Of all the seasons in Chicago (winter, false spring, second winter, construction, Satan’s closet), the best one is upon us: it’s patio season! Of course, it takes on added importance this year as many people still prefer to dine outside. Now that the weather is inching toward warmth, (although the notoriously fickle Chicago spring weather continues to careen madly between summer breeze and frigid blast), it’s time to start planning where to go. Here are some of the best restaurants for outdoor dining and drinking around Chicago and the suburbs, with a little something for everyone — great restaurants, rooftop bars, lovely patios, and fabulous views — sometimes all in one location!
302 N Green St 3rd Floor, Chicago, (773) 645-1400
Fulton Market never looked so good! The lovely rooftop patio at Aba offers breezy outdoor dining with a laid-back, California vibe, lots of grey wicker, light woods, and big white umbrellas. And because this is Chicago, heaters and firepits abound! Chef CJ Jacobson’s delicious Mediterranean cuisine hits every part of your tastebuds. You’ll find me here, dipping chunks of house-made pita into the Crispy Short Rib Hummus, popping the sherry-glazed Brussels Sprouts into my mouth like candy, sipping on a Passionfruit G&T, and generally loving life. Open daily for dinner, brunch on Saturday — Sunday only.
8th floor of 640 N Lasalle Drive, Chicago, (312) 605-1614
The newest entry to the Chicago rooftop patio market, One Off Hospitality’s bar avec is located on the eighth floor up above the street-level avec River North (and Clark Street!), and heavy on the gorgeous greenery, courtesy of the talented Heather Shouse. They are serving up drinks and nibbles inspired by the seaside bars and restaurants of the Iberian peninsula, and with a culinary dream team led by Paul Kahan, Perry Hendrix, and Ross Henke, you know the food will be spectacular. Grab one of mixologist Kate Smith’s enormous G & T’s and get down to some serious summer sipping. Open daily for snacks, small plates, cocktails and more.
201 N Morgan St., Chicago, (312) 888-9485
The chef-driven menu at this Nuevo Latino-American resto is perfect for outdoor eating. The black steel sidewalk-dining pergola echoes the nearby el tracks, and beautiful hanging plants cascade down all around. You’ll dig hanging out in the West Loop snacking on Shrimp Ceviche, Guacamole with Grilled Pineapple, and roasted corn Esquites while awaiting your Mexcal Barbacoa tacos. Great brunch, too — I especially recommend the Arepa Benedict with pulled pork and chipotle salsa. Don’t sleep on the Cucumber Margarita! Open for dinner Tuesday – Saturday, brunch on Saturday — Sunday only.
2018 W North Ave, Chicago, (872) 315-3084
If your fever dream finds you sitting poolside on the rooftop of a Wicker Park hotel, frozen Long Island Iced Tea in hand, with a 180-degree view of the glamorous Chicago skyline, Cabana Club at The Robey Hotel is just what the doctor ordered. Throw in some of chef Kevin McAllister’s Avocado Toast with Crab, a Baby Kale Caesar, and an order of Shrimp Tacos, and you’ll be living the life. Open daily at 11 am.
200 N Green St., Chicago, (312) 761-1717
Perched atop the Hoxton Hotel is this gem from Stephanie Izard and the Boka Group. The food is Peruvian-inspired, speaking to us of sunnier climes and tropical flavors. What better way to enjoy it than in the great outdoors? Especially when that means taking your Tuna Tiradito (sliced raw tuna with passion fruit and jicama) or char-grilled Chicken Thigh Anticucho with peanut chimichurri next to the pool with a gorgeous view over the West Loop. The Lima Dreamin’ cocktail — a happy concoction of tequila, huckleberry, cardamom, lime, and ginger ale — would be just the thing. Open for dinner daily, brunch on Saturday —Sunday.
