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. 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, we'd hang out on the patio, covered by a large umbrella perfect for educating oneself with beer. But 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, which gets even better during the spring and summer on the patio.
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.
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.
This beer-centric classy neighborhood joint resides in a sleepy residential block, with a gorgeous arched and mirrored wooden bar, gold-painted tin ceilings, lava lamps and an alt-rock–heavy jukebox. Snacks like hand-dipped cheese curds and burgers round out the menu along with rotating pies from Bang Bang. The back patio supplies an assortment of wrought iron tables, perfect for whiling away an evening with a perfect pint of beer.
If Ron Swanson opened a restaurant, it would be the Kaiser Tiger. The specialty is the Bacon Bomb, a five-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.
Just like this chain's locations in New York City, Napa and Nashville, the West Loop's City Winery serves up plenty of food, beverages and live music. The patio area is large with plenty of tables and open doors to listen to the music inside. If you're looking for a music venue with a wine list that goes deeper than "red or white," stop by City Winery for a glass or two.
Federales is the new West Loop hotspot to down a few margaritas with barbecue-style tacos. Hogsalt and Four Corners Tavern Group have teamed up to create this large open-air space seating 176 people, with a big part of that seating outside. There are TVs and a bit of indoor seating surrounding the large bar, but it's clear that the intention here is to drink. Throw a few back and expect a fun night.