During these early days of April, we sit in anticipation as the weather slowly creeps closer toward the 60s and 70s. Memories rush back to Chicago residents of unique neighborhood feeding and watering holes that specialize in scenery, service, and spirits. I'm of course referring to what I like to dub as Patio Season. It's that time in spring when the trees barely have new leaves on them and parents urge you to reconsider not wearing proper outerwear. "But you don't care, cuz you've got drinks and you've got friends," are the mystical words of co-worker, Monica Hernandez, as she gives the greatest explanation of the feeling involved with this momentous occasion. To honor the whimsical, carefree spirit of patio season, 4-Star Explorer decided to compile a list of some of our favorite places to eat and drink outside. See for yourself how our favorites stack up with yours or add a couple more to your list.
1547 N. Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60622
Patio Season Duration: Now-December
Well, what words can be used to describe the adoration for this establishment? A choreographed line of chorus girls screaming "they're number one," wouldn't do it justice. Being on one of the busiest strips in the city, the area of northern Milwaukee Ave has its share of rousing bars; and Pint is one of the gems of the street. Needing a place to feed after a night of barhopping, a quick snack quickly turned into fuel for round 2 of drunken shenanigans. They have daily $5 drink specials but Thursdays are the best days to go. $5 Draft Pints. $5 Vodka Mixed Drinks. Not to mention a good crowd to intermingle with, but not to the point where you're sacrificing your precious elbow room. Their finger foods are tasty too. May I suggest the Spinach and Goat Cheese Quesadillas? Just give me a few hard ciders, some appetizers, a good breeze and I'm living the Pint lifestyle.
2. The Boundary
1932 W. Division
Chicago, IL 60622
Patio Season Duration: Now-November
Another treasured place to pick up some good libations,The Boundary, gets the supreme distinction of not only being apart of Wicker Park's famous Division street strip but being one of the subsidiaries of Bottleneck Management. Bottleneck also owns and operates venues such as Pour House (1419 N. Wells), Howells & Hood (435 N. Michigan Ave), and Sweetwater Tavern & Grille (225 N. Michigan Ave). But Boundary owns the spotlight alone in my eyes. They don't rest on just providing good drinks either, The Boundary has some of the best cuisine your money can afford. What Boundary describes as "recognizable items with a unique and refined twist," head chef, Paul Katz, has created a traditional American menu that has been tastefully polished. What with quality meats like yellow-fin and adobo steak featured throughout, burgers paired with grilled asparagus and let's not forget about their signature tater tots. Perfectly seasoned and grated sweat potato bits mashed together and lightly fried until premium steamy crunchiness is achieved. Not to mention tangy aioli sauce is practically drizzled on everything. Simply put, The Boundary is the Reese peanut butter cup of Chicago. There's no wrong way to enjoy it. Stop by any day of the week and you'll get great service, great food and even better drinks. Sunday brunch is an experience in itself.
3. Palmer Place Restaurant and Biergarten
56 S. La Grange Rd
La Grange, IL 60625
Patio Season Duration: May-September
4-Star hasn't done many suburban area reviews but the sleepy commuter town of La Grange hosts numerous charming parlors and shops. One such frontrunner, Palmer Place, stands as a monument to all things hops centered and brewed. In business now for 30 years, Palmer's just might be one of the early pioneers of the now popular "beer garden"genre, which holds stricter qualifications than your average bar and grille. Adhering to said specifications, Palmer Place, features a large outdoor siting area decked with spoked tables and a plethora of colorful umbrella-styled canopies. And like its namesake, there are German pub details throughout from the mock timbered designed green and gold sign with the restaurant's name to the rich colored wood which line the restaurant. Even the patio's concrete flooring is traditional, as German beer gardens prefer concrete or gravel flooring to cool beer reserves. Speaking of beer, what really makes Palmer's authentic is the supply of the hard stuff. They have 39 selections on tap, 209 different bottled brands, and 25 different canned varieties from 25+ countries, and that's just on the beer end. Their caliber of top shelf liquors will incite unexplained choral signing. With inebriating choices galore, Palmer Place is sure to wet the whistle of even those with the most obscure of tastes.
6 E. Chestnut St
Chicago, IL 60611
Patio Season Duration: May-October
Lack of vacation funds got you chasing Miami? Well a trip to some Floridian inspired style might not be too far away. Sit a spell on Tempo's lavish sun kissed outdoor eating area and you'll be sure to feel like you're lounging on South Beach. Just add sunglasses. Not too far from my old stumping grounds of the famous nightlife streets known respectfully as Division and Rush, Tempo offers a well placed hint of style to the area noted for its rambunctious behavior. Like the name implies, the restaurant definitely has its own sense of pace, what with 24 hour service at the chic "dineresque" spot. At Tempo, breakfast and portions reign supreme. Notable dishes are the giant heated batter of their waffle plate as well as what is practically half a carton of eggs in their monstrous omelets.
960 W. 18th St
Chicago, IL 60608
Patio Season Duration: May-October
I was formally introduced to this venue by one of my regular insiders, Tonantzin Gamboa, and the rest of our marry band of water cooler mates over a year ago but the time spent in the bar and patio area was something like that Willie Nelson, Always on My Mind song. To quote the Yelp user, Jeremy T.,"come for the beer. Stay for the sweet potato fries." If something deep fried isn't your taste, Simone's offers some great fresh menu items. The hummus is a wonderful mix of cool, refreshing and zesty. And you can never go wrong with a standard fresh salad. And seriously, I'm not into visiting a restaurant for any reason other than the nourishment of food but Simone's is honestly one of those places you could just really get your life sitting and enjoying the decor. What could be described as a hipster's wet dream, Simone's Bar is an eclectic mix of urban street art mixed with the arcade geek in all of us. Why? Because we've all pondered the wonderment of being inside a pinball machine. Simone's gives you just that.
Your neighborhood favorite open air eatery not make the list? Share below and maybe we'll just saddle up and ride out to do some primo exploring. Happy Open Patio Season! And remember while all these dates are confirmed, outdoor seating is still weather permitted.
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