The Chaser

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Kind of Outdoorsy: The Chaser hits rooftops, terraces and sidewalk patios in search of spring

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Amalie Drury

It's my job to write about Chicago and all of its people, places and things. If it's new and it's cool, I'm checking it out.

Opening day at The Terrace at Trump.

Surely thinking it would be safely spring by now, some of my favorite al fresco drinking spots around the city officially opened for the season this week. 

On Wednesday, my sister Claire (visiting from Louisville) and I sipped sangria among a glam crowd dotted with boldface names (Stephanie Izard was in the house, but alas, no Guiliana and Bill) on the 2,000-square-foot, seventh-floor NoMI garden terrace at the Park Hyatt Chicago. It's one of the city's great places for open-air cocktails, and the garden party is always a hot ticket. This year's menu theme was tomatoes, and the terrace was surreally festooned with giant red balloons that I secretly wanted to take home if it weren't for the facts that A. I was too scared to ask, and B. they wouldn't fit in a cab. 

Post-NoMI, Claire, our friend Tim and I allowed our tortured feet to carry us down Rush Street to that mecca of people-watching known to many as the Viagra Triangle. We settled in at one of Tavern on Rush's choice sidewalk tables for some extremely large, extremely, um, stiff Manhattans and glittering commentary on all those who dared enter our sights. A direct cut-and-paste from my notes: 

An act of gallantry: guy leaps from table and runs across street to rescue dropped jacket. We clap. Wow, so much bad denim. City seems to have cracked down on parking of exotic cars. No Lamborghinis. German Shepherd happily riding in blue Lexus convertible. Red Bull car cruises by. Ugh, Red Bull. Dude casually bounds down sidewalk on spring-loaded stilts. What in the world? Tim relays a glue rule he gave his first-graders today: "A little dab'll do ya." Love this. Will now incorporate into daily conversation. 

One Manhattan, a bottle of wine and an excellent crab cake later, I initiated an impromptu interview with three men sitting nearby. We'd just watched them openly catcall a group of 20-something women, which inspired me to pursue the following line of questioning: 

The Chaser: "Excuse me. Sirs. Do any of you take Viagra?" 
British Dude, Mid-40s-ish: "Yes." 
American Dude, Early-50s-ish: "Viagra, yes."
Other Dude, Mid-50s-ish: "Not yet. But I hope to, someday."
The Chaser: "Thanks. I'm taking notes about Viagra users in the Viagra Triangle for my nightlife blog." 
Other Dude, Mid-50s-ish: "You're a writer? Hey, you should write a story about my wife. She owns a business in Lake Forest."
The Chaser: "Hm, maybe." 

The next time our waitress checked in, we asked if she thought there were many Viagra users among her clientele. No doubt preferring to remain employed, she smiled with only the faintest hint of irony and said: "There are certainly a lot of wealthy older men who enjoy a well-cooked steak and some very fresh seafood." I don't doubt that for a second, do you? 

Yesterday, the Terrace at Trump opened for summer business at precisely 3PM, and we were among a small crowd determinedly cocktailing away under sprinkles, clouds and a brisk breeze around 4:30. But a view's a view, and we made the best of it by ordering up some Glamour Bubbles (the oh-so-tempting title of the Terrace's new champagne-focused cocktail menu) and a gooey caramel s'more. Wrapped in borrowed Trump pashminas for warmth, my sister and I covered the following topics: 

1. Do you think they'll turn on that bubble machine again? 
2. Can you imagine renting this whole place out for a birthday party?
3. So many people around us are working away at their desks right now--thousands in that building across the river alone! 
4. There really was some outdated denim walking by in the Gold Coast last night. 
5. The people on that Seadog boat must be freezing today. 
6. Where could we get the best hamburgers in the world for dinner?  
7. Muddled strawberries sure do clog cocktail straws.  

Scintillating! 

In other outdoor news, it's the first anniversary of West Loop bar and restaurant Market (also a major contender for Best City View From a Rooftop or Terrace). Market's birthday celebration continues at tonight at 6PM (samples from the new summer menu and the unveiling of several hot rides: the new Rolls Royce Ghost, Bentley Continental Supersport and Spyker C8 Laviolette) and a public open house with live music on the rooftop tomorrow at sunset. The Chaser posed the following questions to owner Karl Spektor: 

The Chaser: "So, Market's turning one. In what ways has the bar grown up?
Spektor: "We've been listening to guest feedback, and we've responded with better customer service, a retractable roof over the beer garden for rainy weather, a new walk-up bar on the rooftop, and bigger and better private cabanas."

The Chaser: "The rooftop is a huge draw. What are some of the coolest things that happened there in the first season?"
Spektor: "I'll never forget hearing Mike Ditka giving a pep talk at a private event there last year. Maxim magazine named it the top rooftop getaway in the country. Vince Vaughn and John Cusack have stopped by, among other celebs.

The Chaser: "Do the Sox players still hang out? What about players from other teams?"
Spektor: "Sox players love it here, but so do Blackhawks, Bears, Bulls and Cubs. We have a great time hosting our city's sports heroes--Biran Urlacher, Derek Rose, Lance Briggs and Michael Jordan have all been in. Patrick Kane was here early this week celebrating the Blackhawks wins in San Jose. Jay Cutler was here at the same time, and Donovan McNabb was on the newly renovated rooftop last Friday. 

If you've made it this far, readers, you deserve a gold star. That was a lot of words for a partly sunny Friday afternoon. Wherever you take your outdoor libations this weekend, enjoy! Here's to spring. 

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