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Recess patio
Photograph: Courtesy Recess

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

By Zach Long
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Sure, going to one of the best bars in Chicago is fun, but there's something exhilarating about having a drink outdoors. And after making it through another winter in the city, you deserve a round or two under the sun. It doesn't matter if you're looking for a spot with a delicious margarita or a beer garden where you can have a few local brews—the best outdoor bars in Chicago will delight wine snobs and boozy slushy fans, alike. We've tracked down waterfront patios, hidden gardens and dive bar backyards where you can mix a little bit of alchohol with a lot of fresh air. Pack some sunscreen, make a reservation (if needed) and prepare to while away an afternoon at one of the best outdoor bars in Chicago.

Best outdoor bars in Chicago

Ludlow Liquors patio
Photograph: Mackenzie Freemire

Ludlow Liquors

Bars Avondale

The Orbit Room's popular backyard garden patio lives on through Ludlow Liquors, which has transformed the space into a spcaious cocktail, beer and burger hangout. You'll find plenty of picnic tables where you can take a seat, sip a stiff drink, nurse a Hamm's and catch up with friends.

Hopleaf

Bars Beer bars Uptown

Pretend you're dining alfresco somewhere in Europe when you escape to Hopleaf's courtyard patio, where a long list of Belgian brews are flowing and piles of the famous ale-steamed mussels are delivered to hungry diners. Just be warned that seating is first come, first served and this is one of Andersonville's most popular haunts.

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The Moonlighter
Photograph: Jude Goergen

The Moonlighter

Restaurants Logan Square

Yes, the Moonlighter is techincally a sports bar, but it's not usually the obnoxious kind. You can escape (most of) the TVs by having a drink under an umbrella on the 2,000-square-foot patio, which happens to be dog-friendly. Snag smashburgers, wings and hardshell tacos (vegan versions of these dishes are also available) and sip a frozen cocktail or a sour beer while you gaze out at Kedzie Avenue.

Metropolitan Brewing
Photograph: Tracy Hurst

Metropolitan Brewing

Bars Breweries Avondale

There aren't many riverside patios outside of the Loop, the Riverwalk and River North, but Metropolitan Brewing's Avondale spot is the exception. You'll see kayakers and boats glide by as you enjoy German-style lagers under the sun. Seating is first come, first served and there's nearly always a line when it's a bright and sunny weekend.

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Recess patio
Photograph: Courtesy Recess

Recess

Restaurants American River West/West Town

Set among a pile of shipping containers next to West Loop event space City Hall, Recess bills itself as one of the city's largest patios, complete with a multi-level set-up and multiple bars. Once you have a table, there's a ton of bar food to choose between, from buffalo chicken rolls to to pies from Recess's in-house pizzeria, Bob's Pizza. And of course, you'll find plenty of cocktails (with or without CBD), local brews and rosé to sample during a long afternoon or a late night.

bar cargo, pizza
Photograph: Courtesy Bar Cargo

Bar Cargo

Restaurants Pizza River North

Take your pick: You can grab a seat on the smaller, 40-seat, dog-friendly sidewalk patio on Wells Street or make your way to the hidden beer garden out back, which has room for 100. No matter where you sit, we recommend ordering a round of frozen cocktails and one of Bar Cargo's signature Roman-style pizzas (we're particularly fond of the Arrabbiata with Pachino tomatoes, chile and garlic).

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Kaiser Tiger
Photograph: Courtesy Kaiser Tiger

Kaiser Tiger

Restaurants Gastropubs West Loop

If Ron Swanson opened a restaurant, it would probably be the Kaiser Tiger. The specialty here is the Bacon Bomb, a 5-pound, bacon-covered meatloaf made with beef, pork and more bacon. The rest of the menu is similarly meat-forward, with sausages and schnitzel to spare, plus a variety of craft beers. But the real beauty of this spot is the patio out back, which boasts plenty of long tables and a bocce court.

sleeping village patio
Photograph: Victoria Sanders

Sleeping Village

Bars Avondale

While the music venue and indoor bar are closed, Sleeping Village's 2,000-square-foot outdoor space remains a great spot to have a drink and listen to a DJ set from a local musician. The patio is typically open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings—and you'll need to get a reservation, because spots fill up quickly.

