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Alfresco!

Our annual, invaluable guide to outdoor dining

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Park Grill

11 N. Michigan | 312-521-7275

$$$

AMERICAN, CONTEMPORARY/REGIONAL, BAR/LOUNGE | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | SATURDAY & SUNDAY BRUNCH

Proximity to Michigan Avenue and Millennium Park keep this place crowded, and dining on the patio, the winter home of the McCormick Tribune ice rink, is by request only, so don't expect to waltz in. Another reason for the crowd might be the solid American cooking of Bernard Laskowski (Bin 36, MK North), though there's not much out of the ordinary—fried calamari, an array of salads, and carnivore pleasers from the grill, like a 16-ounce bone-in rib eye or Kobe burger. —Laura Levy Shatkin

Pasta d'Arte

6311 N. Milwaukee | 773-763-1181

$$$

Italian | Lunch: Tuesday-Friday; Dinner: seven days | open late: friday & saturday till 11

This Norwood Park restaurant serves terrific regional dishes like bucatini manzo, hollow pasta served with a homey short-rib tomato sauce; even the bread stands out. House-made pastas include decadent lobster ravioli in a rich cream sauce and gnocchi with Gorgonzola and walnuts. An appetizer of tender long-stemmed grilled artichokes came piled with salad and good-quality prosciutto and Parmesan and drizzled with balsamic vinegar. Large family groups tend to fill the courtyard (which has a retractable roof) and narrow dining room, and there's a charming bar in the back of the house as well as a small sidewalk cafe out in front; service is polished and professional. Don't miss the house-made limoncello and gelato from Angelo Gelato. —Kate Schmidt

Pegasus

130 S. Halsted | 312-226-3377

$$

GREEK | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL MIDNIGHT, OTHER NIGHTS TILL AT LEAST 11

On a Saturday night at nine my group of 13 was able to walk right in and be seated. Everyone enjoyed the dishes, from a fava dip, cheese phyllo squares, and salads to a gyros platter, Athenian chicken, and arni yuvetsaki (lamb baked in a clay pot with orzolike Rosa Marina pasta and a red wine sauce). The rooftop patio offers a first-class view of the downtown skyline. —Susannah J. Felts

Piccolo Sogno

464 N. Halsted | 312-421-0077

$$$

ITALIAN | lunch: monday-friday; DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 11

Ex Coco Pazzo chef Tony Priolo and vino pro Ciro Longobardo's Piccolo Sogno, or "little dream," offers one of the most idyllic outdoor dining areas in the city—and on most evenings, a parking lot packed with Beemers and Lexuses. But working through flat-tasting but ample meaty dishes like thick slabs of Roman-style porchetta or wine-braised beef brasato takes effort, especially in the aftermath of overpowering earlier courses such as greasy fried fontina-stuffed zucchini flowers. Someone knows what they're doing with pastas, though, particularly the house-made green-and-white fettuccine with veal ragu. Service was well-informed and practically heroic in reaction to a kitchen clearly in the weeds. —Mike Sula

Prosecco

710 N. Wells | 312-951-9500

$$$$

ITALIAN | lunch: monday-friday; DINNER: MONDAY-SATURDAY | closed sunday | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY-SATURDAY TILL 11

Prosecco is the sort of top-heavy place where phalanxes of handsome managers in dark suits do a lot of glad-handing while the lone guy bringing out the food is practically running. That top-heavy philosophy applies equally to the kitchen, which seems to operate under the rule of thumb "when in doubt, add butter—and truffles." Orechiette tartufate was a devastatingly rich plate of pasta tossed with wild mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and a whole lot of black truffle cream and white truffle oil. We had better luck with a Cornish game hen, whose stuffing of porcini mushrooms, sausage, chestnuts, and black truffles delivered enough smoky, nutty flavor to give the dish structure. We shared the pasta and an appetizer, a trio of white tuna, ahi tuna, and salmon crudo—only the citrusy salmon really sang. And though we steered clear of the veal chop, the filet mignon, and the gold-leaf-dusted risotto, the bill still came to more than $200. The patio is delightfully decorated with lanterns, lots of wrought iron and greenery, and a Persian carpet. —Martha Bayne

