Alfresco dining (and drinking) is as time honored a Chicago tradition as the Wrigley Field bleachers. This city has an affinity for sidewalk cafes, rooftop bars and outdoor dining rooms. For those of you who like to pair sunshine and sustenance or booze with a breeze, we present our favorite al fresco dining options.
Frontier's 2,500 square-foot outdoor beer garden is a lot like the restaurant's exalted big game dishes, stunningly rustic. From gator ribs to antelope meatballs, this Noble Square paragon is a meat lover's paradise. Add an extensive variety of beer, cocktails and an open-air rooftop to the mix, and you have all the ingredients for a perfect Chicago cookout. Oh, and executive chef Brian Jupiter is a lot more trustworthy behind the grill than you're Corona buzzed neighbor wearing a "Born to BBQ" apron.
There should be a Big Star in every American city. The food is phenomenal. It offers $3 whiskey shots every night of the week. And the patio seating faces Wicker Park's Milwaukee, North and Damen Avenue intersection, which is like a street style Tumblr personified. YOU get to feast on pork belly tacos while YOUR EYES feast on people dressed like Lenny Kravitz's kids. If you don't think that's a winning combination, then you're losing.
Nominated for the James Beard Foundation's "Rising Star Chef Award," Jimmy Bannos Jr. is young, but already a prevailing name in Chicago dining. The Purple Pig serves meat in its most rustic form and their wine selection is incredibly expansive. If you actually shop until you drop on Michigan Avenue, the enjoyably intoxicating aroma of The Purple Pig's roasted bone marrow is enough to restore consciousness.
If you've been leaning a bit too hard on the frozen pizza and TiVo-d American Idol "date night," then rally your better half to NoMI Garden and thank us later. Located on the Park Hyatt hotel's seventh floor, this open air balcony will spark your romantic fire into a blaze the area hasn't seen since 1871. With a menu that feature foie fras small plates and mint muddled cocktails, a meal here is like playing with passion fireworks at the love gas station. You're welcome.
Ada Street renovated its patio last summer, adding another unique element to Chef Zoe Shor's already ridiculously stylish restaurant. With its picnic motif and artificial grass, the outdoor dining room in this Noble Square charm looks and feels like a backyard barbeque. If you've ever been to a summer cookout in Chicago, you know that's a good thing.
It would be difficult to find a more stylish restaurant than Zed451. Everything on the harvest table is worth your time and servers will pile on as much braised meat as you can eat. The design flow is uncanny, the cocktails are especially sophisticated and its buzzing location lends itself to some of the finest ground level views in downtown Chicago.
You'll find RM Champagne Salon's secret entrance by way of a cobblestone alleyway just off of Randolph Street. If you're lost, look for a pack of immaculately dressed, recently-engaged types who appear to know when there's a sale at Barney's. It's hard to stay void of pretentions when your champagne menu includes a $1,500 magnum of '99 Jacques Selosse Milesme Brut, but RM is authentic to the champagne culture and not totally unapproachable for aspiring adults. RM's outdoor patio, with its gritty Industrial Age feel, complements the restaurant's Grace Kelly-inspired interior like a glass of 1995 Blanc des Millénaires and hearty Gruyere cheese.
The "location, location, location" rule of real estate is just as appropriate for outdoor dining as it is for a two bedroom condominium, and Bridge House Tavern is a luxury penthouse in London. This alfresco space is as close to the Chicago River as you can get with actually making contact with a passing bluegill. Go for the view, stay for the oysters, just don't go for a swim.
Not every amazing view is from the top. Located on the 16th floor of the Trump International Hotel and Tower, The Terrace at Trump is affixed with arguably Chicago's most spectacular outlook. Diners are situated above the river, parallel with the Wrigley Building Clock Tower, and are given a panoramic sightline of downtown Chicago that extends from the Willis Tower to the Hancock. If you're looking to sip craft cocktails and, simultaneously, upload a gallery's worth of Instagram bangers, the Terrace calls your name.
Appropriately, the view of Lincoln Park is incredible from atop the 12-story Hotel Lincoln. To the east, guests look straight down at the South Pond, Lincoln Park Zoo, and over North Avenue Beach to the Lake Michigan horizon. Looking south, an only slightly disrupted view of downtown Chicago. If the Hotel Lincoln is anchored in timeless nostalgia, then The J. Parker is its dramatic ballast. Tables are cool when they have fireplaces in them. They're even cooler when surrounded by cabana-style seating. And they're the coolest when they have glasses of Pimm's & Cointreau mixed sangria sweating on their tops. All you really need to know about The J. Parker is that they have, like, really cool tables.
With an enormous beer selection and an incredible bar soundtrack, Maria's is always a party. Oh, and Pleasant House Bakery is right next door, so its Bridgeport location makes for some of the city's best carb loading. While Chicago's cocktail culture hovers over Wicker Park and Logan Square like a gin soaked rain cloud, this South Side mainstay is worth the
If you like your outdoor party with elbow room, visit Estate Ultra Bar and its 4,000 square-foot open air rooftop. Billed as a place for "social dining and drinking," this place has all the bells and whistles of a stylish lounge without the pretentions that go with denying guys like me entry.