With the return of warmer weather, tents and heaters are out, and open air sky views are in at restaurants all across the city. Outdoor dining is on in Chicago.
Whether you’re craving Peruvian rooftop dining or a bocce match with your beer, this list has you covered. Read on for the best places to dine outdoors this summer in Chicago.
For Greek classics: Athena
Athena’s expansive outdoor patio — complete with a fountain and columns meant to evoke ancient Athens — comes with a retractable roof, making it an ideal any-weather restaurant option. Rain or shine, enjoy dolmades, spanakopita, various kebabs, and baklava that are great for (sanitary) sharing at the classic Greektown restaurant. Pair with a bottle from the extensive Greek wine selection, or sip on a seasonal cocktail such as the Greek lemonade, made with ouzo, gin, mint, and lemon.
For farm-to-table fare: Blue Door Kitchen & Garden
Experience star chef Art Smith’s American farm-to-table fare all summer long under the Blue Door’s wooden patio structure complete with chandeliers in the Gold Coast. Smith’s famous buttermilk fried chicken is a must-order, along with any number of seasonal dishes such as shrimp and grits, deviled eggs, salmon en croute, and key lime pie, which includes whipped cream, macadamia praline, and burnt honey caramel.
For Italian with a major view: Gibson’s Italia
Take in panoramic views of the Chicago River and the city’s famed architecture from Gibson’s Italia’s multiple outdoor options, located right on the city’s famed Loop. Steak and Italian food come together here for an extensive menu full of pasta, many meats, seafood, and sides. Warmer weather pairs perfectly with the restaurant’s spritz selection, which includes a classic negroni and a non-alcoholic melon option.
For a Top Chef’s first love: Girl and the Goat
As the flagship restaurant of Top Chef phenom Stephanie Izard, Girl and the Goat remains a favorite for its consistently tasty global cuisine. Take in the expanded patio space and enjoy the restaurant’s namesake protein in dishes such as goat liver mousse and goat empanadas, or opt for seafood with roasted oysters or salmon poke. Pair with a wine from the curated list of small producers, or enjoy a seasonal cocktail like the “Aperol We’ve Been Through,” which features gin, passionfruit, and Aperol.
For margarita-fueled celebrations: Las Fuentes
This Lincoln Park institution has been serving Mexican favorites to the neighborhood — and beyond, with two additional locations — since 1982. Dishes include tacos, nachos, quesadillas, fajitas, and enchiladas, plus many types of margaritas. The restaurant’s expansive outdoor patio provides shaded seats with views of the courtyard’s colorful murals.
For something a little more fancy: Mon Ami Gabi
It’s Paris vibes all the way at Mon Ami Gabi, a classic French bistro in Lincoln Park from Lettuce Entertain You, the group behind a myriad of Chicago favorites such as Summer House and Stella Barra. Feast on dishes such as escargot, filet mignon au poivre, and trout almondine under the restaurant’s spacious, covered patio. Save room for the seasonally inspired sorbet for a cool and light end of the meal.
For a tasting menu as special as the view: North Pond
With a setting nestled inside Lincoln Park, the breeze blowing in from large open windows and a view overlooking the water, it doesn’t get more romantic than North Pond. But the Michelin-starred restaurant isn’t just a special occasion darling for its ambiance; the seasonal tasting menu stands out with dishes such as smoked duck breast with caraway-mustard seed sea foam and the asparagus with yuzu, Michigan ramps, and a poached quail egg.
For glamping with a cocktail: Lottie’s Pub
Bucktown mainstay Lottie’s Pub got creative during the winter, building a small village of canvas tents in a neighboring alleyway dubbed Camp Lottie’s. The tents are here to stay through the warm weather, and can currently be reserved for groups of up to six guests. A limited “canteen” menu serves up bar snacks such as waffle fries and pretzels as well as drink specials, which include large-format drinks such as buckets, thermoses, and bottle service. Email Lottie’s to reserve.
For pizza and chill vibes: Paradise Park
Kitsch reins at Paradise Park’s trailer theme park of an outdoor patio. Design details in the large covered Wicker Park yard include a Winnebago, flamingo ornaments, swing sets, neon signage, and brightly colored mismatched chairs. On the food front, there’s a whole lot of pizza, plus calzones, nachos, salad, and more.
For Italian romance: Piccolo Sogno
Romance is alive and well at Piccolo Sogno in River West. A big, ivory-covered tree anchors the Italian restaurant’s tented backyard, where twinkly lights, ivy, and lots of foliage add up to major ambiance. The Italy-worshipping menu includes dishes such as black spaghetti with mussels, clams, shrimp, and calamari; braised beef short ribs over polenta; and lemon-marinated baby artichokes, many complemented by the imported olive oil and wines.
For South American flair: Tanta
Tanta’s River North rooftop is one of Chicago’s best, with twinkly lights for good vibes, foliage and flowers for flair, and shade for sunny days. Food here tours Peru, from ceviches and empanadas to grilled octopus with chimichurri and lomo saltado, with cheffed-up touches such as ponzu gel and avocado mousse showing up in various dishes.
For beer and bocce: Kaiser Tiger
Kaiser Tiger is the place for beer, and lots of it. The Far West gastropub has 14 types on tap and another 80 in bottles and cans, plus a food menu that’s varied enough to please any group, with sausages, sandwiches, vegan entrees, and more. With the return of warmer weather, live music has returned on Wednesday and Thursday nights. Stay tuned for the soon-to-open bocce court.
For a tropical getaway in Lakeview: BITES
Settle into the colorful, tropical-inspired patio at BITES in Lakeview to enjoy a menu that pulls from a variety of cuisines. Enjoy ramen and bao buns alongside taro fries and a General Tso fried chicken sandwich in the plant-filled space, all ideal for pairing with the restaurant’s sangria and fruit slushies.
For a stunning industrial setting: The Dawson
On nearly all best-of-outdoor-dining Chicago lists, The Dawson’s River West patio is certainly one to behold. Glass, brick, wood, and ivy come together to create a dazzling effect. The chic atmosphere is simultaneously relaxing and energizing, accompanied by American fare such as a fried chicken sandwich, fish tacos, and mac and cheese.
For an award-winning favorite’s reopening: Elske
After hibernating for the winter, this Michelin-starred New American restaurant and its inviting outdoor patio is back open. Indulge in the signature seasonal multi-course set menu, or opt for a la carte items such as pork collar with guanciale, fava beans, and dumplings. Make sure to ask about the house-made schnapps, made with garden herbs and local produce.