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Ranalli's
Photograph: Courtesy Ranalli's

The 24 best outdoor restaurants in Chicago

The food comes with a side of fresh air at the best outdoor restaurants in Chicago

Morgan Olsen
Zach Long
Written by
Morgan Olsen
&
Zach Long
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Outdoor dining is always a popular summer pastime for Chicagoans, but after the events of the past year, sitting on a patio and enjoying a meal has taken on a new significance. Some of the best restaurants in Chicago have set up sidewalk patios, outdoor gardens and sun-soaked decks, welcoming diners who may not yet be comfortable eating indoors. While you're getting your daily dose of vitamin D and some fresh air, you can have a few slices of the best pizza in Chicago or sip a margarita while noshing on tacos. Whether you're looking for an open air space to spend the evening with friends or a romantic restaurant where you can cozy up to a date, we've got the alfresco options you're craving. Check out the top outdoor restaurants in Chicago and don't forget your mask and your social-distancing etiquette. 

RECOMMENDED: Scope out the best rooftop restaurants in Chicago

Outdoor restaurants in Chicago

  • Restaurants
  • River North

You'll hardly notice you're seated on the bustling corner of Superior and State Streets when food from chef Carlos Gaytán starts arriving at your table. Cool off with an order of ceviche verde before digging into heartier entrées like the fried red snapper served with salsa, pickled veggies, peanut aioli and handmade tortillas. Make your time outdoors last with dessert—the arroz con leche is an instant classic.

  • Restaurants
  • Soul and southern American
  • Logan Square
  • price 1 of 4

This summer, Chicagoans have three Parson's to choose from: the original location in Logan Square, an outpost in Lincoln Park and the newest location in West Town. Ordering a negroni slushy is practically a requirement, and you'll need some snacks to be able to drink more than one. The hush puppies are your best bet, and the grilled chicken tops the fried (if you can believe it).

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  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary American
  • River West/West Town
  • price 2 of 4

The sprawling indoor-outdoor terrace at Frontier beckons from Milwaukee Avenue, luring diners in with trays of just-shucked oysters and the scent of crispy fried chicken sandwiches. The summer-ready cocktails and ice-cold bottles of Miller Lite don't hurt either.

  • Restaurants
  • American
  • Bridgeport
  • price 2 of 4

If there's anything better than eating a gourmet Chicago-style duck fat dog on a lush, hidden patio in Bridgeport, we have yet to find it. Come summer, the Duck Inn's tree-lined garden transforms into an intimate destination for brunch and dinner.

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  • Restaurants
  • American
  • River West/West Town
  • price 2 of 4

The massive patio, with a bar, tables, greenery and high walls, makes you feel like you’re far away from the busy corner next to the Grand Blue Line stop. Order up dinner, then stay for rounds of cocktails, including an array of Old Fashioneds and seasonal drinks made with gin, tequila and mezcal.

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Douglas

When date night calls for a proper Italian feast under the stars, look no further than this Bronzeville staple, helmed by owner Peytyn Willborn-Mayes. The sizable side terrace offers plenty of seating as well as overhead covering in case the weather turns. Indulge in classic Italian eats, like calamari fritti and chicken alfredo, alongside some knockout seafood plates, including the fan-favorite fried catfish.

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  • Restaurants
  • Logan Square

Insiders know that tucked behind this Logan Square restaurant is a serene patio that offers a picturesque backdrop for leisurely summer evenings. Chef-owner Joe Frillman plans his menu around the season, whipping up thoughtful, produce-packed pasta dishes that rotate regularly. One dish that will always be on the menu? The addictive onion dip with handmade potato chips.

  • Restaurants
  • Wicker Park

Tucked just off the beaten path in Wicker Park, chef Brian Jupiter's Ina Mae Tavern is a tasty tribute to Southern comfort food and New Orleans. The wraparound sidewalk patio is the perfect place to smash a rum punch cocktail before tucking into an order of hush puppies with pimento honey butter and a fried shrimp po' boy. Wash it all down with a frosty frozen daiquiri.

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  • Restaurants
  • Spanish
  • East Village

Taking over the Black Bull space in Wicker Park is a smile-inducing restaurant that's painted a shade of pink that stops you in your tracks and begs you to look at the menu. You'll be rewarded with Spanish treats made for noshing the day away—and the sprawling patio out front doesn't hurt either. But it's the bar program that will really seal the deal, with more than 35 selections of sherry from across Spain, phenomenal pours of wine, a lineup of gin and tonics and zero-proof cocktails to boot.

  • Restaurants
  • River North

This all-day concept from Lettuce Entertain You serves lunch and dinner, with a menu centered around hand-stretched pizzas, artisanal pastas and grilled seafood. Second only to the food is the sizable outdoor terrace, which hugs the Chicago River and offers breathtaking views of the city. Grab a spritz and take it all in.

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  • Restaurants
  • Hamburgers
  • Wicker Park
  • price 2 of 4

The menu at this Wicker Park offshoot of Au Cheval is stupidly simple: hamburgers, cheeseburgers, fries and booze. Claim your patty and exit the dark, cozy interior in favor of the sunny patio out back. Surrounded by greenery and adorned with bistro lights, the quaint outdoor space transports diners to a casual backyard barbecue.

