Top Spots for Al Fresco Dining Around Chicagoland

Living in Chicago, there are precious few patio days each year, so treasure every one of your breezy, sunshine-y days this summer by dining al fresco. Here are 11 of our favorite patios in the city and North Shore.

The dec Rooftop Lounge + Bar at The Ritz-Carlton Chicago

Twelve stories above Michigan Avenue is a classy 57-seat enclave for the city’s most stylish set. Enjoy freshly shucked oysters each Thursday with complimentary sparkling wine and cool off with boozy ice cream floats and spiked ice pops on hot summer days. Come evening, an opaque, color-changing LED-waved wall and “The Lenz,” a polished stainless steel circular sculpture by artist David Sorenson, light up the night, bringing a modern artistic flair to this Chicago institution. 160 E. Pearson St., Chicago, 312-573-5160 

The Dawson

The spacious 120-seat brick-lined patio here has its own bar, and opens at 10:30 a.m. on weekends, so it’s the perfect spot for day drinking. Summertime gets crowded and an outdoor fireplace runs all night long, so even when it’s chilly, there’s guaranteed to be a crowd enjoying frozen mai tais or a concession stand ice cream sundae on the picnic tables or outdoor sofas. The whole dinner menu is available too, so dig into the BBQ pork cupcake and albacore tuna ceviche dressed with puffed wild rice, crispy sunchoke chips and drizzled with tiger’s milk—it’s like a savory seafood cereal. 730 W Grand Ave., Chicago, 312-243-8955 

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CH Distillery

Every drink at this bar is fantastic, and all are made with their own spirits. Cocktails are complemented by such delicious food that you will want to stay for dinner. Although the sidewalk patio only seats 25, the accordion-style glass panels open up to the outside, so you can get the best of both worlds—air-conditioning and a bit of sun. On boiling hot days, try the limoncello snow cones and pitchers upon pitchers of signature cocktail Cease & Desist, made with lapsang suchong-infused housemade London dry gin. 564 W. Randolph St., Chicago, 312-707-8780

A10

The sprawling patio here wraps around the restaurant’s sidewalk with 15 tables and 32 seats. Cherry yellow furniture and garden planters add a European flair to the outdoor café. Dishes on the summer menu like the shaved apple and kohlrabi salad with manchego, walnut and mint and the pappardelle pasta with milk braised pork neck, tomato and padrón pepper utilize produce grown by inmates at the Cook County Jail. Several former inmates are now employed at A10 and sister restaurant Yusho. 1462 E. 53rd St., Chicago, 773-288-1010

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Fig & Olive

Tucked away from smog and foot traffic on Chicago’s most elegant and expensive shopping stretch behind rosemary shrubs, the outdoor terrace at this Mediterranean oasis is intimate with great skyline views. It’s easy to eat light here and dishes like the fig, Gorgonzola and prosciutto tart and crudo tasting cater to the ladies-who-lunch crowd. There are just 36 seats, so request a terrace spot when making your reservation. 104 E. Oak St., Chicago, 312-445-0060

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Labriola Ristorante & Café

Michigan Avenue’s newest patio is ideal for people-watching and Italian comfort food. The 60-seat Grand Avenue pedestrian walkway space is new this summer as the famous bakery hits the city. Enjoy affordably priced Italian wines and perfectly charred pizza in flavors as adventurous as eggplant and anchovy or the more familiar margherita. A branzino with roasted cauliflower and olive, caper and golden raisin agrodolce is the most delicate and complex item on the menu. 535 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, 312-955-3100

Tanta

The 2,500-square-foot seasonal rooftop has incredible skyline views in the heart of River North. With a mix of bar stools, lounge seating and dining tables, there are plenty of options from a quick drink to a vibrant Peruvian dinner. Try the paiche, an Amazonian river fish with yucca and quinoa tamal, turmeric and aji sauce or Peruvian bay scallops and rock shrimp with squid ink spaghetti in smoked aji-amarillo sauce. 118 W. Grand Ave., Chicago, 312-222-9700

Tortoise Club

Trade your summer nightclub days for a more sophisticated kind of club. This classic Chicago clubhouse is debuting a new 35-seat patio with green wicker furniture set among lush landscaping, shielding you from traffic and prying eyes. Enjoy pitchers of summer cocktails and BBQ straight from the grill and you can even partake in a friendly (or competitive) game of bags. Traditional lanterns and Edison lighting along the State Street railing keep the fun going well into the night. 350 N. State St., Chicago, 312-755-1700 

LYFE Kitchen

This is a perfect lunch spot, with a flavorful and fresh menu that’s nutritious, tasty and affordable. The quinoa crunch bowl with edamame hummus and chipotle vinaigrette and Art’s (Yes, Table Fifty-Two’s Art Smith is a partner) unfried chicken with roasted Brussels and butternut squash are perennial favorites. For a refreshing summer drink without artificial sweeteners, try the orange ginger chia water or cucumber mint juice. Spread out your feast on spacious tables tucked in between flower boxes as you people-watch from the heart of Chicago or downtown Evanston. Each location has more than 30 patio seats. 419 N. Clark St., Chicago, 312-836-5933; 1603 Orrington Ave., Evanston, 847-563-8242

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Found

With the front windows completely open, the 25-seat Parisian-inspired sidewalk patio here feels like a natural extension of the bohemian restaurant inside. The living room has an inside-outside ambiance in the summer so you still get a breeze with a roof over your head while you’re enjoying whole roasted trout with crispy kale, root vegetable chips and green goddess dressing or a light, floral lemongrass pot de crème with basil whipped cream and green tea shortbread. 1631 Chicago Ave., Evanston, 847-868-8945 

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Guildhall

The 22-seat patio overlooks Glencoe’s charming, historic downtown and tree-lined Sheridan Avenue. The main dining room windows open up during warmer months, offering a light breeze and semi-al fresco experience even if you’re sitting inside. Try the “Wishing for Spring” cocktail with fresh blackberries and raspberries, lime and vodka and a light apple salad with Belgian endive, spicy arugula, frisée, Manchego cheese and candied hickory nuts. 694 Vernon Ave., Glencoe, 847-835-8100

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