When the weather is finally warm, a seat on a restaurant's patio becomes one of the most coveted spots in the city. From casual lunch spots in Pilsen and Logan Square to swanky sidewalk cafes in the Loop and River North, here are 20 places to park it, feed your face, and bask in the sun this summer. See our full list of outdoor dining spots for even more options.
Acanto | Loop | $$$$
At this chummy Loop spot chef Christopher Gawronski offers a collection of busy, indulgent dishes that certainly refer to Italy but mainly address open-minded American appetites. A crispy, gooey-on-the-inside puck of polenta topped with a slab of cotechino and a quail egg would make an appropriate hangover brunch on the greenery-enclosed patio, situated just across Michigan Avenue from Millennium Park. The wine list, which spans the Italian boot, isn't shabby either.
18 S. Michigan, 312-578-0763, acantochicago.com. Lunch, dinner: daily. Sat & Sun brunch.
Boltwood | Evanston | $$$
At former Publican chef de cuisine Brian Huston's vigorously market-driven restaurant in downtown Evanston, he relies on superior products, simply prepared, and it's an MO that rarely fails. The restaurant secured a sidewalk cafe permit earlier this month, so its alfresco seating area should be up and running in no time.
804 Davis, Evanston, 847-859-2880, boltwoodevanston.com. Lunch: Tue-Fri; dinner: Sun, Tue-Sat.
Cocello | River North | $$$
Brendan Sodikoff closed his ill-fated Jewish deli Dillman’s to make way for this pasta-centric spot, which also has smaller groups of salads, antipasti, meat and fish entrees, and the requisite offerings of crudo. Wash down a plate of roasted octopus—served with giant capers and a spicy Calabrian spread called neonata—with one of four house negronis while you people-watch the passersby in River North from a sidewalk four-top table.
354 W. Hubbard, 312-888-9195, cocello.com. Dinner: Tue-Sat. Open late: Fri & Sat till 11:30.
The Duck Inn | Bridgeport | $$$
The Duck Inn is easily the most likable, comfortable, douche-free restaurant ever from Rockit Ranch. Former fine-dining chef Kevin Hickey has imbued the space with the spirit of a neighborhood corner tavern, albeit one with rotisserie duck for two and potted foie gras. Breathe in the Bridgeport air from the back porch or the larger backyard.
2701 S. Eleanor, 312-724-8811, theduckinnchicago.com. Dinner: Tue-Sat. Bar open daily till 2.
Dusek's Board & Beer | Pilsen | $$$
Pilsen's Thalia Hall is home to this beer-centric tavern helmed by chef Jared Wentworth of Longman & Eagle, and no doubt there are some obvious similarities between the two (organs and off cuts, for one), but it's more than just Longman South. The significantly seafood-oriented menu is available from the roughly 20-seat patio—not to mention the two-dozen craft beers on draft.
1227 W. 18th, 312-276-3000. Dinner: daily. Sat & Sun brunch. Open late: Sat till 3, other nights till 2.
Fahlstrom's Fresh Fish Market | Lakeview | $$
The namesake here is Glenn Fahlstrom. You know, Glenn of Glenn's Diner. Despite being the menu's focus, the seafood dishes are hit-or-miss—but the Vienna Beef Reuben amped up with a schmear of chicken liver is good for gorging on while sitting on the roughly 30-seat outdoor patio.
1258 W. Belmont, 773-281-6000, fahlstromsfreshfish.com. Lunch, dinner: daily. Sat & Sun brunch.
Formento's | West Loop | $$$
Formento's is roughly the 859th new Italian restaurant to open in Chicago in recent years, but hey, at least it has covered sidewalk seating. As of earlier this month, red-sauce classics and some weird interpretations of classics (tuna tetrazini minus the pasta plus foam?) can be enjoyed alfresco.
925 W. Randolph, 312-690-7295, formentos.com. Lunch: Mon-Fri, dinner: daily. Open late: Fri & Sat till 11.
Green Street Smoked Meats | West Loop | $$
Brendan Sodikoff's cafeteria-style barbecue joint is summertime incarnate, from the rows of outdoor tables to the smells. The pork ribs are winners and the selection of sides is straight from a family picnic: coleslaw with an herby, bright pop of cilantro; macaroni salad with a distinct citrus tang; and broccoli salad studded with sunflower seeds and packed with dill. Even the cocktails scream summer, like the sweet tea with bourbon.
112 N. Green, 312-754-0434. Lunch: Sat-Sun; dinner: Sun, Tue-Sat. Open late: Tue-Sat till 1.
Ivy's Burgers, Hot Dogs, and Fries | Edgebrook | $
This Edgebrook hot dog stand offers a pretty standard menu done at a higher quality: hamburgers from single-source Nebraska beef, Eisenberg hot dogs with different international preparations, and fresh-cut fries you can salt yourself from the bar of 14 different salt options. Shakes made from Homer's Ice Cream are perfect for sipping outside.
5419 W. Devon, 773-775-2545, ivyschicago.com. Lunch, dinner: daily.
Kaiser Tiger | Near West Side | $$
This beer, bacon, and sausage emporium is not as refined or as interesting as its Randolph Row neighbors. And it’s definitely not as popular—which bodes well for diners who want to snag a seat and sip a craft beer at a picnic table on the patio. Foodwise, the safest bet here is anything with bacon, which shows up on a bacon board (four “gourmet” cuts), in bacon-wrapped dates, in bacon-wrapped shrimp, and in the form of bacon “grenades” (spicy meatballs wrapped in bacon, beer battered, and deep-fried—OK, maybe that’s not so safe).
