Al Fresco Dining in Chicago: What's hot for 2016

Al Fresco Dining in Chicago: What's hot for 2016
The 5th floor outdoor area atop the Gold Coast's Restoration Hardware. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Click here for our picks for 2017

Chicago’s al fresco dining landscape just keeps getting hotter with new rooftops, patios, secret gardens and more adding to the city’s numerous offerings. Every year since 2011, Show Me Chicago has put together an annual sampling of what’s out there. Once again, after a long cold winter, Chicagoans are chomping at the bit to get outside. Our list for 2016 includes outdoor spaces around town from the city center to the neighborhoods.


Aire, one of Chicago’s newest posh rooftops, sits 24 stories up in the air, offering a garden in the sky–along with whatever it takes to keep their guests comfortable with Chicago’s crazy weather ups and downs. There’s open fireplaces for cool nights and umbrellas offering needed shade for  hot summer days. Located in the heart of downtown at Hyatt Centric (100 W. Monroe), Aire officially opens on Tuesday, May 10.

The Vibe: Upscale rooftop lounging in downtown Chicago. Expect hotel guests, business people, pre-theater diners, artsy types who may be coming from the nearby Art Institute or heading to a concert at Symphony Center and others.

On the menu: Hand-crafted cocktails, light fare and appetizers.

The Duck Inn

The Duck Inn

The Duck Inn. Photo: Terrence Antonio James, Chicago Tribune

Deep in the heart of Bridgeport, The Duck Inn (2701 S. Eleanor St.) offers a secret garden in its backyard. The bi-level space features a relaxed atmosphere sporting a brick patio floor, rustic wood tables, benches and a working garden.

The Vibe: A neighborhood spot that also draws people of all ages from around the city and even the suburbs–due, in part, to the excellent reputation of its Chef/owner Kevin Hickey

On the menu: Modern American cuisine and, naturally its namesake, rotisserie duck.


On the other side of town, is Andersonville’s charming Anteprima (5316 N. Clark St.). The outdoor patio in back offers a secluded space away from bustling Clark St. with a bubbling fountain, an ivy covered coach house and a working garden filled with veggies and herbs.

The Vibe: Laid back casual with a sprinkling of Andersonville locals and others including families, singles and couples. Perfect place to sip a Prosecco and chill.

On the menu: Home cooked Italian emphasizing seasonal, local and organic that serve as the ingredients for their unique pasta dishes and more.




New in 2016, the city’s highly anticipated Raised: An Urban Rooftop Bar, will officially open at 1 W. Wacker Drive on May 13. The rooftop, inspired by the urban gardener – the hop grower, brew master, or vine maker, overlooks the Chicago River with panoramic views of the city skyline.

The Vibe: Upscale urban.

On the menu: Chef Daniel Perez’s menu features American bar food with a twist, highlighting sharable plates such as duck bahn mi | duck confit, kewpi , kimchi, daikon slaw at $16; a delectable selection of sweets and an extensive list of wine, beer and cocktails. The drink menu features local breweries, wines-on-tap, by the glass or bottle and a cocktail program that includes offerings by the glass or decanters for groups.

The Dock at MontroseRooftopsDockOpeningDay2013

You only have yourself to blame if you don’t hit one of our city’s lakeside patio’s this summer. In the past we have reviewed Castaways (North Avenue Beach); Oak Street Beachstro (Oak Street Beach); Landshark Beer Garden (Navy Pier) and Waterfront Cafe (Rogers Park).

This year we’re taking a look at The Dock at Montrose (200 W. Montrose Harbor Dr.). The 220 seat space, overlooking Lake Michigan and the city skyline. is the perfect way to spend a summer day. The seasonal patio is scheduled to open this weekend, weather permitting

The Vibe: A mix of hoodies from nearby Lakeview, Uptown and Wrigleyville.

On the menu: Casual fare with lots of choices including pierogis, cheese curds, tacos, hummus, burgers, wraps, wine, spirits and more.