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

Adding the back patio to St. Lou's Assembly was the best decision they could have made. Don't get us wrong: we love the interor and its ’70s diner vibes, but the airy outdoor space feels like a deluxe backyard, lined with bleacher seating, picnic tables and a bocce ball court. Order some grub and a cocktail from Moneygun and pretend this urban oasis is situated directly behind your apartment.

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  • Restaurants
  • Pizza
  • Lincoln Park
  • price 2 of 4

Located a short walk from the Lincoln Park Zoo, Ranalli's boasts a sidewalk patio that's nearly always packed when the weather cooperates. Snag a seat under one of the red umbrellas and dig into a menu that features buratta, burgers and hearty thin-crust pizzas (the hot honey soppressata is always a good bet). Leave room for dessert from Sugar Junkie, an adjacent concept serving gelato, sorbet, cookies and more.

  • Restaurants
  • Cuban
  • Logan Square
  • price 1 of 4

This sibling location of Clybourn Avenue’s popular Cuban carryout joint is nearly a spitting image of the original—same toasted Cuban sandwiches, same flaky empanadas, same garlicky yuca chips, same potent café con leche. But even if the tiny interior, with its newspaper-covered walls, elicits the same claustrophobia, the big draws here are the spacious front and back patios, tropical ambience and mixers to turn BYO liquor into mojitos.

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  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • Lower West Side

Named after a bygone lumberyard in the area, Pilsen Yards replaces Monnie Burke's with a casual, music-fueled concept that specializes in tacos and other Mexican eats plus a long list of cocktails and beer. There's a pair of outdoor spaces for guests to enjoy—one with wooden beams over ahead and another open-air patio that's festooned with glowing lights.

  • Restaurants
  • Soul and southern American
  • Hyde Park
  • price 2 of 4

The interior dining room at Virtue is a special place, thanks in no small part to the art chef-owner Erick Williams has curated for the space. But come summertime, the sidewalk patio offers diners some fresh air while they feast on chicken- and sausage-studded gumbo, blackened catfish atop Carolina gold rice, and decadent devil's food cake with chocolate ganache.

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  • Restaurants
  • Latin American
  • Bucktown
  • price 1 of 4

This spot is simple, authentic, cheap, supercasual, friendly—and all about the patio that wraps around the kitchen. Start with the hearts of palm salad—tangy stalks on a bed of shredded cabbage tossed in a lime vinaigrette, along with radishes, cilantro, cucumber, pickled beets and ripe avocado. Make it a meal by adding the Guy Fieri-approved steak-and-beans “pepito” sandwich and sweet plantains. Bring a bottle of malbec to match, and end the meal with an oatmeal shake (sounds strange, tastes great).

  • Restaurants
  • Pizza
  • Logan Square

Get a giant New York-style pie to enjoy with some friends on Pizza Lobo's sprawling 4,000-square-foot patio, not far from the Milwaukee Avenue drag in Logan Square. Once you're seated, the hardest decision you'll have to make are between toppings like broccoli rabe, hot honey and 'nduja—plus a respectable selection of beer, wine and cocktails.

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  • Restaurants
  • Loop

Upon entering this breathtaking riverfront oasis, you might catch yourself wondering if you've been transported to a faraway destination. An offshoot of the popular West Town dining destination by the same name, Beatnik On the River draws inspiration from the ’50s and ’60s, offering dishes and drinks from around the globe. The best tables in the house are on the patio, which sits along the Chicago River and is outfitted with colorful tile, Indonesian daybeds and fringe-lined umbrellas. Order a glass of bubbly and stay awhile.

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • River West/West Town
  • price 2 of 4

Inside the ivy-covered walls of this Italian oasis, it’s as lush and romantic as a fairy-tale forest. It’s hard to complain about the light, simple Italian dishes, but the food doesn’t stand a chance against the perfectly balanced setting, bathed in warm, golden light. Antipasti and something from the enormous, reasonably priced Italian wine list is all you need for a perfect summer evening.

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  • Restaurants
  • Logan Square

In Logan Square, there are plenty of action-packed patios to choose from, but not all of them boast one of the best burgers in Chicago. Even on the hottest summer day, this patty is best devoured outdoors. Grab one of the coveted seats on the sidewalk patio, gaze at the Centennial Monument and tuck into layers of melty American cheese, hoisin aioli, pickled jalapeños, pickles, miso butter, sautéed onions and a cloud of sweet potato frizzles.

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

When you say the words "restaurant patio" to a longtime Chicagoan, the packed scene in front of Wicker Park taqueria Big Star probably comes to mind. It's a classic for a reason—the al pastor tacos are delicious, the margaritas arrive by the pitcher and there's enough chips and salsa for everyone to get their fill. And if the Wicker Park location is at capacity, you can try your luck at the newer Wrigleyville outpost.

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  • Restaurants
  • Lincoln Square

We already liked this sweet, veggie-heavy American joint in Ravenswood, but the sprawling patio really sealed the deal. The exterior space mimics the restaurant's interior with plenty of lush greenery and comfy seating—the perfect backdrop for the bar's colorful, bird-themed cocktails.

Find more of the best outdoor spots in Chicago

  • Restaurants

We've found sky-high options to suit every dining mood, whether you're looking to feast on a towering plate of French toast at brunch, grab some classic pub grub or spring for a night out at one of the fanciest hotels. Like all Chicago restaurants, the locations on this list are still subject to capacity limits, so it's best to call ahead or make a reservation before visiting. 

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