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Easy Does It
Photograph: Clayton Hauck

The 26 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

Zach Long
Written by
Zach Long
Contributor
Lindsay Eanet
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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, we're all ready for 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 alcohol with a lot of fresh air. Pack some sunscreen, make a reservation (if needed) and prepare to spend an afternoon at one of the best outdoor bars in Chicago.

RECOMMENDED: The best rooftop bars in Chicago

Best outdoor bars in Chicago

  • Bars
  • Avondale

The Orbit Room's popular backyard garden patio lives on through Ludlow Liquors, which has transformed the space into a spacious 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.

  • Bars
  • Beer bars
  • Uptown
  • price 2 of 4

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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  • 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.

  • 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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  • 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 creative bar food to choose between, like chicken and waffle fries and a giant pig in a blanket called the "quilted hog." 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.

Want to relax on a patio with a brick fireplace and a cattle skull while eating your body weight in oysters and game meats? Thankfully, Noble Square’s Frontier is here to make that dream a reality. The bravest epicureans can even try their Malört Greyhound, made with St. Germaine elderflower and the infamous local spirit, alongside their alligator gnocchi or venison cheesesteak. 

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  • 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 "Hot, Hot, Hot" with Pachino tomatoes, chile and garlic).

  • Restaurants
  • Gastropubs
  • West Loop
  • price 2 of 4

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.

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If it’s space you want, you’ll definitely find it on the massive back patio at this laid-back Logan Square spot dotted with sleek picnic tables and canopies overhead for shade. Easy Does It is a spot for wine lovers first, although they offer solid beer, cider, cocktail and zero-proof selections too, making it a spot where anyone can take it, well, easy. 

  • Bars
  • Avondale

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 there early, because it fills up quickly.

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Boystown
  • price 2 of 4

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.

  • Restaurants
  • Fusion
  • Bridgeport
  • price 1 of 4

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
  • price 1 of 4

Take a seat outdoors at this laid-back Bucktown bike messenger magnet, where famished cyclists chow down on vegetarian 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.

  • Bars
  • Dive bars
  • Lake View
  • price 2 of 4

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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  • Bars
  • Mezcalerias
  • Wicker Park
  • price 1 of 4

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.

  • Bars
  • Pubs
  • Edgewater
  • price 1 of 4

The reasons to come to this 63-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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  • 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.

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