Al Fresco Dining: Ten Chicago hotspots for 2019

Al Fresco Dining: Ten Chicago hotspots for 2019
Shore Club. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Although you won’t have a problem finding a seat to dine al fresco anywhere in the city, a lot of the new hotspots are moving west–especially in the Fulton Market District.

As we keep a careful watch on the arrival of summer in this year’s somewhat sun deprived May and June, we are pretty sure its on its way.

So here are 10 of our picks for the best places to catch your supply of vitamin D while enjoying great food, beverages and atmosphere.

And–just in case of inclement weather, you’re covered as many have indoor-outdoor areas and fire pits.

Fulton Market

Fulton Market is on a roll that just keeps going and going. Because of that you may have to step around some of the ongoing construction in the area but these new and nearly new spots are winners:


Aba. Photo: LEYE

Aba. Photo: LEYE

If you can get a seat on the patio at Aba and there’s 220 of them (which sounds like a lot–but fill up fast) you are in for one of the best ways to experience hot times in the city.  The Mediterranean influenced menu is on target. While the rooftop patio features lounge-style and dining seating, fire pits and an indoor-outdoor bar. Aba has recently added brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. 302 N. Green St., 773-645-1400,




Built in a former meatpacking warehouse in the Fulton Market District, Cabra in  The Hoxton Hotel lies is something special. Stephanie Izard’s newest restaurant, Cabra, features Peruvian-inspired fare. The space offers two outdoor lounges along with seating inside.  200 N. Green St., 312-761-1717,


Fairgrounds. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Fairgrounds. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

If coffee is your drink, Fairgrunds is your spot. There are many Fairgronds around town including the one on Michigan Avenue across from Millennium Park but the new patio at the Fulton Market location is definitely the most hip. There’s great people watching from the 22-seat patio featuring yellow chairs and whitewashed wood. Choose from a broad selection of craft roasts, cocktails or specialty teas while sit back and enjoy the view. 1330 W. Fulton Market, 312-265-0761,


Small and intimate, Joe’s Imports which opened in February in the former Glazed and Infused space features a 15-seat patio with bistro tables where you can sip seasonal wines (from their large collection) while enjoying dinner or brunch. Looking for cover, head inside and grab a seat near the front of the restaurant that opens up to the patio with accordion doors. — 813 W. Fulton Market, 312-736-1750,

BEYOND Fulton Market


Shore Club. Photo: Niki Walsh

Shore Club. Photo: Niki Walsh

Shore Club located on North Avenue beach has expanded its beachfront patio with new lawn games, cabanas, daybeds and lots of summery cocktails. Just steps from Lake Shore Drive but a world away from the daily grind, you can experience a mini-tropical escape without the jet lag that often accompanies such a getaway, 1603 N. Lake Shore Drive, 312-635-8058,

The Loop

Don’t count out the loop that has been undergoing a renaissance of sorts with new and renovated spots popping up from the river to the South Loop. One such spot is:


About Last Knife entry. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

About Last Knife entry. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

There’s lots of Chicago in this new spot that opened last fall in the totally renovated Atlantic Bank Building that is now Hotel Julian.

When you enter, you’ll see an unfamiliar face on the wall. Great for trivia.

The face on the wall belongs to Chicago’s least known famous architect, Benjamin Marshall who designed the building along with others including the Drake Hotel, The Blackstone, and the Edgewater Beach Hotel. But Marshall is perhaps better known for his Gatsby-like parties with showgirls whose bathing suits dissolved when wet back in the “roaring twenties.”

It’s also interesting to note that ALK steakhouse, gastropub and bar was inspired by the 1980s movie “About Last Night,”–much of which took place on Chicago’s Gold Coast.

About Last Knife’s patio offers views of Millennium Park while you can enjoy creative cocktails, an extensive wine list and full menu–all  available on the patio.  168 N. Michigan Ave., 312-392-2440,



Beatnik on the River has an 80-seat riverfront patio with a Bohemian vibe. (Francis Son)

Beatnik on the River has an 80-seat riverfront patio with a Bohemian vibe. (Francis Son)

Beatnik On the River’s 80-seat riverfront patio is a gem. Relax on pillow-topped Indonesian daybeds surrounded by Moroccan lanterns and leafy greenery.180 N. Upper Wacker Drive, 312-526-3345,



Formerly home to Table 52, Blue Door Kitchen + Garden has a 70-seat patio set back from the street. The room-like space features vintage chandeliers, wicker armchairs with plush pillows, oversized umbrellas surrounded by lush greenery. 52 W. Elm St., 312-573-4000,



Festive cocktails at SX Sky Bar. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Festive cocktails at SX Sky Bar. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

SX Sky Bar at Hotel Essex offers the best of both world’s where you can dine al fresco in the bilevel restaurant and lounge with retractable floor-to-ceiling windows. The view overlooking Grant Park and Lake Michigan is spectacular as are the menu choices and creative craft cocktails. The decor could be described as California meets Asian. — 808 S. Michigan Ave., 312-939-2800,



A partnership between Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon and Spiaggia’s  Tony Mantuano the just opened Maddon’s Post celebrate the simple and give a nod to our favorite family recipes with an Italian-meets-Polish theme. You can select from the full menu and take in the Wrigleyville vibe on their 22-seat patio. Go for Brunch, Happy Hour, Dinner or Late night and sample their freshly baked pizzas, pastas, pierogi and paczki.  1119 W. Waveland Ave,

Al Fresco picks from past years

Click here, here, and here for some of our favorite al fresco spots from past years–most of which are still going strong.

Small Bites of Chicago

Roscoe Burger Fest

One of the many Fests coming in July is one of my favorites–the Roscoe Village Burger Fest. After all, who doesn’t like burgers? The popular fest is back for its 13th year on Saturday and Sunday, July 13-14, at the intersection of Belmont and Damen (2000 W. Belmont).

 Hours are 11:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m. both days. A suggested gate donation of $10 benefits the Roscoe Village Chamber of Commerce.

GO Color Lake Bluff

The charming North Shore village of Lake Bluff will be holding their first annual GO Color Lake Bluff 5K color run, 3K color walk and after party. Although the “run” is sold out, come enjoy the color, the food, vendors, the music of Grapefruit, raffles and the “Color Extravaganza.” 9:00 am to 11:30 am, North End of the Lake Bluff Metra Station parking lot (594 Sheridan Road, Lake Bluff).

Edgewater Greek Fest

Coming July 12-14 the sounds and food of Greece will be on display when Edgewater Greek Fest returns for its 58th  year to the grounds of St. Andrew’s Greek Orthodox Church on Friday-Sunday.

Kizuki Lincoln Park 

Celebrate the 4th of July (just not on the 4th) with FREE Matcha Soft Serve Ice CreamFriday, July 5 through Sunday, July 7 (CLOSED on Thursday, July 4) at their Lincoln Park location.

Big News Offshore

The nation’s largest roof top patio, Offshore, is now open on Navy Pier–offering indoor and outdoor drinking and dining with a world class view.

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