Chicagoans are always eager to dine al fresco, taking advantage of the all too fleeting warmer months and even flocking to heated or enclosed spaces that make outdoor dining more viable during inclement weather. The COVID-19 pandemic made restaurants get creative and expand their options as diners sought a safe way to go out and they continue to reap the benefits even though restrictions have lifted. While there are always new patio options around town, these 20 essential spots provide some of the best places to enjoy great food and drinks outside in the city.Read More
Chicago’s Essential Outdoor Dining Spots
The city offers several great places to dine al fresco
Volo Restaurant Wine Bar
Find a hidden oasis in Roscoe Village in the backyard garden at Volo Restaurant Wine Bar, which is enclosed and heated during colder months. Its cabanas are a perfect place to share an intimate meal featuring oysters and duck confit, or just to sip a glass of wine while nibbling on a cheese plate. The restaurant also offers a dog-friendly sidewalk cafe when it’s warmer.
Las Fuentes Restaurant
Las Fuentes is known for reliable Mexican food and margaritas, and its secret weapon has been a beautiful private patio that’s also good for private events, including weddings. Located near DePaul, the space attracts more than students. It’s a solid, unpretentious spot for group hangs, dates, and even family dinners. It also has locations in Bucktown, Morton Grove and Alsip.
Parson's Chicken & Fish
A massive patio? Check. Negroni slushies? Ready to go. Fried chicken? Of course. The party never stops at Land and Sea Dept’s sizzling chicken shack, where patrons can easily spend an entire day hanging out. The food is worth sticking around for; the lineup of greasy goodness includes hush puppies, fried fish, and crunchy chicken that’s been brined and dipped in buttermilk hot sauce. Parson’s also has locations in Lincoln Park, West Town and Andersonville.
Rica Arepa Venezuelan Restaurant
Hermosa’s dining scene has erupted in recent years, and one of the reasons is the delightful Venezuelan food at Rica Arepa. The signature with shredded chicken and beef, plus gouda, is a sweet and savory treat. There’s also a solid veggie option. The enclosed patio is comfortable in any season, allowing customers to peacefully sink into an empanada in a casual atmosphere. There’s a similar setup at the restaurant’s Lakeview location.
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Irazu Costa Rican Restaurant & Catering
Irazu has been welcoming big groups to its all-season patio for more than three decades, throwing open the windows during warmer weather when the sunshine lights up their brightly colored décor. Bring a bottle of rum to spike a pitcher of mango daiquiri or pina colada mix and get a taste of Costa Rica with a plate of empanadas or casado.
Taxim provides a modern approach to Greek fare, serving a wide variety of small plates such as beer-battered fried mussels with sesame garlic sauce and smoked pork loin with pickled cayenne. The small rooftop space overlooking Milwaukee Avenue provides an intimate destination to share some dishes along with a glass of Greek wine, with heat lamps dispelling any chill.
The most-visited patio in town needs little introduction. Come early (dogs are welcome) or expect to wait a while as the line is sometimes hours long. Those who tough it out are rewarded with tacos, margaritas, whisky, and a prime spot for people watching. There’s another Big Star at Hotel Zachary across from Wrigley Field while the seafood-focused Big Star Mariscos is in West Town.
Chef Edward Kim’s creative Asian cuisine goes outdoors at Mott St’s patio, along Ashland Avenue in West Town. It’s a versatile space that provides an escape for diners coming for Kim’s fire chicken, imperial rolls or that famous burger.
Chef Brian Jupiter has made Frontier in West Town one of the most unique restaurants in the city. Known for whole-animal service, the restaurant is a meat lover’s paradise. Their all-weather beer garden features a retractable roof, creating a nice and comfortable spot to watch a game or relax with a craft cocktail.
El Barco Mariscos
For 25 years, El Barco Mariscos has been educating Chicagoans on the depth of Mexican cuisine by concentrating on coastal fare. The parrillada seafood platters are formidable, but the crowd pleaser continues to be the whole red snapper that comes fried or grilled. Customers will save a few calories going grilled, but the deep fried variety is tastier.
