Al Fresco dining is back on the menu in Chicago with many outdoor spots already open and others opening soon.
There’s no lack of places to grab a bite outdoors from improvised spaces with a few tables and chairs set up in the alley to pricey rooftop offerings.
Every year for the past six years Show Me Chicago has put together a list of our favorites. For 2017, we are taking a look at some of Chicago’s most popular traditional spots along with some newbies that are sure to WOW.
Mercat a la Planxa (638 S. Michigan Ave.) in the South Loop
Head south on Michigan Avenue from Washington Blvd. and you’ll be treated to an insane line-up of outdoor dining choices from Remington’s to Seven Lions, The Gage and even Shake Shack all overlooking Millennium Park. It’s tempting to stop at any of these or even head up in the Chicago Athletic Hotel to Cindy’s rooftop. But don’t. Keep walking south–past the Chicago Symphony Center, the Art Institute (on the east side of Michigan) and past the Spertus Museum–you’re getting warm.
Just a few more steps and you’ve reached the South Loop Spanish restaurant Mercat a la Planxa. This dining destination, inside the Blackstone Hotel, is a favorite for their creative tapas and cocktails year round. But come summer their spacious flower-filled patio overlooking Grant Park is the place to be. The patio is open from 4 p.m. until 10 p.m. daily. Guests can make reservations online here or by calling the restaurant at 312 765 0524.
Patio Season at Portillo’s
“Portillo’s” you say. “That hot dog and Italian beef place with the great chocolate cake?” Yes, that Portillo’s, but not just any Portillo’s. If you are looking for rooftop dining, head to Portillo’s new Taylor St. (520 W. Taylor St.) location that features a 64-seat comfortable rooftop patio–perfect for enjoying your favorites. Open from 10:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m., the outdoor seating offers a view of the city skyline, unique from other Portillo’s.
GreenRiver (259 E. Erie St. 18th Floor)
If you are looking for something a little above the others, GreenRiver (259 E. Erie St. 18th Floor) in Streeterville, may fill the bill.
An unexpected oasis on the 18th floor of one the many Northwestern Hospital buildings in that area feels nothing like a hospital. The light airy space provides spectacular city views, a contemporary interior and an 80-seat outdoor terrace that offers sweeping views of Lake Michigan and the city skyline.
A collaboration between Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group and the Best Bar of the World team, the Michelin-starred restaurant offers fine dining choices for lunch, dinner and brunch. Look for seasonal modern American dishes from Executive Chef Aaron Lirette like Tuna Niçoise (lunch), Elysian Fields Lamb Shoulder (dinner), and Duck Confit Hash (brunch). Managing Partner Jack McGarry rolls out a patio-friendly Chicago-centric cocktail menu with drinks like the The Alderman, named for 19th century 1st ward alderman “Boathouse John” Coughlin along with Hinky Dink, Gray Wolf, and Comiskey Park.
Cindy’s (12 S. Michigan Ave.)Still one of the most buzz-inducing rooftops in the heart of Chicago, now in its third year, Cindy’s rooftop restaurant and open-air terrace (back on our list for the second year), is located on the 13thfloor of the Chicago Athletic Association hotel.
Cindy’s offers some of the best views in the city of Chicago’s Millennium Park and Lake Michigan–get your smart phones and cameras ready.
The airy atmosphere–reminiscent of a Great Lakes beach house–is the perfect spot to take in a beautiful day or evening right in the middle of everything. Chef de Cuisine Keith Potter’s menu reflects the bounty of the Midwest complemented by Spirit Guide Nandini Khaund’s inventive cocktail list of Potions & Elixirs. Cindy’s is open weekdays for lunch from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and for evening hours 3 p.m.-1 a.m., Saturdays 10-2 a.m., and Sundays 10-12 a.m.
LH Rooftop at LondonHouse Chicago (85 E. Upper Wacker Dr., Floors 21- 23) Named one of the best rooftops of 2016 by Vogue magazine, Chicago’s only tri-level rooftop emits a sophisticated vibe. Executive Chef Jacob Verstegen’s reimagined American cuisine and chef-crafted jazz-age-inspired cocktails add to the magical setting that spans floors 21, 22, and 23 of the newly opened hotel, LondonHouse Chicago.
For a truly elevated experience on the rooftop, check out the outdoor terrace’s plush lounge, take a seat at the bar or take in the panoramic view of downtown Chicago from LH Cupola–the apex of the historic building. LH Rooftop is a bit pricey but perfect for that special occasion. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Reservations can be made through OpenTable.
Howells & Hood (435 N. Michigan Ave.)Just off the RiverWalk, this Mag Mile dining destination known for its robust selection of draft beers and casual menu offers guests an expansive 300-seat patio complete with its own bar. The patio is open now, weather permitting, for all days 60 degrees and above.
Peruvian Al Fresco Haven
Tanta (118 W. Grand Ave) is Chicago’s premier Peruvian restaurant from acclaimed chef Gaston Acurio. Its 2,500-square foot rooftop terrace boasts some of the city’s best city views–a true urban oasis. The space features a full-service bar, back-lit skylight island looking down to the main dining room and a retractable awning so guests may enjoy the restaurant’s signature Pisco Sour cocktail throughout the season. The Rooftop Terrace is open seasonally from May through the end of October (weather permitting) and can seat up to 120 guests. Rooftop reservations are walk-ins only. The Rooftop Terrace is open daily from 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; Sunday & Monday from 5-9 p.m.; Tuesday-Thursday from 5-11 p.m.; and Friday & Saturday from 5 p.m.-12 a.m.
Dolce Italian at The Godfrey Hotel Chicago (127 W. Huron Ave.)Why go to Italy when you can enjoy the ambience on the flower-filled patio at Dolce Italian that has been said to transport guests to a lively, sun-soaked piazza in the heart of the Rome. Guests can enjoy brunch or dinner from Executive Chef Nate Cayer’s authentic Italian menu with items including Primo Amore pizza and Fettucine al Pesto. The outdoor area is dog-friendly and even hosts Woofs & Wine, a happy hour dedicated to furry friends. Reservations for Dolce Italian can be made through OpenTable.
Ada Street (1664 N. Ada St.)
Dubbed one of the best patios in the country, Ada Street’s outdoor space sets the pace for a summer night out in Chicago under twinkly lights complete with ping pong. The restaurant is open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday, and patio seating is available on a first come, first serve basis.
Honey Butter Fried Chicken (3361 N. Elston Ave.)
Honey Butter Fried Chicken features a sprawling backyard patio in the heart of Chicago’s Avondale neighborhood offering the ideal backdrop for friends and families. The backyard patio seats over 60 guests and can host all kinds of occasions. And did I mention, the fried chicken with housemade honey butter–amazing. The patio is open until 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 9 p.m. Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.
These choices, of course, are only the tip of the iceberg. There are so many spots from the heart of the city to the neighborhoods–and don’t forget “The Chicago Riverwalk.” Here are some of Show Me Chicago’s favorites from 2015 and 2016. Let us know your favorites.
Subscribe to Show Me Chicago by email
If you would like to keep in touch with what’s happening in Chicago, like us on Facebook or subscribe to Show Me Chicago by email. To subscribe, type your email address in the box below and click the “create subscription” button. Our list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.
Filed under: Al Fresco Dining