The Purple Pig

500 N. Michigan | 312-464-1744

$$

SMALL PLATES, BAR/LOUNGE, MEDITERRANEAN | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 1, OTHER NIGHTS TILL MIDNIGHT | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

Snout-to-tail cooking is the name of the game at The Purple Pig, a convivial take on an Italian enoteca from Scott Harris (Mia Francesca), Jimmy Bannos Sr. (Heaven on Seven), and chef Jimmy Bannos Jr. While there was no actual snout, sow's ear became the proverbial silk purse in crunchy-chewy fried strips with crispy kale, marinated cherry peppers, and a fried egg to mix in, all served in a cute wine-colored pig bowl. But not all the pleasures are porcine at this noisy spot, where diners perch on bar stools, at high communal tables, along the banquette, or out on a narrow patio. There are also cold antipasti like expertly seasoned giant Greek lima beans, crisply fried sardines crisscrossed over a refreshing salad of shaved fennel in a lemon vinaigrette, or a glossy golden quail on a puddle of salsify puree ringed by a drizzle of pomegranate syrup, plus a fairly extensive list of cheeses. The all-European wine list has at least 50 bottles for $40 or less; any can be ordered by the half bottle, and quite a few are also available by the glass or quartino. —Anne Spiselman

The Red Canary

695 N. Milwaukee | 312-846-1475

$$

bar/lounge, CONTEMPORARY/REGIONAL | DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | SATURDAY & SUNDAY BRUNCH | OPEN LATE: Monday-Friday till 2, SATURDAY TILL 3, Sunday till midnight

A throbbing "gastrolounge," the Red Canary is a clubby cavern done up in an overfamiliar Fauxhibition style that's at odds with the juvenile vodka-dominated cocktail list and tableside keg service. The most interesting element of the space is the long, tinted window into the kitchen, which makes the crew appear to be a pack of laboring molemen, bent over fussy platings that might never be noticed on the dimly lit club floor. A new menu of "comfort food" features appetizers of buffalo shrimp and bacon-wrapped scallops and main dishes including seafood pot pie and baby back ribs. Out back is a dressy patio filled with dressy types. —Mike Sula

Resi's Bierstube

2034 W. Irving Park | 773-472-1749

$$

GERMAN/AUSTRIAN, BAR/LOUNGE | DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: SATURDAY TILL 3, OTHER NIGHTS TILL 2

Regulars like this German beer parlor for the filling traditional fare—classics like schnitzel, sausages with sauerkraut, goulash, and potato pancakes. But the real draw are the beers, currently 15 on tap and more than 100 bottled. In warm weather the charming tree-lined outdoor patio is lantern lit, with picnic tables for seating, and the atmosphere is generally mellow and cheerful. —Laura Levy Shatkin

Roof

201 N. State | 312-239-9501

$$

BAR/LOUNGE, SMALL PLATES, PIZZA | LUNCH: FRIDAY-SUNDAY; DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: SUNDAY-TUESDAY TILL MIDNIGHT, WEDNESDAY-SATURDAY TILL 2 | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

From its opening, SRO crowds have been lining up to get onto the glass-walled patio of Roof, the industrial-sleek black-and-gray lounge on the 27th floor of the new Wit Hotel. Soul music pulsates insistently as waitresses in short black outfits navigate among booths, living room-like areas, and long communal stone tables. There's a decent selection of bottled beers and mostly European wines by the glass or bottle. Truth to tell, chef Todd Stein's 20 small plates ($5-$16) are more enticing than they need to be—I loved the salmon crudo, five slices of buttery fish set off by a subtle lemon emulsion, pine nuts, and cured Calabrian chiles. Two tips: arrive around the 3 PM opening time if you want to eat in relative quiet, and if it's not reserved for a private party, check out "the hangover," a table for eight on a smaller patio that has the best views. —Anne Spiselman

