5 Startup Hangouts in Chicago That Aren’t Coworking Spaces

July 30, 2015

2:00 pm

Where do you go if you want to meet other entrepreneurs in a casual, spontaneous, this-might-actually-lead-to-a-real-relationship way? Why, one of Chicago’s startup hangouts.

You could go to a coworking space – and Chicago has many – but it’s a bit pricey if you are happily working from home (or some of these other unique places). You could go to networking events every night, but that’s a lot of time to spend away from work. This celebration of the Chicago ecosystem is brought to you by @properties, the leading Chicago real estate brokerage serving both the city of Chicago and North Shore through dynamic marketing and innovation. 

We asked Chicagoans to share their favorite places to meet entrepreneurs, and they cited some spots you’re already spending time in already – namely, the city’s trendy bars, cafes, and restaurants. If you’ve got a choice of where to eat or imbibe some alcohol, why not choose these startup hangouts and kill two birds with one stone?

1. Purple Pig

Chicago - startup hangouts Purple Pig

A well-reviewed restaurant specializing in charcuterie, cheese, and wine. 

Address: 500 North Michigan Avenue (closest CTA stop: Grand-Red)

Why work there: “Board games, purple drink (actual drink that tastes like Koolaid and gets you drunker faster than you can code), and a performance space means I meet more ‘startuppers’ there than nearly anywhere else I’ve been in the city,” says Asif Khan, CEO of Caremerge.

2. Gilt Bar

Chicago - startup hangoutsGilt Bar

A swanky, dark bar that’s so convinced its food speaks for itself that its entire homepage is nothing but (mouthwatering) photos. Located right near Merchandise Mart, which makes it convenient for entrepreneurs working out of 1871, Matter Chicago, and other coworking spaces there.

Address: 230 West Kinzie street (closest CTA stop: Merchandise Mart)

Why work there: “It’s a fancy-ish, dimly lit, French-feel of a bar/restaurant with a basement bar called The Library that all the ad kids and more well-off startup people like,” says Khan.

3. Starbucks

Chicago - startup hangouts Starbucks

Duh, it’s Starbucks – the original coworking space. Choose the Chicago & Franklin location or the Merchandise Mart location to get the highest density of entrepreneurs for your buck (or your 4 bucks).

Address: 750 North Franklin Street (closest CTA stop: Chicago-Brown); 470 Merchandise Mart #111 (closest CTA stop: Merchandise Mart) 

Why work there: “[The Chicago & Franklin Starbucks] is a frequent stomping ground for entrepreneurs to grab their cup of coffee as well as have meetings,” says Kevin Ludden, head of creative and brand for Figo Pet Insurance.

4. Rossi’s

Chicago - startup hangouts Rossi's

A liquor store with a dive bar on site.

Address: 412 North State Street (closest CTA stop: Grand-Red)

Why work there: “Lots of journos, journos-turned PR and/or marketing, tons of startup folks,” says Khan.

5. Green Street Smoked Meats

Chicago - startup hangouts Green Street

By the same people as Gilt Bar, Green Street Smoked Meats serves Texas-style barbecue in a cool venue that looks like a warehouse.

Address: 112 North Green Street (closest CTA stop: Morgan-Lake)

Why work here: “I’ve met more people that work at Google and Groupon here than every other place in the city combined. Best potato salad ever, great BBQ, and relatively cheap drinks (specially on half-off wine night),” says Khan.

Did we leave any popular startup hangouts off our list? Share it below in the comments section.

Image credits: Flickr / Edsel Little (Purple Pig); Gilt Bar; Starbucks; Rossi’s; Green Street Smoked Meats

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact kira@tech.co.

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