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. Chicago is happy to oblige with droves of excellent alfresco watering holes. Whether you're looking for a boozy slushy, an ice-cold beer or a glass of rosé, we have just the spot for you. Our guide to the best outdoor bars—from hidden gardens to sidewalk seats—will give you lots of ideas for things to do in the summer, the very best season in Chicago.
RECOMMENDED: Beer gardens, rooftop bars and outdoor dining spots in Chicago
Best outdoor bars in Chicago
Sportsman's backyard has a fire pit, large tables and a canopy of twinkly lights. An in-house herb garden provides the bartenders with fresh ingredients. When it's time to come inside, animal heads on the walls and cozy booths with built-in chess boards make being indoors just as charming.
On a warm night, instead of bellying up to the bar to study the endless list of Belgian brews, hang out on the patio. The space is covered by a large umbrella, making it the perfect backdrop for beer education. Don’t neglect the food menu either—especially the CB&J sandwich with cashew butter, fig jam and raclette cheese. Our perfect night involves sampling the drafts while slurping down the famous ale-steamed mussels on the patio.
The Orbit Room's popular backyard garden patio lives on through Ludlow Liquors, the building's new tenant from the creators of Sportman's Club. Expect communal seating, stadium-style benches, picnic tables and a walk-up window for easy ordering.
A gurgling pond, picnic tables galore and a lush lawn 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.
Something tells us that this Logan Square sports bar, with 2,000 square feet of outdoor space, will be a huge hit this summer. Did we mention it's just down the street from Parson's Chicken & Fish? The dog-friendly patio is dotted with picnic tables and firepits, making it all too easy to sip large-format cocktails into the wee hours of the morning.
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).
A few years back, brothers Chris and Calvin Marty bought the old Marble Bar space and reopened it as Best Intentions. We were pleased to see that they kept the big, out-back patio intact and gussied up the drink list with elevated classics, frosty Wondermint Malted shakes and shots of Angostura bitters. Fill up on pig face fritters or a double cheesburger to keep your night alive.
If Ron Swanson opened a restaurant, it would be the Kaiser Tiger. The specialty here is the Bacon Bomb, a 5-pound, bacon-covered meatloaf made with beef, pork and more bacon. Kaiser Tiger also features beer and sausage on its menu, plus a wide variety of craft beers. But the real beauty of this spot is the patio, with a bocce ball court in the back with long tables great for exhausting an afternoon.
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 a burger from Beard & Belly and keep quiet so the neighbors don't hear.
Part bar, part music venue, Sleeping Village has a little something for everyone in Avondale. With 56 beer and cider drafts, the bar is the main attraction; guests can choose from ales, stouts, barleys and fruit-centric brews from around the world. Take it outside with the venue's 2,000-square-foot, 152-seat, dog-friendly patio. We have a feeling it'll be a low-key summertime favorite.
Boystown'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.
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 marshmallows. Heaven? Who needs it when there’s RM?
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, come for brunch and order a Bloody Hammer that’s topped with a crunchy, juicy fried pickle.
The Whistler is best known for its almost nightly events and constantly changing drink menu. But when you need a break from what's going on inside, head to the back patio for a bit of a respite from the party. It's a great spot to spend the evening enjoying the summer sun.
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.
If you want a seat on the Big Star patio, you'll have to show up early or be prepared to wait in line. On sunny weekend days, the wait time can climb into the two-hour range. But once you're in, tacos, margaritas and guac are in your future. If you're looking to day drink the afternoon away, this is your scene.
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.