Rootstock Wine & Beer Bar

954 N. California | 773-292-1616

$

BAR/LOUNGE, SMALL PLATES | DINNER: MONDAY-SATURDAY | CLOSED SUNDAY | OPEN LATE: SATURDAY TILL 3, MONDAY-FRIDAY TILL 2 | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

The main attraction here, not surprisingly, is the intriguing list of small-batch beverages put together by a trio of Webster's Wine Bar vets. There are a good many interesting selections—including a passel of wines from Greece, Austria, and unusual spots like Slovenia—among the more than 60 bottles and 17 available by the glass. But executive chef Remy Ayesh's tight, well-curated menu of small and midsize plates, cheese, and charcuterie is no afterthought, peppered with items engineered to trigger Pavlovian gushes of saliva: bar plates include a few sweet and savory duos, including bacon toffee with spiced mixed nuts. Among the generally solid larger plates, the loosely packed burger with bacon-chive aioli is super. This is a fine spot to take a sip or two, dark and comfy with an outdoor patio that in the warmer months brightens an otherwise stark intersection. —Mike Sula

Rose Angelis

1314 W. Wrightwood | 773-296-0081

$$

ITALIAN | DINNER: SUNDAY, TUESDAY-SATURDAY | closed monday | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 11 | RESERVATIONS FOR LARGE GROUPS ONLY

The four adjoining rooms of this Lincoln Park storefront feel intimate even when they're crowded, and the reasonably priced entrees are so large that doggie bags are the norm. The bruschetta is a rustic version with huge chunks of tomato; pizzas have a nice thin crust, and most entrees are classic pasta dishes like linguine with seafood in tomato sauce and a massive eggplant parmigiana in a sweet red sauce. More ambitious are the delicate duck-filled tortelloni (served with spinach, tomato, and melted mozzarella in a cognac reduction) and a portobello ripiene. The two outdoor patios are flower filled and protected from the street. —Laura Levy Shatkin

Sheffield's

3258 N. Sheffield | 773-281-4989

$$

BAR/LOUNGE, AMERICAN, BARBECUE/RIBS | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: SATURDAY TILL 3, OTHER NIGHTS TILL 2 | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

Ric Hess, owner of this Wrigleyville tavern, spent months perfecting three house-made sauces (Memphis, Texas, and North Carolina style) for the barbecue turned out by his wood-burning Southern Pride smokers. His pulled pork is pretty respectable, served with properly tangy coleslaw and a tasty and properly vinegary mustard-based sauce, and sides including red-skin potato salad, corn bread, and collards with bacon show the care being taken in the kitchen. There are tons of craft brews on tap and by the bottle, and the staff is chipper and superfriendly. Outside there's seating in a leafy walled courtyard. —Kate Schmidt

The Southern

1840 W. North | 773-342-1840

$$

BAR/LOUNGE, CONTEMPORARY/REGIONAL | DINNER: SUNDAY, TUESDAY-SATURDAY | SUNDAY BRUNCH | CLOSED MONDAY | OPEN LATE: SATURDAY TILL 3, TUESDAY-FRIDAY TILL 2, SUNDAY TILL MIDNIGHT | RESERVATIONS FOR LARGE GROUPS ONLY

"I'll remember the food this time," said the friend I brought to the Southern, who'd accompanied me when I reviewed this Wicker Park restaurant's previous incarnation, Chaise Lounge. The Southern's slightly refined Dixie-inspired fare in a casual bar setting is a much better platform for chef Cary Taylor's talents. We nibbled on slim, tortillalike johnnycakes served taco-style with soft, vinegary pork and sweet chow-chow (pickled vegetable relish) that was served in a little canning jar. Red pepper dressed up cheddary shrimp and grits, making for a colorful rendition of this classic. There's a wide selection of whiskey, old-fashioned cocktails, and southern beers like Abita's Turbodog and Southern Star Bombshell Blonde Ale. —Heather Kenny

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