Chicago Reader Summer Guide to Outdoor Dining

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Summer Guide: Alfresco dining

Bees be damned! Thirty great restaurant patios

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After a fitful spring, hundreds of the city's restaurants are offering outdoor dining while they can. Here we've selected some notable spots among them; for more patio lazing, search our restaurant database or bar guide.

[Recommended] Anteprima | Andersonville $$$

Owner Marty Fosse's neighborhood Italian place has many virtues, among them a changing menu tailored to the season and a charming if frequently packed back patio; it's first come, first served. 5316 N. Clark, 773-506-9990, anteprimachicago.net. Lunch: Sun; dinner: daily. Open late: Fri & Sat till 11.

[Recommended] Antico | Bucktown $$$

Tucked into a former antique store just off Armitage, Antico is an intimate neighborhood restaurant serving classic Italian dishes including scene-stealing house-made gnocchi. Out back there's garden seating—literally; chef-owner Brad Schlieder grows his own herbs, kale, and other vegetables for the kitchen. 1946 N. Leavitt, 773-489-4895, anticochicago.com. Dinner: Sun, Tue-Sat.

[Recommended] Barcito | River North $$

The pinxtos bar within the cavernous Tavernita is a place to see and be seen—though perhaps not heard. A narrow outdoor patio provides a respite from some of the racket, all the better to enjoy pintxos like a tender pork belly bocadillo (little sandwich) or toasts with grilled vegetables, velvety goat cheese, and almond romesco. Barcito opens at 3 PM daily. 151 W. Erie, 312-274-1111, standandeat.com. Dinner: daily. Open late: Fri-Sun till 1, Mon-Thu till midnight.

[Recommended] Big Star | Wicker Park $

Paul Kahan and company's biggest hit is a surefire good time with the downside of a surefire long wait, a small price to pay for tacos on fresh, house-made tortillas and a cheap beer or well-engineered cocktail.The patio is slated for an expansion this summer; in the meantime, the take-out window is always an option. Cash only. 1531 N. Damen, 773-235-4039, bigstarchicago.com. Lunch, dinner: daily. Open late: Sat till 3, other nights till 2.

[Recommended] Birchwood Kitchen | Wicker Park $

The words local, seasonal, and sustainable have real meaning at this sandwich shop, where the house-roasted meats, largely sourced in the midwest, are served on Labriola and Red Hen breads. The back patio adds to the pleasant atmosphere. BYO. 2211 W. North, 773-276-2100, birchwoodkitchen.com. Breakfast, lunch, dinner: Tue-Fri. Sat & Sun brunch.

[Recommended] Briciola | Ukrainian Village $$$

The spicy chitarra "sciue" "sciue"—long noodles in a zesty red sauce with a generous amount of shrimp, squid, and clam—is lovely, and so are seasonal specials like bruschetta with juicy tomatoes served at their prime. For that matter, so is the stone-lined patio, lined with greenery and strung with lights.BYO. 937 N. Damen, 773-772-0889, briciolachicago.com. Dinner: Sun, Tue-Sat.

Bridge House Tavern | River North $$$

Stretched alongside the river at Clark Street, Bridge House Tavern has one of the finest outdoor patios in the city, offering a view so spectacular it's nearly enough to distract from the lackluster food. Nearly. 321 N. Clark, 312-644-0283, bridgehousetavern.com. Lunch, dinner: daily. Sat & Sun brunch. Open late: every night till 2.

[Recommended] Chief O'Neill's | Avondale $$

The entire bar and most of the staff at this northwest-side pub were imported from Ireland, and the large menu features a section devoted to "Emerald Isle favorites" like lamb stew and authentic bangers and mash. The beer garden's lively and large. 3471 N. Elston, 773-583-3066, chiefoneillspub.com. Lunch: Sat; dinner: daily. Sun brunch. Open late: Sat till 3, other nights till 2.

Davanti Enoteca | Little Italy $$

Scott Harris's bustling, rustic Taylor Street wine bar offers shareable small plates such as sardine ripiene al forno andvasi, mini mason jars fillled with spreads like smooth, dense ricotta or chicken liver paté. Rooftop seating is first come, first served. 1359 W. Taylor, 312-226-5550, davantichicago.com. Lunch: Mon-Fri; dinner: daily. Open late: Fri & Sat till midnight.

D.S. Tequila Company | Lakeview $$

Located in the heart of Boystown, D.S. Tequila Company has all the usual features of a sports bar—tons of flat-screen TVs, blaring music, and Bud, Coors, and Miller Lite on tap alongside marginally more exotic options like Negra Modelo. But the food, mostly Mexican and burgers, is a cut above normal bar fare, and there's a large patio complete with a fire pit. 3352 N. Halsted, 773-697-9127, dstequila.com. Lunch, dinner: daily. Sat & Sun brunch. Open late: Sat till 3, other nights till 2.

[Recommended] Edgewater Lounge | Edgewater $

The only problem with the Edgewater Lounge is that if you live in the neighborhood or nearby, it can easily become the only place you go. But there are worse fates—the patio's a fantastic place to spend, well, an entire summer. Often crowded, but not annoyingly so. 5600 N. Ashland, 773-878-3343, edgewaterlounge.com. Lunch, dinner: daily. Open late: Sat till 3, other nights till 2.

