This cooler, August weather reminds me that Fall isn't too far away and that I'd better hurry to get all my outdoor dining goals met before I need to pull out my parka. Here are the places on my top 10 list.
01) Sample produce from the Green City Market (1790 North Clark Street). It's easy to make a quick meal from the fresh fruits and veggies sold at the market, but it's just as much fun to sample items prepared at a chef demonstration or a bit of grilled cheese or sandwich from a vendor. You won't walk away hungry from this farmer's market!
02) The patio at Piccolo Sogno (464 N Halsted Street) is one of the loveliest in the city. Chef Tony Priolo's pastas are amazing year round, but they take on special properties when you can eat them in the comfort of this shady and spacious setting.
03) Grab a picnic dinner from Pastoral (53 East Lake Street) and head to Millennium Park. I enjoy browsing the shelves at this specialty grocery store/sandwich shop, and spend too much time dithering over their carefully curated cheese selection. Fortunately, they take the decision making out of my hands and pack it up into a tidy picnic for two.
04) Enjoy lunch along the river at Cyrano's on the Riverwalk (233 E. Lower Wacker Drive). Cyrano's is ideally situated along a shady stretch of river that's downstream from the ruckus of Michigan Avenue but still accessible for lunch. The menu offers pared down French cuisine and wines in one of the best al fresco settings in the city.
05) The brunch line at M. Henry (5707 North Clark Street) often bursts out of the tiny waiting area onto the street. In the winter, patrons can warm up with coffee outside but it's better to go when it's actually nice. Order the blackberry bliss cakes here. They are worth the wait in any weather.
06) A sundae from Margie's Candies (1813 West Montrose Avenue) is my preferred method of beating the summer heat. Do like the locals do and hop off the Brown Line at Montrose, grab some ice cream, and wolf it down while seated in the cheap plastic chairs out front.
07) I look forward to dinner at Lao Beijing because I know I can stroll through the open air mall Chinatown Square after I've stuffed myself silly with one of Tony Lu's green onion pancakes or an order of salt & pepper shrimp.
08) Another great outdoor patio can be found at Three Aces (1321 W. Taylor Street). The picnic tables offer lots of room for groups to sit and explore the edited craft beer menu and the seasonally inspired dishes. It's tomato season now -- it's worth a special trip to see what they've done with the menu.
09) The Trump International Hotel towers over the intersection of Michigan and Wacker with a glassy wall of blue, and visitors to the city may not see Sixteen (Trump International Hotel 401 N Wabash Ave 16th Floor) immediately. If you look up, you'll see it's situated at the perfect viewing height for the Wrigley Building clock face. There's a nice little outdoor area where you can sip and stare at the wonders of Chicago architecture.
10) Wait in line at Hot Doug's (3324 North California Avenue) because you haven't experienced Chicago until you go elbow-to-elbow with the regulars for the duck fat fries and a healthy selection of encased meats. It's worth it.