Once the summer sun arrives in Chicago, every restaurant, eatery and bar in the city pulls out the sidewalk dining paraphernalia. You can barely walk down the street, there are so many summer cafés filled with excited diners lining the streets. Yes, alfresco dining is popular in Chi-town, but don't be fooled into thinking that all the outdoor offerings are easy to spot. Some are hidden by cul-de-sacs, side streets and bike paths.
Soak in the last weeks of the season as you check out these three slightly hidden locations for excellent al fresco dining.
1935 N. Lincoln Park West
Noted for elegant and innovative French dishes, The Blanchard is a highly regarded Lincoln Park treasure. However, if you're unfamiliar with the twisty side streets of this popular hood, you might have missed the restaurant's lovely outdoor terrace. Set up under trees and twinkling lights on a small cul-de-sac, the Blanchard patio offers great food and a relaxing vibe.
Chef Ryan Burns makes sure that you'll be swooning in the open air with standouts like Dover Sole Veronique, which layers cauliflower, grapes, capers and lemon in a delicate sauce, and spiced roasted carrots, an unexpected and delectable mix of carrots and creme fraiche, curry essence and puffed barley. Don't pass up a special order of the best pomme frites in the city, brimming with rich flavor from old school vegetable lard.
500 E. Grand Avenue
Tucked away in pocket-sized Olive Park, right off the bike path, Caffé Oliva is easy to miss, but you'll have a summer full of regret if you do. With sublime views overlooking Ohio Street Beach, Caffé Oliva is a fave of hungry beach combers. It's a wonderful place to absorb the lake breeze and Mediterranean eats. Try the blackened fish tacos or lobster rolls and wash it down with an Oliva Margarita.
118 W. Grand Avenue
This sophisticated Peruvian hangout draws foodies with an inventive menu of specialties, including a selection of ceviche and pisco drinks. Tanta also boasts a rooftop terrace that's barely visible from its Grand Avenue location. Climb the stairs to the second-floor terrace and a sleek urban oasis complete with retractable awnings unfolds.
Munch on Arroz Norteno, Criollo Cebiche—and don't forget a pisco cocktail.
Get a guide to all things outdoor dining in Chicago, which covers everything from restaurants with a view to even more rooftop patios. Or take in more recommendations from the blog for our insiders' patio picks.
Additional photo credits: Image at top, The Blanchard courtesy of Adam Alexander Photography