[Recommended] Enoteca Roma | Wicker Park $$

This laid-back wine bar is an extension of Letizia's Natural Bakery, and shares its back garden seating as well as a menu with bruschetta, pizzas, salads, and a number of meat, cheese, bread, and olive combinations—the salumi plates alone are enough for a light meal. 2146 W. Division, 773-772-7700, enotecaroma.com. Dinner: daily. Open late: Fri & Sat till 11.

[Recommended] Feed | Humboldt Park $

Needless to say, at a chicken shack with a chalkboard menu that begins 1/4 chicken, 1/2 chicken, whole chicken, get the chicken. To round that out there are more than a dozen sides, plus pie and fluffy, creamy banana pudding with Nilla Wafers. Enter the serene brick patio from California. Cash only; BYO. 2803 W. Chicago, 773-489-4600, feedrestaurantchicago.com. Breakfast: Mon-Fri; lunch, dinner: daily. Sat & Sun brunch.

Fiorentino's Cucina Italiana | Lakeview $$$

You might be greeted by Signora Fiorentino herself at this family-run restaurant with a menu that shows her Sicilian heritage. The pleasant terra-cotta side patio is planted with flowers, fresh herbs, and ivy. 2901 N. Ashland, 773-244-3026, fiorentinoscucina.com. Dinner: daily. Open late: Fri & Sat till 11.

[Recommended] Fountainhead | Ravenswood $$

The menu's now overseen by Cleetus Friedman of City Provisions (and much more vegetarian friendly); the fine beer selection, about one-third imports, is the responsibility of Phil Kuhl, formerly of Sheffield's Beer School Bar. On most nights you can choose from 26 taps and two firkins, and there are many varieties of cider and scotch whiskey. The rooftop patio is equipped with a fireplace. 1970 W. Montrose, 773-697-8204, fountainheadchicago.com. Lunch: Sat; dinner: daily. Sun brunch. Open late: Sat till 3, other nights till 2.

Gather | Lincoln Square $$

Gather, right across from the Old Town School in the space that formerly housed Tallulah and LM Bistro, features a seasonal menu of shareable plates, appetizers, and entrees from Trotter's vet Ken Carter. One thing has remained constant through the changes of tenant: the lovely garden patio out back. 4539 N. Lincoln, 773-506-9300, gatherchicago.com. Dinner: daily. Sun brunch. Open late: Fri & Sat till midnight, Thu till 11.

[Recommended] Grandview Tavern & Beer Garden | West Town $$

The former Cafe Fresco, now "rebranded" as a neighborhood tap and sports bar, retains its friendly staff, solid menu, and enclosed garden patio lined with ivy-covered walls. 1202 W. Grand, 312-733-6378, grandviewtavernchicago.com. Lunch, dinner: daily. Open late: Sat till 3, other nights till 2.

Homestead | East Village $$

This restaurant on the roof of Roots Handmade Pizza has one of the loveliest outdoor dining areas in the city: cornstalks, ivy, honeysuckle, and tomatoes climb one wall, and there's a large central garden. The concept—billed as "literal farm-to-table"—is nice too, the idea being that the menu will feature produce grown on-site. Under new chef Chris Curren (Blue 13, Stout Barrel House & Galley) and new mixologist Benjamin Schiller (formerly of the Boka group), Homestead should fulfill its promise. It's slated to reopen at the end of May. 1924 W. Chicago, 773-645-4949, homesteadontheroof.com. Dinner: Sun, Tue-Sat. Open late: Sat till 3; Sun, Tue-Fri till 2.

[Recommended] Hopleaf | Andersonville $$

It's most famous for its selection of Belgian beers—almost half of the downstairs bar's 41 taps on any given day, plus the majority of its frankly intimidating bottle menu—but you'll reliably find rare and extraordinary American crafts too, not to mention good food to go along with them. 5148 N. Clark, 773-334-9851, hopleaf.com. Lunch, dinner: daily. Open late: Sat till 3, other nights till 2.

Moody's Pub | Edgewater $

The interior of Moody's, est. 1959, might be called German-cavernous, but the patio is really where the action's at: it's an expansive spot where crowds of neighborhood patrons fill the picnic tables clamoring for the decent burgers, cheap beer, and sweating pitchers of sangria. Cash only. 5910 N. Broadway, 773-275-2696, moodyspub.com. Lunch, dinner: daily. Open late: Sat till 2, other nights till 1.

[Recommended] Nightwood | Pilsen $$$

Kevin Heisner's sleek design sets the tone for this restaurant, from the clean cubism of the outdoor patio to the airy main dining room. Behind it, a long counter runs the length of the open kitchen, where a T-shirt-clad kitchen crew tends the wood-fired grill that anchors chef Jason Vincent's ever-changing seasonal menu. 2119 S. Halsted, 312-526-3385, nightwoodrestaurant.com. Dinner: Mon-Sat. Sun brunch. Open late: Fri & Sat till 11.