Cindy's. Photo: Chicago Tribune

Cindy’s. Photo: Chicago Tribune

Located atop the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, Cindy’s is a magnificent rooftop oasis, that offers both indoor and outdoor spaces along with sweeping, unobstructed views of Millennium Park, the lake and Chicago’s magnificent skyline.

The Vibe: The space has a beach-house feel with its picnic-style seating that makes it perfect for groups. The upscale crowd is a mix of trendsetters, tourists, local celebs and hotel guests.

On the menu: The menu features light seasonal fare, a creative bar menu and many options for shared plates.

Parson’s Fish & Chicken

rooftopsparsons-chicken-and-fishParson’s Fish & Chicken’s (2952 W Armitage Ave.) 250-seat patio features picnic style seating, bleachers, BBQ and smoking abilities and more–serving as the epicenter for summer fun in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood.

The Vibe: It has been said, “Parsons on a summer night is part of what Chicago is about. Super loud. Super hot. Super drunk. Super good chicken.” The ethnically diverse and young crowd emits an edgy trendy vibe.

On the menu: The seasonal affordably priced menu features locally sourced, quality ingredients for a variety of items including chicken, fish, hush puppies, ceviche, salads, sandwiches, sushi and oysters. Liquid refreshments include trendy cocktails, beer and wine.

Restoration Hardwarerestorationhardwaregc

The recently opened Restoration Hardware (RH) nailed it with their new Gold Coast store set inside the totally renovated former 100+ year old 3 Arts Club Building (1300 N. Dearborn Parkway). In addition to the chic atmosphere, the store offers a unique concept. They want their guests to feel at home so they have created a welcoming atmosphere where patrons can sit down and make themselves “at home” throughout the store including the extensive 5th floor outdoor gardens and patios (pictured at the top of the post).

The main dining area, 3 Arts Club Cafe, is located on the first floor. It offers indoor courtyard dining anchored by a fountain, surrounded by trees and crowned by a huge skylight that brings the outdoors in–making it the perfect spot for year round al fresco dining.

The Vibe: Gold Coast ladies who lunch, upscale shoppers, architecture buffs and other artsy types.

On the menu: The smallish menu offers interesting salads, cheese plates including a delicious burrata with unique accompaniments like candied pecans, strawberry spreads, herbs and dates. The wine, beer and cocktail menu includes Dom Perignon for those special celebrations at $256 a bottle. The Cafe is open daily from 10 am. to 8 pm.

Hotel Lincolnrooftopsjparker

Guests have two choices for outdoor dining at the Hotel Lincoln (1816 N Clark St.). The J. Parker located on the rooftop offers unobstructed water views from 140 outside seats, or 55 seats inside. Whereas the ground level patio, part of the Perennial Virant restaurant offers a shaded sidewalk setting with a view of the neighborhood.

The Vibe: Situated in trendy Lincoln Park across Lincoln Park, the Zoo and the Boardwalk, Hotel Lincoln offers an upscale urban vibe.

On the menu: Small plates from award winning chef Paul Virant, signature cocktails and more.

Big Starbigstarjuly_2012_metroscenes.com_130

Big Star (1531 N Damen), a popular Wicker Park staple, is housed in a defunct 1940’s gas station surrounded by a huge outdoor patio where diners and drinkers can immerse themselves in the soundtrack of classic country music and rock & roll.

The Vibe: Hipsters–it seems that everyone in the Wicker Park, Bucktown, Ukrainian Village and Logan Square neighborhoods can be seen here at some time or another–along with a sprinkling of others.

On the menu: Big Star calls itself  “a bourbon and beer-focused, taco-slinging, late-night honky-tonk in the heart of Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood”–this seems to sum it up better than any words that I could add.


Click here for a list of last years al fresco dining faves.  For a closer look at Raised and Aire click here and here. To read about Earls three season al fresco patio click here.

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