars made their final run last some time ago, but you can still railroad tie one on at taverns inside the stations while waiting for the 6:15. And thanks to liberal alcohol policies on regional rail (hear that CTA?) all these pubs offer to-gos to enjoy on your car-free commute. Be sure to toast the poor souls stuck in buzz-killing traffic on the expressways.

By the Great Hall at Union Station, 200 S. Canal, Metro Deli and Café has old-timey décor like a photo of Richard J. grinning under a “We love Mayor Daley” banner. Goose Island and Blue Moon are on tap at the large, oval bar, and there’s pool tables, video poker and Wednesday karaoke. Upstairs in the food court the three-level bar The Snuggery features vintage photos of greats like Louis Armstrong and Muddy Waters. A barmaid at a separate station sells tallboy and drafts in lidded plastic cups to time-strapped salarymen.

Next stop: De-train at Aurora on Metra’s Burlington Northern Santa Fe Line and keep the party rolling at Walter Payton’s Roundhouse (205 N Broadway, Aurora, 630-264-2739) next to the station.

South Siders departing Metra’s LaSalle Street Station, 440 S. LaSalle, buy beer, wine and Margaritas from the trackside Club Car kiosk, in business for 24 years. There’s no proper bar in the building but around the corner, under the Loop elevated tracks, the transit-themed Sky Ride Tap, 105 W. Van Buren, sells cans and cocktails in Styrofoam cups for carry-out. Metra-sexuals dig the attractive bartenders at this 35-year-old, wood-paneled dive; others kill time with Golden Tee and video bowling.

Next stop: Head to Sean’s Rhino Bar (10330 S Western Ave, 773-238-2060) near the Rock Island Line. Sean’s is one of several quality South Side Irish pubs just four blocks from the 103rd Street Station.

Bar Millennium, a slick sports pub, is located underground in the sleek glass corridors of Millennium Station, 151 N. Randolph. Dance music blares and cool vintage beer cans cover one of the walls. There’s draft Guiness and Fat Tire; pies are available from Chi-Town Pizza next door; and a tub girl sells tallboys, wine and airline-size liquor to hurrying Metra and South Shore riders.

Next stop: Head to Indiana’s tranquil Dunewood Campground (Hwy 12 and Broadway, Beverly Shores, 219-926-7561) by boarding the South Shore Line. It’s a great respite after the station bar’s overload of flat-screens and Lady Gaga.

Ogilvie Transportation Center, 500 W. Madison, boasts two track-level taverns. The swanky, dimly-lit Rail Club has an octagonal dark-wood and brass bar, Art Deco hanging lamps, and a mural featuring a locomotive, Rolls Royce, ocean liner, bi-plane and zeppelin. The Chicago News Room features metal cut-outs of the world’s continents behind the bar and clocks that tell time in Chicago, NYC, London, Paris, Switzerland and Japan – set ten minutes fast, so tanked Metra riders won’t miss their trains.

Next stop: Ride to the Arlington Park stop on the Union Pacific Northwest Line to play the ponies at Arlington racetrack (2200 W Euclid Ave, Arlington Heights, 847-385-7500).

Get more transit and drinking ideas from two websites that specialize in businesses around train stations:

  • Carfree Chicago’s Train Stop Guide – Automatically displays nearby businesses at all Metra and CTA stations in Chicagoland. You can leave your own comment about where you like to eat/drink around that station.
  • Just Off The Tracks – Things to eat, see, and do along the Metra train lines in Chicagoland.

Published by

John Greenfield

John has lived in Chicago since 1989 and has worked a number of bicycle jobs, from messenger to mechanic to managing the Chicago Department of Transportation's bicycle parking program, arranging the installation of over 3,700 bike racks. He writes regularly for Time Out Chicago, Newcity, Momentum and Urban Velo magazines and works at Boulevard Bikes in Logan Square.

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