1928 Central St., Evanston, (847) 868-8466
Looking for something new on the North Shore? Check out this delightful rooftop deck overlooking Evanston’s Central Street. Their Mexican cuisine-with-a-twist is something to be savored, from the Sweet Potato and Green Chili Latke with apple salsa and citrus crema to the Roasted Cauliflower Queso served with crisp tostones (fried plantains). I recommend a Mezcal Paloma to wash it all down under the twinkly lights. Open for dinner only, Wednesday – Sunday.
1026 Davis St, Evanston, (847) 869-4343
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This expansive roof-deck space in Downtown Evanston sits directly over chef-owners Dan and Laura Kelch’s Taco Diablo and their new Blue Horse Tavern. The smallish menu is a mash-up of bar favorites (Soft, Warm Pretzel with Cheddar Cheese Sauce, loaded Nacho Nacho with black beans and beef picadillo), Tuna Poke Bowls, killer burgers, ribs, and grilled salmon that still manages to have something for everyone. Save room for the Flower Pot filled with chocolate chiffon cake, black cherry compote, sweet mascarpone, and oreo crumbles. My favorite drink is the Phenomenal New Friend (Tito’s, St. Germain, Aperol, and citrus), but you do you. Open from 11:30 am – 9 pm.
233 N Canal St, Chicago, (312) 414-1100
The glorious cityscape-river view from the outdoor deck at Gibson’s Italia is worth the price of admission. The setting sun reflected in the downtown skyscraper windows is truly breathtaking. So kick back with your Market Oysters with San Giacomo mignonette sauce, your Spaghettini & Charred Octopus with cherry tomatoes and Calabrian chili oil, or even a Wagyu Tomahawk Steak with Black Truffle Butter. You deserve it. Open daily for all-day dining from 11 am – 11:30 pm, and until midnight Thursday – Saturday.
85 East Wacker Drive, Chicago, (312) 357-1200
It’s a beautiful and generous view of the Chicago River from the outdoor rooftop deck at London House Chicago, situated right in the bend of the river overlooking the hustle and bustle of Chicago’s downtown and its waterway. The patio is expansive, with a trellised bar to boot. The menu ranges from herbed Baked Goat Cheese and Crêpe Sushi with smoked salmon to mezze plates, steaks, burgers, and more. Open daily at 11 am for drinks and eats.
3509 W Fullerton Ave., Chicago, (773) 360-7373
This vintage sports bar in Logan Square, once an expansive garage, has a huge outdoor space, filled with patio umbrellas, firepits, tons of tables, and even bocce ball courts. If you’re looking for an outdoor space for a fun corporate summer event, this could be it. The menu is filled with both glorified bar food favorites (Buffalo Chicken Nuggets, Skirt Steak Chili, Burgers) and some more ambitious items (Salmon Risotto, Stuffed Squash, and a beautiful Beet Salad with oranges and house-made ricotta. Open Wednesday and Thursday for dinner, and for lunch/brunch/dinner Friday — Sunday.
112 Main St., Park Ridge, (847) 720-4841
Downtown Park Ridge got lucky with this new spot, a farm-to-table New American cuisine restaurant with a lovely outdoor patio. Kung Pao Cauliflower drizzled with hot honey, Chipotle and Agave-Glazed Salmon with cauliflower rice, Grilled Salmon Burger with Sweet Basil Mayonnaise, and Pan-Seared Lake Superior Whitefish with Sweet Pea Risotto are a few of the items you could delight in while dining al fresco. The outdoor Bar Car is a fun new addition to the space. Open for lunch Monday-Friday, brunch Saturday — Sunday, dinner nightly.
464 N Halsted St., Chicago, (312) 421-0077
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How I love to linger in the hidden outdoor patio space at this fabulous Italian restaurant. So verdant, so relaxing. You truly forget you are in the middle of the nation’s third-largest city. Add to that Eden the food of chef Tony Priolo, and you are truly transported. Piccolo Sogno does translate to “little dream,” and they’ve hit that on the head! I can’t stop eating the Insalata Carciofini with lemon-marinated baby artichokes, frisée, and generous shavings of fresh Parmigiano Reggiano. Likewise, the Grilled Polpo (octopus) with arugula, citrus, and fennel. Hand me a glass of sparkling rosato (rosé) and leave me here for a while. Open for Lunch Monday – Friday, dinner nightly.
