What is that fascinates humans about being sipping a cocktail, talking with friends, and looking down at the urban landscape below? It's hard to quantify, but these three rooftop bars are excellent places to capture this feeling before the leaves fall and we must look around for our jackets and other outwear items.
One can rooftop-bar hop in River North with the greatest of ease and it's a nice way to spend a quiet afternoon or a Bacchanalian evening. Why not gather a few friends and make it happen soon? Summer is passing and while you can go back later, wouldn't you rather feel the gentle kiss of the sun around your face while sipping a drink or two? Of course you would.
Four Floors Up, Libations are Poured and Friends Gather
The Godfrey Hotel has been getting fine write-ups for its innovate design and well-appointed rooms since it opened last year. Even if you aren't staying overnight, you can zip on up to the fourth floor to check out the I|O Urban Roofscape (above) for some conversation and a drink. With its forward looking modish designs, the vast and welcoming space here includes a more formal dining area on the inside and a rather lively outdoor area, complete with communal booths and a number of creative design elements.
And yes, they have also been accumulating the formal accolades from places like Travel & Leisure Magazine who named the Roofscape one of the "Coolest Rooftop Bars" in Chicago. In no small part this is due to Chef Riley Huddleston's mixology offerings and a well-curated set of bar snacks and entrees.
First-timers might do well to check out one of the signature drinks, which include a Spiked Root Beer Float (hello Courvoisier!) and perhaps a couple of small plates, such as the smoked salmon flatbread or the hummus spread.
It does get busy on weeknights with beautiful people and those who like to be close to beautiful people, but you can always go for the downtempo feel by checking out the Roofscape for breakfast. After all, they open at 7 a.m.
Up in the Air, Look Down & Have A Drink
All who wander to the northwest corner of State & Erie in River North are not lost. Oh hello Dana Hotel, there you are. Not only have you found this boutique hotel in the modern manner, you are now just steps away from the elevator that will whisk you up, up, and away to their Vertigo Sky Lounge (at top).
Twenty-six floors up, the casual visitor is first struck by the drama of the vistas and the cornucopia of wonderful Chicago icons. In one direction, you can see the Hancock, and as you turn around, the Tribune Tower and other gems of the Magnificent Mile are in view. And now to the bar where you'd do well to take them up on their Sage Advice (tequila plus sage liqueur and more) or the wink & nod of the "Industry Sleepover," which brings together Old Forester bourbon, St. Germaine, Luxardo Aperitivo and fresh lemon juice.
The noshing is fine as well and standouts on the current menu include the citrus salmon and hamachi rolls. Also, the post-work crowd can elevate on up after work during the week from 4-7 p.m. for angus beef sliders ($2) and other tidbits.
At night, the music goes up and people start to dance around, which can be fun for fans of terpsichorean with an intense beat. House DJs hold court and others drop by to spin the wheels of steel. It's also worth noting that Vertigo is a four season type of place, so you can check it out all year round.
Feel The Warmth, Walk Upstairs
With its warm wood interiors (check out those grains, people) and inventive cocktails, ZED 451 is another wonderful place in River North to linger for an hour or three. They've held down this corner in the nabe for over eight years and they continue to draw in everyone from titans of industry in town for a conference to the fun frisson of bachelorette parties and other folks seeking a place to make merry.
If you're looking to partake of the full ZED experience, you might pause and stay on the main floor for a bit. Some might characterize ZED as a steakhouse, and yes, this desired dish of carnivores is on offer here, along with orange chili glazed swordfish and stellar Moroccan chicken. But aha, vegetarians have a plentiful cornucopia to choose from as well with their kale and quinoa salad, sauteed wild mushroom and bevy of other options as part of their harvest tables culinary palette. Also, the pad thai tacos are a bit of heaven, as is the vegetable fondue.
But you came for the rooftop, no? Up the stairs you go, and you have no less than four options where you can relax. The bar is a bustling mix of professionals and curious tourists, high-tops line one side, and there are also cozy nooks for couples and long benches with lovely cushions for meeting new people.
Whether the sun is up or down, you should inquire about the seasonal cocktails that are made lively with the additional of seasonal ingredients. Recent offerings have included a bourbon-based lemonade, with a touch of Michigan in the form of cherries from the Wolverine State. One might imagine that blueberries might round out this summer's seasonal additions, so call ahead and ask for the particulars.
You'll want to wander over to their clerestory in the middle of the rooftop and look down into the main bar. It's a neat meta-moment as you'll have a drink in your hand and you'll be peering down at other merry-makers having their own concoctions just beneath you.
Other favorite libations here include the Black Garden (blackberries, El Jimador blanco tequila and more) and the Rye Knot, which features Rittenhouse Rye, Disaronno, and Fee Brothers Orange Bitters. There's a bit of a fun challenge involved with the cherry that accompanies the rye knot, so ask your dedicated server about it.
Photos Courtesy of Vertigo Sky Lounge; The Godfrey Hotel; ZED 451