Best outdoor bars in Chicago

Get in gear for summer and alfresco season with our guide to the best outdoor bars and patios in Chicago

Photograph: Colin Beckett
RM Champagne

After months spent huddling around fireplaces and shivering from inevitable bar-room drafts, you deserve a drink. Outside. With the sun beaming down, margarita in hand. Get the most out of summer with our guide to the best places to drink outside, from rooftops to hidden gardens to precious sidewalk seats.

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Best outdoor bars in Chicago

Halsted’s Bar & Grill

Though it’s tucked away from the hustle and bustle of one of the flashiest streets in Boystown, there’s still plenty of man candy to help satiate your appetite at one of Lakeview’s biggest outdoor gems. Neighboring buildings provide cool shade, as do the cabana-esque ceiling fans. The bar fare is pretty standard, though the rich mac and cheese is sure to guilt anyone into a trip to the gym. Drinks are cheap: $3 mimosas and screwdrivers during weekend brunch and a killer $7.50 Ditka’s Bloody Mary. But what Halsted’s boasts in appearance it sometimes lacks in service—servers run around like chickens with their heads cut off when the patio is at capacity.

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Boystown

Handlebar Bar & Grill

This laid-back Bucktown messenger magnet feeds famished cyclists with internationally inspired veg food. Warm weather demands grabbing a seat at one of the shaded, metal patio tables and ordering from the well-curated selection of microbrews—or, better yet, a pitcher of tangy, refreshing housemade margaritas. Pretension is rare in the fenced-in yard—unless you count the high-end fixed-gear bikes that roll through the back gate (an in-yard rack keeps them secure).

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Bucktown

Happy Village

A gurgling goldfish pond, picnic tables galore and a lush lawn all around is the scene at this West Town dive. But when it rains (or at 11pm, when the garden closes), pack up the ciggies and head back inside, where the smell of whiskey and cheap beer hangs in the air, drunks angle for a turn on the Ping-Pong tables, and the jukebox coughs out the Cars and Madonna.

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West Town

Hopleaf

Thought this was just a bar to belly up to with a Belgian brew in hand? One bite and you’ll know there’s much more. Our perfect night involves sampling the drafts at the bar while slurping down the famous ale-steamed mussels, but you could also class it up, grab a proper table and dig into seasonal rotations such as wood-roasted spring chicken with morels and favas, available in the spring. Beer geeks know this is the place in town to school their palate on craft brews, and they do come in droves, but the addition of an adjacent space helps keep the place from feeling like a sardine tin.

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Uptown

The Long Room

Few people are aware of the charming little patio tucked off the back of this North Center bar. Just order a craft beer from the ever-changing list and keep quiet.

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North Side

Moody’s Pub

First, its virtues: Towering trees shade most of the enormous two-level garden at this 50-plus-year-old Edgewater institution. The straightforward half-pound burgers (no farm-fresh cheese or elk patties here) are a notch above average and taste like something your dad grilled when you were a kid. The beer is cheap: $11.25 for an Anchor Steam pitcher. But holy God, the service is pull-your-hair-out slow, and the servers, mostly indifferent twentysomethings or matronly ladies, rarely crack a smile. Our solution: Order multiple pitchers at a time and make no plans for the rest of the evening. You probably wouldn’t want to be anywhere else anyway.

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Edgewater

RM Champagne Salon

You enter through an unmarked alleyway, glowing strings of lights leading you to a cobblestone courtyard and ornate parlor that resemble a Parisian hideaway. You forget where you are. You order glasses of Champagne you’ve never heard of, you gently unhinge oysters from their shells, and when dessert comes, your selection is plucked from a fanciful cart, replete with bite-size macaroons and caramels and marshmallows. Heaven? Who needs it when there’s RM?

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West Loop

Sidetrack

Boystown's megabar is famous for its showtunes night, booze-laced slushies and, of course, its gigantic patio. Six big rooms inside are all packed with cute, frisky boys distracting themselves with the same three things: the videos on the wall, the drink in their hand and the ass in your jeans.

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Boystown

Sportsman's Club

Sportsman's backyard has a fire pit and an herb garden, which grow herbs to use in cocktails. Bartenders Jeff Donahue and Wade McElroy serve up specials for the outdoor space, including cocktail kegs and wine specials.

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Humboldt Park

Three Aces

Three Aces has the look and feel of a punky college bar. But because chef Matt Troost is rolling fresh pasta and frying pig ears in the kitchen, it’s hard not to pay attention to the food. The only thing that can steal your attention? The 140-seat patio.

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University Village/UIC

Zella

Singles looking for a classy spot love getting spiffed up in their slinkiest summer gear for a night here, where there’s always going to be plenty of green: on the outdoor patio and in their wallets. Pink martinis are de rigueur for the ladies, while the guys go for cocktails and the occasional Jäger shot to work up the nerve to chat up the hotties.

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North Side

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