With the return of warmer weather, tents are out, and open-air sky views—and outdoor dining—are unofficially on menus at restaurants all across the Second City. 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.
Athena’s expansive outdoor patio—complete with a fountain and columns meant to evoke the ancient Greek capital—comes with a retractable roof, making it an ideal all-weather restaurant option. Rain or shine, enjoy shareable dolmades, spanakopita, various kebabs, and baklava at the classic Greektown restaurant. Pair it all with a bottle from the extensive Greek wine selection, or sip on a seasonal cocktail such as the Greek lemonade, crafted with ouzo, gin, mint, and lemon.
Cabra – Chicago (West Loop)
You might know Stephanie Izard from her time on Top Chef. You might know her for her flagship restaurant Girl & the Goat. If you want a taste of Izard’s award-winning cuisine al fresco, head to Cabra. Located on the top floor of The Hoxton in the West Loop, it’s one of the few spots in Chicago where you can indulge on ceviche and pisco sours poolside.
Blue Door Kitchen & Garden (Gold Coast/Streeterville)
Experience star chef Art Smith’s American farm-to-table fare all summer long under the Blue Door’s wooden patio, complete with chandeliers to match its toney Gold Coast surroundings. 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 is topped with whipped cream, macadamia praline, and burnt honey caramel.
Take in panoramic views of the Chicago River and the city’s famed architecture from Gibsons 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 watermelon option.
Duck Inn (Bridgeport)
Chef Kevin Hickey’s tribute to his hometown captures the charm of this historic neighborhood with a playful mix of bar fare and gourmet offerings. Its secluded backyard channels a similar charm with lush greenery and plenty of heat lamp-adjacent seating. Enjoy fried cheese curds and a Chicago-style Duck Inn dog—topped with pickled hot peppers and tucked in a brioche poppy seed bun—in the sunshine.
Kaiser Tiger (West Loop)
Kaiser Tiger is the place for beer—and lots of it. The Far West gastropub has two dozen 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, bocce has returned to the patio. The court is first come, first served, when available.
Paradise Park Chicago (Bucktown/Wicker Park)
Kitsch reigns at Paradise Park’s trailer park themed outdoor patio. Design details in the large covered yard include a RV, 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.
Piccolo Sogno (River West)
Romance is alive and well at Piccolo Sogno in River West. A large 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-focused menu includes dishes such as black spaghetti with mussels, clams, shrimp, and calamari; braised beef short ribs over polenta; and prosciutto di Parma pizza—many complemented by the imported olive oil and wines.
The Dawson (River West)
Frequently present on most 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 both relaxing and energizing, accompanied by American fare such as sticky duck wings, chicken-fried lobster, and Buffalo cauliflower.
Tanta (River North)
This River North rooftop is one of Chicago’s best, with sparkling lights for good vibes, foliage and flowers for flair, and shade for sunny days. Food here criss-crosses Peru, from ceviches and empanadas to grilled octopus with chimichurri and lomo saltado, with gourmet touches such as ponzu gel and avocado mousse making cameos in various dishes.
Recess (West Loop)
The last thing you want when enjoying Chicago’s short but oh-so-sweet summer is to waste time fighting for a patio table. To avoid that struggle, opt for one of the West Loop’s larger outdoor expanses at Recess: this sprawling patio has plenty of seating options—from high-tops on the turf to select seats inside repurposed shipping containers. Take your pick and enjoy an assortment of snacks and sandwiches alongside refreshing cocktails, such as the Alderman’s Choice with tequila, watermelon, white peppercorn, and lime.
Pilsen Yards (Pilsen)
If you’ve yet to hear of Pilsen Yards, it’s probably because the bar slash music venue slash massive patio opened mid-pandemic—January 2021. We could talk about how this place has live music every Thursday and vinyl DJ sets throughout the weekend or the secret speakeasy-style bar in the back. But, no—we’re here to talk about the massive patio. It’s partially covered and features its own bar as well as a fire pit, making it the perfect place for a plate of lamb barbacoa tacos and a pitcher of margarita.
Lauren McDowell contributed to this article.
Tried them all? Check out other options here.