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Mama Delia patio
Photograph: Courtesy Mama Delia

The 20 best outdoor restaurants in Chicago

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

By Morgan Olsen
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Outdoor dining has long been a beloved summertime tradition for Chicagoans, but this summer, patios have taken on new importance. Some of the best restaurants in Chicago have expanded their footprint with serene sidewalk patios, lush outdoor gardens and sun-soaked decks. Grab a seat at the best outdoor restaurants in Chicago and treat yourself to some of the city's top eats with a side of Vitamin D. Want to enjoy one of the best burgers in Chicago while getting fresh air? Mini Mott has you covered. Craving incredible Italian fare for date night? Head to Truth Italian Restaurant. It goes without saying that dining alfresco is one of the best things to do in Chicago. 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

The best of the city

Time Out Market Chicago
Photograph: Gosia Matuszewska

Time Out Market Chicago

Restaurants West Loop

In addition to 50,000 square feet of indoor space, Time Out Market has a brand-new dog-friendly patio that's dotted with umbrella-topped picnic tables. Snag a seat and pull up food and drink menus from your phone for contactless ordering. We'll give you a buzz when your tacos and rosé are ready to be picked up. Psst! End your trip with one last cocktail on the rooftop bar on the third floor of Time Out Market Chicago.

Outdoor restaurants in Chicago

tzuco
Photograph: Courtesy Tzuco

1. Tzuco

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.

Parson's Chicken & Fish is one of the best outdoor dining options in Chicago.
Photograph: Clayton Hauck

2. Parson’s Chicken & Fish

Restaurants Soul and southern American Logan Square

This summer, Chicagoans have two Parson's to choose from: the original location in Logan Square and the newer outpost in Lincoln Park. 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.

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frontier, brian jupiter
Photograph: Meghan Leigh Photography

3. Frontier

Restaurants Contemporary American River West/West Town

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.

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

4. The Duck Inn

Restaurants American Bridgeport

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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The Dawson
Photograph: Martha Williams

5. The Dawson

Restaurants American River West/West Town

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, like the shareable champagne whiskey punch with notes of raspberry and lemon.

6. Truth Italian Restaurant

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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daisies
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

7. Daisies

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.

Mama Delia patio
Photograph: Courtesy Mama Delia

8. Mama Delia

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.

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ina mae, jaclyn rivas
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

9. Ina Mae Tavern & Packaged Goods

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.

pizzeria portofino, patio, river, pizza
Photograph: Melissa Hom

10. Pizzeria Portofino

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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Small Cheval
Photograph: Kevin J. Miyazaki

11. Small Cheval

Restaurants Hamburgers Wicker Park

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.

219.x600.feat.alfresco.90miles.jpg
Photograph: Martha Williams

12. 90 Miles Cuban Café

Restaurants Cuban Logan Square

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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virute, patio
Photograph: Courtesy Virtue

13. Virtue

Restaurants Soul and southern American Hyde Park

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.

beatnik on the river, beatnik, patio, outdoor
Photograph: Francis Son

14. Beatnik On the River

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.

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Mini Mott, Mott, Burger, Wings, logan square
Photograph: Morgan Olsen

15. Mini Mott

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 and tuck into layers of melty American cheese, hoisin aioli, pickled jalapeños, pickles, miso butter, sautéed onions and a cloud of sweet potato frizzles.

16. Piccolo Sogno

Restaurants Italian River West/West Town

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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tied house, patio
Photograph: Berga & Gonzalez

17. Tied House

Restaurants Lake View

Tied House's intimate space is downright dreamy. Though it's situated off busy Southport Avenue, the trellis-covered nook is an otherworldly retreat with overhead heat lamps and a lavish fireplace for those chilly summer nights. As if that weren't enough, the patio is pup-friendly, a big perk for neighborhood dog owners.

warbler
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

18. The Warbler

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.

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irazu
Photograph: Allison Williams

19. Irazú

Restaurants Latin American Bucktown

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).

Photograph: Courtesy Parlor Pizza

20. Parlor Pizza Bar

Restaurants Pizza West Loop

While the interior of this West Loop spot gives off serious Wrigleyville vibes (especially on game day), the jumbo-sized patio offers a bit more room to spread out with a pizza and a round of beers.

Find more of the best outdoor spots in Chicago

Kaiser Tiger
Photograph: Courtesy Kaiser Tiger

Best outdoor bars in Chicago

Bars

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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