From Fireplaces to Bubble Tents: Here’s How Chicago Restaurants Are Preparing for Winter Dining

The pandemic has forced businesses across the city to reimagine their operations in accordance with CDC guidelines. And over the last few months, restaurants have shown just how inventive they can be. Chicago has transformed busy streets into outdoor-dining meccas, revamped patios and made take-out cool again. 

But, many of these changes were contingent on warm, summer weather. And, in Chicago, warm weather doesn’t last long. Although restaurants and bars are now allowed to seat patrons indoors under restricted capacity with groups of 10 or less, and tables spaced 6-feet apart, some diners still do not feel comfortable eating inside.

With cold weather looming, and the imminent threat of Chicago winter, local restaurants are again having to adapt to the times. Some restaurants have opted to continue outdoor dining, extending patio season with the addition of fireplaces or retractable doors, while others are safely proceeding with indoor options. 

The city even asked for innovative submissions during their Winter Design Challenge, and recently selected their winners: cozy cabins and heated tables. The winners will received $5,000 each to expand on their ideas, with the goal of helping Chicago restaurants survive the winter.

Here are some Chicago-area spots that are keeping it cozy, and safe, already.

For cozy, fireside dining:

Hubbard Inn 

The Library Lounge at Hubbard Inn offers an intimate dining option that is great for groups. With sophisticated detailing like wooden beam ceilings, a built-in bookcase, two fireplaces, two TVs, pops of greenery and plush couches, it will feature a dining table that seats up to 12. 

110 W Hubbard St, Chicago

Old Grounds Social

In this Lincoln Park sports bar, guests can sit fireside all winter-long. With two fire pits and lounge-style seating on their patio, guests can also play Giant Jenga or Giant Connect Four, eat some good barbecue and sip on innovative cocktails.

950 W Wrightwood Ave, Chicago

UVAE Kitchen & Wine Bar

In Andersonville, Uvae Kitchen & Wine Bar will feature a vintage fireplace with tables that seat up to four. Nosh on creative bar snacks, like Duck Fat Curly Fries, and try one of their signature house cocktails. 

5553 N Clark St, Chicago

WhirlyBall

For fun and games, while staying Covid-19 safe, check out WhirlyBall. They have several locations in Chicago that feature an outdoor patio, stone fire pits, lounge seating and a skyline view. 

Multiple locations

For innovative, ‘outdoor’ dining:

Beatnik West Town

Beatnik’s riverfront location is a coveted summer dinner reservation. But now, their swanky summer dining experience will be accessible to diners year-round. With a combination of Chicago’s largest restaurant botanical garden and a massive retractable roof and fully opening floor-to-ceiling façade, Beatnik will be the fall experience you won’t want to miss.

1604 W Chicago Ave, Chicago

Beatnik On The River

West Town’s sister location, Beatnik On The River, is installing a transparent enclosure and heaters on their patio to protect guests from Chicago’s unpredictable weather, while still allowing them to take in riverside views and remain Covid-19 safe!

180 N Upper Wacker Dr, Chicago

Porto

In the Atrium, located off the restaurant’s main dining room, guests can enjoy their meals alongside sliding windows that allow the room to transform into an indoor-outdoor space, as well as a glass rooftop that gives it a patio-like vibe. 

1600 W Chicago Ave, Chicago

Botánico

A pinnacle of innovative interior design, Mama Delia’s second-floor private event space features an enclosed rooftop garden with high ceilings, a wall-to-wall skylight, wood-paneled walls and a half-moon floor-to-ceiling window overlooking Division Street. 

1721 W Division St, Chicago

Celeste

At Celeste’s fourth floor rooftop garden, guests can relish in that outdoor patio feel all season long. With an enclosed glass-covered rooftop, Victorian-style furniture, tropical greenery and vine-covered brick walls, Celeste will make you forget all your winter woes.

111 W Hubbard St, Chicago

For suburban diners:

Napolita & Pescadero

These North Shore favorites will be operating under a new indoor floor plan to ensure proper social distancing between tables. Guests are also required to wear masks when not at their tables and when interacting with staff, who will also be wearing masks. They are hoping to also expand the dining area onto their patio with heated tents. Takeout and delivery are also safe, and delicious, options.

Napolita: 1126 Central Ave, Wilmette 

Pescadero: 1167 Wilmette Ave, Wilmette

Convito Café and Market

Aside from the obvious, socially distanced tables and top-notch sanitation, Convito now features an outdoor tent option.  It is heated, and designed with fall comfort in mind. They will also continue to offer curbside pickup, online ordering and delivery. In their market, diners can also purchase prepared gourmet food and groceries for make-at-home meals. They’ll also have liquor to-go!

1515 Sheridan Rd, Wilmette


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Madison Muller is the Assistant Digital Editor at Better. A recent graduate of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, she approaches our contemporary media environment with compassion and candor. She is interested in writing about the intersectionality of social justice issues in marginalized communities and environmentalism. Madison proudly supports Action Now, a community organization that empowers and uplifts residents on Chicago’s West Side.

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