317 N. Clark St., Chicago, (312) 900-9018
The views of the Chicago River from the outdoor decks of both Pizzeria Portofino and its upstairs neighbor (and fellow Lettuce Entertain You hotspot) RPM Seafood allow you to heckle the kayakers below as they drift by, but you won’t even be tempted as you soak up the sun — or admire the night time twinkling of office tower lights in the water. Whether you’re feasting on RPM’s Red Snapper Seviche and Tuna au Poivre or Portofino’s fennel sausage- and rapini-laden Pugliese Pizza and twirling strands of Cacio e Quattro Pepe bucatini on your fork, you’ll be living your best Chicago life. Pizzeria Portofino: Open daily at noon. RPM Seafood: Open for dinner only Monday – Wednesday, open at noon for lunch and dinner Thursday – Sunday.
730 West Grand Avenue, Chicago, (312) 243-8955
This Wicker Park favorite is not just surviving but thriving. Maybe it’s the still-kickass menu, filled with craveable treats like chorizo and cheese-stuffed Empanadas with serrano-dill aioli, the Pan-Seared Halibut with market succotash and paprika beurre blanc, or the Berbere Spice-Grilled Chicken with coriander jasmine rice. The seasonally inspired cocktails make an impression — like the gin-forward Serendipity with Campari, cassis, lavender, and prosecco, just what I want to be sipping in late spring/early summer. And the charming outdoor patio space, with its beautiful ceramic tiles and pavers, plenty of greenery, and lots of sky under the open pergola… that’s summer in Chicago right there. Open for dinner nightly, brunch Saturday-Sunday.
155 N Peoria St 11th Floor, Chicago, (312) 779-8800
Adding to the fun vibe in the West Loop is the new(ish) Nobu Hotel from partners Chef Nobu Matsuhisa, Robert de Niro and Meir Teper. Up on the 11th floor, The Rooftop at Nobu will be your go-to place this summer for Japanese-influenced small plates, like Nori Tuna Tacos, Black Cod Lettuce Cups, Wagyu Dumplings, and Rock Shrimp Tempura. Fancy a Lychee Martini? You’re in luck. And, given the hotel setting, you can enjoy breakfast here as well. What a way to start your morning! Open for breakfast daily, lunch Saturday-Sunday, dinner Wednesday thru Sunday.
1326 W Madison St., Chicago, (312) 981-7100
Making fetch happen: This friendly neighborhood sports bar in the West Loop welcomes your pooch to their patio, and that’s reason enough to visit in my opinion. Your pup will watch jealously as you scarf up your crispy Chicken Tenders, Mini Cheeseburgers, Blackened Mahi Fish Tacos, or Big Pepperoni Pizza. There’s also a Kale Salad for those so inclined. My recommendation: bring your doggy a Kong or bully stick to keep them occupied while you chow down. Open for dinner nightly, brunch Saturday-Sunday.
More from Better:
- 16 of the Best New Chicago Restaurants to Try in 2021
- Our Favorite Women-Owned Restaurants in Chicago and the Suburbs — Part 2
- 8 Spring Recipes That Showcase Fresh Seasonal Produce
Julie Chernoff, Better’s dining editor since its inception in 2007, graduated from Yale University with a degree in English — which she speaks fluently — and added a professional chef’s degree from the California Culinary Academy. She has worked for Boz Scaggs, Rick Bayless, and Wolfgang Puck (not all at the same time); and counts Northlight Theatre and Les Dames d’Escoffier International as two of her favorite nonprofits. She currently serves on the national board of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, an advocacy group addressing hunger issues in the U.S. and Israel for the nearly 46 million people — veterans, children, seniors, tribal nations, and more — who go to bed hungry every night.