Outdoor restaurants in Chicago
You enter through an unmarked alleyway, glowing strings of lights leading you to a cobblestone courtyard and ornate parlor that resemble a Parisian hideaway. You forget where you are. You order glasses of champagne you’ve never heard of, you gently unhinge oysters from their shells, and when dessert comes, your selection is plucked from a fanciful cart, replete with bite-size macaroons. Heaven? Who needs it when there’s RM?
This summer, Chicagoans have two Parson's to choose from: the original location in Logan Square and the new outpost in Lincoln Park. Expect both umbrella-dotted patios to be packed no matter the day or time. 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.
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 the shareable champagne whiskey punch with notes of raspberry and lemon.
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.
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 80-seat 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.
Here's the game plan: Spend the morning soaking up the sun and views at Promontory Point, then, when hunger strikes, head to the Promontory and ask for a table on the sprawling outdoor patio. Order a cocktail and a cheeseburger. Repeat as necessary.
The interior of Honey Butter Fried Chicken is almost always overflowing with diners, but luckily, there's a sizable fenced-in patio out back to handle the masses on warm summer days. (They turn on the heat lamps when it gets chilly, too). If you're dining with a group, order eight pieces with all the fixings and dig in.
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.
Light and loveliness abound at this U of C-adjacent spot, courtesy of a southerly wall of windows that offers diners a profile view of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House. The best seats in the house are on the patio, which is surrounded by lush greenery and flowers.
The sprawling, bar-equipped patio at Monnie Burke's is a not-so-hidden gem in Pilsen. Spring for the frozen sangria with pisco, apple brandy, chicha morada (a Peruvian drink made with purple corn), citrus and strawberry.
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.
What used to be a raucous outdoor scene filled with buckets o' beer and chicken fingers has transformed into a grown and sexy retreat with colorful swizzles and hamachi crudo. This Boka Restaurant Group spot is an ideal retreat after a day of shopping and frolicking in the Gold Coast.
An early frontrunner for best new patio of the year, Tied House's intimate, 48-seat outdoor 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.
Pie and biscuits are the main attractions at this beloved Logan Square hotspot. On sunny mornings, take your spoils out to the "pie garden" and commandeer one of the large communal tables surrounded by lush greenery. The restaurant is family-friendly, making it an ideal spot to cozy up for Sunday brunch with the whole gang.
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.
We already liked this sweet, veggie-heavy American joint in Ravenswood, but the 120-seat 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.
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).
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.
While the interior of this West Loop spot gives off serious Wrigleyville vibes (especially on game day), the massive 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
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.