1415 W. Randolph, 312-243-3100, kaisertiger.com. Lunch: Fri-Sun; dinner: daily. Open late: Sat till 3, other nights till 2.
Leadbelly | Portage Park | $
Leadbelly's, named for the singer of old-time down-and-dirty blues, and its interior looks like a down-and-dirty blues bar, just one that's pretty clean. As for the exterior, on the front patio you'll find umbrella-covered tables at which to indulge in burgers piled so high with bacon, cheese, and an alarming array of house-made condiments that you wonder how you'll be able to open your mouth wide enough to take a bite.
5739 W. Irving Park, 773-283-7880, leadbellyburgers.com. Lunch: Sun; dinner: Tue-Sat.
Oak + Char | River North | $$
The chef in charge is Joseph Heppe, who makes worlds collide, combining elements of disparate cuisines in single dishes. The restaurant's recently launched brunch menu, featuring things like a fried-oyster Benedict and a smoked chicken omelet, is available from a roughly 50-person sidewalk seating area.
217 W. Huron, 312-643-2427, oakandchar.com. Lunch: Mon-Fri; dinner: daily. Sat & Sun brunch. Open late: Thu-Sat till midnight.
Osteria Langhe | Logan Square | $$$
The top-to-bottom Piemontese menu features simple, minimally seasoned dishes that rely heavily on the quality of their elemental ingredients, particularly those hailing from the hilly subregion of northwestern Italy that gives the restaurant its name. It became slightly easier to get a table at the small spot earlier this month, when five cafe tables for two appeared on the sidewalk out front.
2824 W. Armitage, 773-661-1582, osterialanghe.com. Dinner: daily. Sun brunch. Open late: Fri & Sat till 11.
Parson's Chicken & Fish | Logan Square | $$
This perpetually mobbed facsimile of a fast-food chicken and fish shack is just as devoted to drinking, with respectable selections of spirits, beer, and wine and about a half-dozen house cocktails, including the signature Negroni slushy, to be enjoyed on the enormous, picnic-table-littered outdoor patio—probably the biggest in Logan Square.
2952 W. Armitage, 773-384-3333, parsonschickenandfish.com. Lunch, dinner: daily. Open late: Sat till 3, other nights till 2.
The Promontory | Hyde Park | $$$
The culinary heart of this Hyde Park spot from the Longman & Eagle folks is a blazing bonfire in the open kitchen. And outside things heat up on the enormous patio.
5311 S. Lake Park Ave. W., 312-801-2100, promontorychicago.com, dinner: daily, Open late: Fri & Sat till 1, other nights till 11.
River Roast | River North | $$$$
A huge space with a patio that hovers just above the river, River Roast has a menu that centers around—no surprise—roasted meat: a whole chicken, a whole fish, and eight-ounce portions of sliced beef sirloin. The array of diverse small plates and sides, like a Scotch egg and a variety of dense, meaty terrines, are the best bets.
315 N. LaSalle, 312-822-0100, riverroastchicago.com. Lunch: Mon-Fri; dinner: daily. Sat & Sun brunch. Open late: Fri & Sat till 11.
The Rocking Horse | Logan Square | $
Logan Square's favorite purveyor of tater tots—served plain or with white truffle aioli, pork ragu, giardiniera and beef, or cheese curds and gravy—has an outdoor patio now for a change of atmosphere from the barstaurant's cool, dim interior. There's brunch too, a perfect venue for discussing all the horrible things you did at the Owl the night before.
2535 N. Milwaukee, 773-486-0011, rockinghorsechicago.com. Lunch, dinner: daily. Sat & Sun brunch. Open late: Sat till 3, other nights till 2.
Seven Lions | Loop | $$$$
Restaurateur (and former Check, Please! host) Alpana Singh and chef Chris Curren present a tourist-friendly, vaguely steak-house-like menu at this spot a stone's throw from the Art Institute. Familiar but well-executed options like burrata, seared scallops, seared salmon, a pork chop, and a half chicken—and an impressive but approachable selection of wines—are available from sidewalk tables with views of the park.
130 S. Michigan, 312-880-0130, sevenlionschicago.com. Dinner: daily. Sat & Sun brunch.
Taus Authentic | Wicker Park | $$$
Michael Taus's menu makes lots of references to various global cuisines—mostly Asian, but also Spanish, North African, Greek, and Italian, all represented within the framework of the classic French technique he was trained in. The flavors don’t always pop like the menu promises, but the enormous outdoor seating area (it used to belong to Prasino) is a good place to enjoy items like the curry-dosed dosa.
1846 W. Division, 312-561-4500, tausauthentic.com. Dinner: Sun, Tue-Sat. Sun brunch.
White Oak Tavern & Inn | Lincoln Park | $$$
A meal at Lincoln Park's White Oak Tavern & Inn consists of earthy, soulful dishes made with products sourced almost religiously from the midwest, thanks to Alinea vet John Asbaty. Mike Sula says the cheeseburger is among the best things he's eaten in years. And if you have a little too much fun eating and imbibing at outdoor seating areas along Racine and Webster, it really is an inn.
1200 W. Webster, 773-555-1212, whiteoakchicago.com. Dinner: Tue-Sat. Sat & Sun brunch. Open late: Fri & Sat till 11.
And Our Top Picks for . . .
Correction: Davanti Enoteca in Little Italy was removed from this list because it no longer offers rooftop seating.