Being blessed with a city full of nightlife destinations comes with its price: Friday and Saturday nights can mean waiting around for a table or bar stool, if you get in at all. But with a few minor adjustments and a little planning, no spot is untouchable. Thanks to lunchtime hours, many hot venues—including new seafood and absinthe bar The Savoy in Wicker Park—are open for mid-day imbibing. And if weekend crowds are crushing, consider taking up bar space on a Tuesday or Wednesday. You may have to work the next day, but at least you can get in, get out and get on your way with less of a hassle. Before you plan your next night out, consult our guide to the best and worst times to snag a table at these favorites.
3505 N. Clark St. 773-644-5554
Most crowded: This dual-level Wrigleyville spot generally hits its peak from 7 to 11:30 p.m. on weekends, and directly after home Cubs games you can expect a line. The upstairs Diamond Club opens at 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and generally has a line by 11 p.m.
Average peak wait: 15 minutes
Least crowded: Beat the line by hitting the bar Mondays, Tuesdays or Wednesdays when the Cubs are away.
Reservations: Claim a table and cabanas at Diamond Club by phone or e-mail (email@example.com). The downstairs bar plans to have reservations available on OpenTable starting in late August.
1531 N. Damen Ave. 773-235-4039
Most crowded: Let’s face it: This Wicker Park taco spot nearly always has a crowd. You’ll find it most packed on Friday nights and Saturday afternoons.
Average peak wait: 1 1/2 to 2 hours
Least crowded: If you’re lucky enough to have some extra time during the work week, lunch Monday through Friday is your best bet to get a table right away.
1575 N. Milwaukee Ave. 773-227-7990
Most crowded: This Wicker Park dance spot get the typical club crowd with lines forming on Saturday nights around midnight. Monday night party Rehab tends to hit its peak around 11 p.m.
Average peak wait: It varies wildly based on who's spinning that night. Expect big lines for Lollapalooza after-parties this weekend.
Least crowded: You'll likely walk right in if you arrive before 11 p.m. any night.
Reservations: Table reservations are available through Facebook or by phone. Check Do312.com for details on avoiding cover with an RSVP.
840 W. Randolph St. 312-243-9712
Most crowded: Expect a packed house at this tiny French bar in the West Loop every day between 8 and 10 p.m. Fridays are the busiest overall evening.
Average peak wait: Around an hour. You can wait at the bar, but it's often so crowded that you'll have to head outside and wait for a call from the host.
Least crowded: Early in the week or early in the day (think dinner at 5 p.m.) is the best bet for walk-ins.
Reservations: Hit OpenTable.com 8 to 10 days in advance for the best seating choices.
2109 S. Wabash Ave. 312-753-5681
Most crowded: Like most clubs, this South Loop hangout gets especially crowded on Saturdays around midnight. As a concert venue, crowds also swell depending on the night's act. Expect Sunday nights to be anything but calm with both house music and reggae parties happening in different parts of the club.
Average wait: Saturdays quickly can hit capacity after midnight, but the staff tries to keep people from waiting more than 10 minutes.
Least crowded: For a no-wait situation, arrive around 10 p.m.
Reservations: Reservations for tables (with bottle service) are accepted via phone or through the club's website.
2624 N. Lincoln Ave., (773) 857-0421
Most crowded: On Friday nights you can expect a wait to enter this Lincoln Park cocktail spot by midnight. The seated upstairs section generally fills up by 9-10 p.m. on weekends. Winter and fall tend to be busier with lines forming by 7:30 some nights.
Least crowded: If you're looking to sit right down, stop by on any evening Monday-Thursday.
Reservations: The entire spot is walk-ins only, but they do book parties.
4300 N. Lincoln Ave. 773-360-8406
Most crowded: It seems like everyone in North Center has a craving for this tavern's burgers on Saturday nights from 7 to 9:30 p.m. and (strangely) Wednesday nights around the same time.
Average wait: On a busy Wednesday night, you may wait 20 minutes, but Saturdays waits can stretch past an hour for a table.
Least crowded: Take a long lunch and stop by Thursday during the day. The bar opens at 11:30 a.m. and you'll have no problem finding a seat.
Reservations: Reservations generally are not accepted, but at peak hours you can leave a cell number and the hostess will call when your table is ready.
400 N. State St. 312-265-1240
Most crowded: This River North pub hits its peak on Friday and Saturdays with a line forming around 10:30 p.m.
Average peak wait: Booths and table-taps can book up weeks in advance, but for standing room at the bar, the wait varies depending on what's happening that night (hint: game days are tough).
Least crowded: Hit Public House for a weekday lunch or early dinner for the best chance of avoiding lines.
Reservations: All tables in the main area are first-come, first-served but booth seating and tables with their trademark table-taps are reservation only, available by phone or e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org).
1520 N. Damen Ave. 773-252-1500
Most crowded: Expect a line to form at Wicker Park’s most popular cocktail lounge from 9 to 11 p.m. daily. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays are the busiest nights.
Average peak wait: On weekdays, you’ll likely wait only 5 to 10 minutes, but weekend waits can stretch to an hour depending on your group size.
Least crowded: Your best bet is to arrive near the bar’s 6 p.m. opening time.
Reservations: Every seat in the house is first-come, first-served and there is no standing room—they’ll only let in as many people as there are seats. If you are stuck in line, a host can take down your number and call when a spot opens up.
658 W. Belden Ave., 773-348-8899
Most crowded: This Lincoln Park sports bar tends to hit capacity around 10:45 on Saturday nights, but Sunday brunch can also be slammed.
Average peak wait: Around 15 minutes
Least crowded: Try stopping in Tuesday-Thursday nights around dinner time for the best table selections.
2210 N. California Ave. 773-276-5625
Most crowded: To see the biggest crowds at this Logan Square pizza joint, show up between 6 p.m. and midnight on a Friday and try to shove your way to the bar.
Average peak wait: At its busiest, you could be waiting 25 to 30 minutes for a table.
Least crowded: Sunday through Wednesday nights are decidedly more chill.
Reservations: They aren't accepted, but you can always hang out at the bar while your name moves up the wait list.