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The best outdoor restaurants in Chicago

To keep getting that vitamin D all season long, we've found the best outdoor restaurants, cafés and gardens in the city

Photograph: Martha Williams
Picolo Sogno Due

Peel off those winter layers, get some fresh air, start soaking up that vitamin D and find the best things to do in the summer. There are only so many blue sky days in a year, so don't wait to start dining on the patios, decks and gardens of these amazing Chicago restaurants. From Mexican restaurants to spots for Italian food, here's where to eat outside. 

RECOMMENDED: Beer gardens, rooftop bars and outdoor dining spots in Chicago

Outdoor restaurants in Chicago

1

Parson's Chicken & Fish

The sprawling patio at the Logan Square restaurant is the place to be, and there are light-wood picnic tables, striped umbrellas, strings of lights, spindly trees and ping-pong tables. Ordering a negroni slushie 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.

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Logan Square
2

The Dawson

The huge 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, like frosty mai tais.

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River West/West Town
3

Bang Bang Pie Shop

They say the pie is the thing at this instantly beloved Logan Square shop. And it's true: The pie's terrific. But don't overlook the coffee, the insane biscuits (with a spread of housemade jams and butters) or the huge yard, strung with lights and filled with picnic tables and lush greenery.

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Logan Square
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4

90 Miles Cuban Café

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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Logan Square
5

Irazú

Never tried Costa Rican food? This spot is simple, authentic, cheap, supercasual, friendly—and all about the outdoor patio. 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 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).

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Bucktown
6

Honey Butter Fried Chicken

The fried chicken spot has a great patio, with picnic tables, strings of lights and heat lamps, so you can take your lunch or dinner outside on even slightly cool days.

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Avondale
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7

Boka

The terrace at Boka is nice and secluded, and we really can't get enough of the food chef Lee Wolen cooks. For an upscale alfresco date, this is the restaurant you should head to.

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Lincoln Park
8

Gather

Gather's 40-seat, covered terrace in Lincoln Square features shareable dishes like a Gathering Board of charcuterie and pickled vegetables, to be accompanied by summery wine coolers served by the glass and pitcher.

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Lincoln Square
9

Portillo's

The second location of the hot dog chain in the city serves up the same dishes you've come to know and love at Portillo's. Stop by for a quick lunch for an Italian beef or a Chicago dog and crinkle fries and finish off your meal with a cake shake. Plus, at this location you can sit at the patio and enjoy your meal.

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West Loop
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10

Piccolo Sogno

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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River West/West Town
11

Chez Joël

If it’s a scene you’re after, you’re in the wrong place. The only scene at Chez Joël is an antiscene: Nobody’s dressed to impress you (not that they don’t look nice), and the music is straight from the playlist of Gérard Depardieu. Joël’s brick-laid courtyard is a respite from all that, a quiet spot where the pâtés are creamy and the Champagne is cold.

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Little Italy, UIC
12

Parlor Pizza Bar

While the inside of this bar can feel a little bit like Wrigleyville (especially on game day), the patio has both low and high-tops and a ping pong table to entertain yourself. Plus, it's totally gorgeous and just the spot to enjoy a pizza, a beer and the Cubs game. 

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West Loop
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13

Bistro Campagne

With a name that translates as “countryside bistro,” this restaurant is so warm and inviting we could stay all night. Ingredients are fresh and meld into French bistro classics with unforgettable flavors. There isn’t a bad thing on the menu, but if we had to limit ourselves, we’d go with onion soup, mussels steamed in Belgian ale, roasted chicken and pan-seared hanger steak flanked by amazing frites. Oh, and if you can snag a table on the romantic back patio, you have the makings of a perfect summer night.

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Lincoln Square
14

La Sirena Clandestina

John Manion's La Sirena Clandestina opens its 30-seat patio for both lunch and dinner, so you can start early drinking those capirinhas and eating Latin fare. Since you're there early, you might as well stay for happy hour, which starts at 3pm during the week.

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West Loop
15

El Cid

This Mexican mainstay has an amazing back patio; potent and fruity margaritas; sweet-as-pie servers; and decent dishes for a nice price. Favorites include tilapia tacos, inky black beans with perfect white rice, plantains with crispy edges and the giant red snapper with crispy coating. The potato tacos keep vegetarians happy, as does the ever-present owner, José, who’s quick to pour tequila shots for newcomers and old friends.

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Logan Square
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16

Publican Quality Meats

This West Loop staple may have just a sidewalk patio, but it's a beloved sidewalk patio—once the weather warms up, you'll hardly see anyone chowing down on their sandwiches and meat and cheese plates inside, with the sunny patio making for outside digs that feel just right.

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West Loop

Find more of the best outdoor spots in Chicago

Best outdoor bars in Chicago

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.

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By: Time Out Chicago editors

Comments

4 comments
Sam_Hickey

If you are a fan of outdoor restaurants, it would be a good idea for you to invest in an outdoor grill and cabana. This way you will have a beautiful backyard for enjoying a relaxing time or even some of your romantic dates.


Ive N

An article headlined "The best outdoor restaurants in Chicago" should have pictures of the outdoor seating atmosphere. Better use of headlines next time, or images. Just a thought. 

Kelsey K

You're missing Masa Azul and Billy Sunday. Billy Sunday has one of the best patios in the city and it seems to be missing from nearly all of your lists.