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Best gay bars in Chicago: Sidetrack
Photograph: Courtesy Sidetrack

Sidetrack

Bars Cocktail bars Boystown

Northalsted's megabar is famous for its showtunes night, booze-laced slushies and, of course, its gigantic rooftop deck, which packs them in on sunny weekends and summer nights. Plenty of greenery and a multilevel layout provide an intimate feel despite the massive capacity.

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

Kimski

Restaurants Fusion Bridgeport

Polish and Korean fusion purveyors Kimski have expanded the outdoor seating options at the Bridgeport bar over the past year, adding more tables along the side of the building that augment the backyard patio. Connected to Maria's Packaged Goods, this local spot always has the latest brews from Marz on tap—plus plenty of other interesting local beers.

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Handlebar Bar & Grill

Bars Beer bars Wicker Park

The patio is the only thing that's currently open at this laid-back Bucktown bike messenger magnet, where famished cyclists chow down on vegitarian sandwiches and tacos. The shaded tables on the patio are always a great spot to grab brunch during the summer—and you can always order a Bloody Hammer that’s topped with a crunchy, juicy fried pickle.

Sheffields.outdoorBars.jpg
Photograph: Martha Williams

Sheffield’s Beer & Wine Garden

Bars Dive bars Lake View

This huge beer garden turns into a laid-back college reunion on weekend nights, where you'll be a bit strapped to find a table. But once you've secured your spot, head to the different bars for regular tappings of interesting beers. It's more low-key during the week, perfect for dropping in on your way home for a sunny post-work drink and a platter of pulled pork, ribs or brisket.

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BigStar1.Venue.jpg
Photograph: Martha Williams

Big Star

Bars Mezcalerias Wicker Park

People come to the Big Star patio to eat tacos al pastor while munching on chips and salsa, but they stay because someone at the table orders a second pitcher of margaritas or another round of beers. The moment temperatures in Chicago begin creeping up, the outdoor seating at the Wicker Park location seems to fill up instantly—and the newer location in Wrigleyville also draws a crowd. Be prepared to wait for your turn, but know that chips, guac and margs are in your future.

Moody's Pub
Photograph: Martha Williams

Moody’s Pub

Bars Pubs Edgewater

The reasons to come to this nearly 60-year-old Edgewater institution are many—towering trees shade most of the enormous two-level garden and straightforward half-pound burgers are a notch above average and taste like something your dad grilled when you were a kid. And while the beer list may not be impressive, there's a long list of cocktails (including a Long Island Iced Tea).

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beatnik on the river, beatnik, patio, outdoor
Photograph: Francis Son

Beatnik On the River

Restaurants Loop

An offshoot of the popular West Town dining destination of the same name, Beatnik On the River draws inspiration from the ’50s and ’60s, offering dishes and drinks in a picturesque riverside setting. The best tables in the house are on the 80-seat patio, which offers views of the water and is outfitted with colorful tile, Indonesian daybeds and fringe-lined umbrellas. Order a glass of bubbly and stay awhile.

chi_fd_parsonschicken&fish_0715
Photograph: Clayton Hauck

Parson's Chicken & Fish

Restaurants Soul and southern American Logan Square

Parson's Chicken & Fish has grown into a network of good places to grab a Negroni Slushy outdoors, with locations in West Town and Lincoln Park. But the original Logan Square location still seems like the best place to knock back some drinks under the sun, thanks to it's slightly more spacious layout. That being said, if the patio at one Parson's is full, you might as well go see if you can snag a seat on another.

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The Dawson Chicago
Photograph: Courtesy The Dawson

The Dawson

Restaurants American River West/West Town

Draped in greenery, and with a great view of the painted Doolin's sign on the side of the building next door, the Dawson's patio is a great place to gather just outside of the West Loop. Seasonal cocktails are balanced with wine and a solid list of Old Fashioneds—and there's beer on tap if that's what you prefer. And the Grand Blue Line stop is just a few steps away, if you need to take a tipsy train ride home.

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