[Recommended] 90 Miles Cuban Cafe | Wicker Park $

The second outpost of Alberto and Christine Gonzalez's 90 Miles Cuban Cafe has table seating and a cozy enclosed patio in addition to a counter, the sole seating option at the original on Clybourn. But it retains the warmth of its predecessor, as well as sharing the menu, which includes some vegetarian-friendly innovations like a pressed sandwich with tofu in Creole sauce. BYO. 2540 W. Armitage, 773-227-2822, 90milescubancafe.com. Lunch, dinner: daily. Open late: Fri & Sat till 11.

Old Oak Tap | Ukrainian Village $$

Wondering where the older siblings of the kids at the Continental—the ones with jobs and starter homes—head when they need to cut loose? Try the Old Oak's jammed 1,500-square-foot front patio, where every third patron seems to be bouncing a baby between sips of Saison DuPont. The menu is full of spiffed-up bar standards, and the craft beer list showcases a lot of predictable crowd-pleasers, but if a formula works, why change it? 2109 W. Chicago, 773-772-0406, theoldoaktap.com. Lunch: Tue-Fri; dinner: daily. Sat & Sun brunch. Open late: Sat till 3, other nights till 2.

Pegasus - JOHN H. WHITE/SUN-TIMES MEDIA
  • John H. White/Sun-Times Media
  • Pegasus

Pegasus | Greektown $$

The large menu at this Greektown spot features a good selection of both hot and cold mezedes suitable for small-plate dining. To that add the attraction of a rooftop patio with a first-class view of downtown's skyline and you have something of a destination—just look for the winged horse's glowing neon-lit appendages. 130 S. Halsted, 312-226-3377, pegasuschicago.com. Lunch, dinner: daily. Open late (beginning Memorial Day): Fri & Sat till 1, other nights till midnight.

[Recommended] The Portage | Portage Park $$

Here's gentrification at its best: an old-man bar rehabbed into a friendly, unassuming little gastropub serving delicious duck-fat fries much crunchier than the ones made famous by a certain north-side hot dog joint. The back courtyard, refitted as a spacious patio fenced in with handsome blond wood, is one of the nicer local alfresco settings in these parts, and there's a rooftop garden to boot. 3938 N. Central, 773-853-0779, theportagechicago.com. Dinner: Sun, Tue-Sat.

Quartino | River North $$$

Taking its cue from Italy's enoteche, Quartino serves small plates of everything from antipasti to beef tenderloin, as well as pizza and pastas. Wines—many offered here exclusively—are available by the quartino, half liter, and carafe, and there are also plenty of options by the bottle. The outdoor seating comprises a second-floor veranda and first-story enclosed space in addition to a small front patio. 626 N. State, 312-698-5000, quartinochicago.com. Lunch, dinner: daily. Open late: Sat till 3, Mon-Fri till 2, Sun till 1.

[Recommended] Red Door | Bucktown $$

At Troy Graves's gastropub in the former Duchamp, door number one leads to an elegant minimalist bar and a little dining area; door number two to a patio worth spending a summer on, with wood paneling and dangling lightbulbs and a convivial atmosphere. The "globally-inspired pub fare" means shareable small plates like a succulent lemongrass chicken thigh propped on a pile of grilled spring onions, a plate that lands just where it aims to. 2118 N. Damen, 773-697-7221, reddoorchicago.com. Dinner: Sun, Tue-Sat. Sat & Sun brunch. Open late: Sat till 3; Sun, Tue-Fri till 2.

Rootstock - SCOTT STEWART/SUN-TIMES MEDIA
  • Scott Stewart/Sun-Times Media
  • Rootstock

[Recommended] Rootstock Wine & Beer Bar | Humboldt Park $$

Not surprisingly, the main attraction here is the intriguing list of small-batch beverages put together by a trio of Webster's Wine Bar vets, but a tight, well-curated menu of small and midsize plates, cheese, and charcuterie is no afterthought. The outdoor patio brightens an otherwise stark intersection. 954 N. California, 773-292-1616, rootstockbar.com. Dinner: Mon-Sat. Sun brunch. Open late: Mon-Sat till 2.

[Recommended] Tre Kronor | Albany Park $$

Legendary Danish and cinnamon rolls (say what, Ann Sather?) are just one start to the spread here; other options include Swedish meatballs deserving of your trust and moist, meaty herring, made in-house. Manage to snag a table outside and you'll be seated under a canopy of trees. BYO. 3258 W. Foster, 773-267-9888, trekronorrestaurant.com. Breakfast, lunch: daily; dinner: Mon-Sat.

[Recommended] Twisted Spoke | West Town $

Don't let the motorbike and its skeleton rider rotating on the post outside put you off: Twisted Spoke is a top-notch beer bar with a selection of whiskeys to rival Delilah's and a menu with something for everyone. The rooftop patio is surprisingly airy even for a pretend biker bar. 501 N. Ogden, 312-666-1500, twistedspoke.com. Lunch: Mon-Fri; dinner: daily. Sat & Sun brunch. Open late: Sat till 3, other nights till 2.

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