Welcome to junior year, also known as the awkward time you’re waiting for your legal ID to gain its time-earned market value. All your friends are 21, but you’re stuck counting the months on two hands. Not in the mood to passively witness a bouncer turn away your good-enough-for-Evanston fake as your 21-year-old friends enjoy adult nightlife? While your older friends rage downtown, the not-yet-legal partiers in your group can turn to one of these non-lame nearby hot spots that are underage friendly and still worth the El ride.
Friends raging in Belmont: Try Club Mambo
Open Until: 1 a.m. Monday-Thursday, 2 a.m. Friday-Saturday, 12 p.m. Sunday
3336 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Live music can warm up any blistery winter night in Chicago. Dance to reggae, house, salsa, meringue and of course, Latin music, until the early hours of the morning. Caribbean fare is served in the adjacent Mambo Café. Worried that a 17+ club will be filled with high schoolers? Increased cool factor of Latin music is likely to deter much of the younger, less-desired company overflowing most other 18+ dance clubs. But make sure you go on a Friday night — Saturdays are 21+.
Nearby bars: Dunn Inn, Big Teddy Bear Inc., Janina’s Tavern, Brudder’s Lounge, Alice’s Lounge, Abbey Pub, Mirabell Lounge, Little Rascals Bar, Happy Night.
Caught outside a bar in Wicker Park: Arabia Hookah Bar
Open Until: 2 a.m. Sunday – Thursday, 3 a.m. Friday – Saturday
1046 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Travel across the globe to Arabia with only a brief El ride. This intimate smoking spot offers authentic Moroccan decor, rich Arabic coffees and mint tea, amidst an environment promising to relax. The bar’s 27 flavors of shisha give your liver a rest while you take a stab at your lungs. They’ve even got interactive traditional Arabian belly dancing shows every Friday and Saturday night.
Nearby bars: Five Star Bar, Sonotheque, West Town Tavern, Gold Star Bar, The Chipp Inn, Relax Lounge LLC, Life’s To Short, Alexi’s Bar.
Post-game entertainment in Wrigleyville: Uncommon Ground
Open Until: 2 a.m. Monday – Friday, 3 a.m. Saturday, 12 a.m. Sunday
3800 N. Clark St.
Experience the restaurant/bar hailing the first organic rooftop farm in the country. Eat food from the garden or choose a drink from the taste bud arousing menu of hot beverages. Ask for a seat in the music room to hear one of the several nightly live performances. Don’t forget to look around at the rotating gallery of contemporary artists.
Nearby bars: Raw Bar, Ginger Man, Yak-Zies Bar, Rockit Bar, Cullen’s Bar, Full Shilling Irish Sports Pub, Casey Morgan’s, Bernie’s Tavern, The Piano Man.
Night out in Bucktown: Diversey River Bowl
Open Until: 2 am. Sunday – Thursday, 3 a.m. Friday – Saturday
2211 W. Diversey Ave.
Worth a bit of a trek from the Bucktown bars, Diversey River Bowl is your familiar small town bowling alley with a twist. Diversey River Bowl takes Rock n’ Bowl to the next level with atmosphere enhancing fog machines, dozens of intelligent lights and strobes and non-stop floor shaking Rock and Roll that will make you think you’re in the midst of a hopping night club. A full pizzeria serves all your favorite munchies.
Nearby bars: Mutiny Corporation, Quenchers Saloon, Green Eye Lounge, Lottie’s Pub, Gallery Cabaret, Danny’s, Map Room, Charleston Inc.