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Within The Peninsula Chicago, near the Mag Mile, Shanghai Terrace provides modern spins on Shanghainese, Cantonese and Sichuanese fare with an emphasis on dim sum. The outdoor terrace hasn’t opened for the season yet, but when the weather improves the restaurant will also add lunch service to provide more opportunities to enjoy the lush garden setting.
A trip to Tuscany should be on every summer bucket list, but for a cheaper alternative, head to this classic Italian restaurant from Tony Priolo and Ciro Longobardo. The vibrant garden patio provides an intimate escape from city life while rustic dishes highlight seasonal flavors. Add an extensive wine list and the end result is one of the most romantic experiences in Chicago.
Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises’ megaplex along the Chicago River can’t be missed as a partnership between the city and Chicago’s largest restaurant group created the project. Take in the views while slurping oysters and cracking into Alaskan king crab legs. For more casual fare, visit Pizzeria Portofino on the first floor.
Lettuce Entertain You’s West Loop restaurant has quickly become a go-to destination for al fresco dining and summertime vibes. The popularity is in part due to its rooftop patio, which is decked with cozy couches and lush greenery. CJ Jacobson supplies ramped-up Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food, such as hummus, kebabs, and housemade Stracciatella.
Gibsons Restaurant Group’s tri-level achievement, situated next to the Chicago River, impresses on all fronts. Steaks are predictably a highlight of the menu but don’t forgo the gold-extruded pastas, either. And if that’s not luxurious enough, guests can dine outside while soaking in some of the best sights in Chicago.
Avli on The Park
Located between Lakeshore East Park and Maggie Daley Park, Avli on the Park also brings the green home with trees in its dining room and lush views from it seasonal rooftop, which is decorated with pink bougainvillea and features cabanas perfect for lounging with a cocktail. Brunch is a particularly big draw, offering bottomless mimosas alongside Greek omelets and hummus served with housemade pita.
This spot for indulgent American fare (think prime rib, martinis, and oysters on the half shell) from Hogsalt (Au Cheval) is perched at the end of a charming cobblestone corridor. When the weather cooperates, staff turn the space into an open-air patio draped with string lights that create an especially romantic mood once the sun sets. For a seafood fix, order from the outdoor walk-up window for Trivoli’s new sibling spot, The Lobster Bar.
The Duck Inn
It’s a known fact that hot dogs and burgers are best enjoyed outdoors. That’s why eaters flock for Kevin Hickey’s ramped-up comfort foods on the backyard patio. His signature Duck Inn dog, made from beef and duck fat, is dragged through a garden of Chicago-style toppings, while the Up & Over pays tribute to In-N-Out Burger’s Double-Double Animal Style. Brunch and Wednesday pizza nights are also big draws, and the restaurant is bringing back its summer luaus this year for the first time since 2020.
Chef Won Kim took a break to recharge in November, handing Kimski over to a series of pop-ups, but he’ll be back on April 5 to kick of baseball and patio season. The Bridgeport eatery will keep some of its classic fare such as sausages topped with “kraut-chi” and housemade pierogi, but it’s veering away from Polish dishes to focus on Korean food. Grab a beer or cocktails next door at Maria’s Packaged Goods to complete your meal on the back patio.
Originally focused on Italian fare, Truth Restaurant’s brunch proved so popular with the Bronzeville community that they made it available all day. The casual spot serves French toast flights, biscuits & gravy and Cajun crawfish omelets indoors and on its tented, heated patio. Fans of the old menu will find spicy grilled chicken alfredo pasta and calamari fritti available for lunch.
Nella Pizza e Pasta
Celebrated pizzaiola Nella Grassano has turned her Hyde Park pizza hotspot into a neighborhood staple that draws diners from across the city. Patrons can savor warm weather and the restaurant’s excellent Neopolitan pies and much more on the patio.