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Howells & Hood
Howells & Hood
Photo: Timothy Hiatt

Heating Up: Your Guide to Al Fresco Season

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Howells & Hood
| Photo: Timothy Hiatt

The polar vortex is finally behind us and the temperature may hit 80 degrees today, which means it's officially patio season. Some places have already opened up the doors to al fresco dining while many more will be joining the fun in the coming days. After a brutally long winter, there's no such thing as enjoying spring too much and some sun outside. So check out our guide for the newest and hottest spots this season.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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One of the hottest restaurants of the past year, Tanta has opened its indoor/outdoor second floor Pisco lounge and rooftop. It features a bar along with booth and table seating surrounding a skylight looking down on the first floor. The rooftop menu offers Pisco-focused cocktails and Peruvian street food-focused small bites.

The J. Parker

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With one of the most spectacular views of the shoreline and downtown, J. Parker is the perfect spot for a nice spring day. Enjoy the sights from one of the 140 outdoor seats while sipping on the expertly crafted cocktails. An upgraded heating system will ensure guests stay warm even if the weather doesn’t cooperate.

Nico Osteria

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The outdoor patio at Nico is a great spot for people watching in the Gold Coast while enjoying the food at one of the city’s hottest spots. Erling Wu-Bower’s Italian fare is complimented by Matty Eggleston’s cocktail menu, which has changed to include warm weather drinks.

Little Goat

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Stephanie Izard’s diner features a rooftop for a little sun and relaxation in the spring. You can grab lunch at Little Goat Bread and head upstairs for a cocktail at the rooftop bar. At night, enjoy craft beers, bubbles, seasonal ceviches, olives and more.

The Dawson

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The Dawson’s 150-seat patio features a stone fireplace, communal tables, and new cocktails including margaritas, frozen mai tais and drinks in canteens. Look for it to be one of the year’s hottest outdoor spots.

Celeste

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Celeste’s rooftop patio, "The Garden," is set to open as soon as weather permits. Overlooking the madness on Hubbard Street, the English garden-inspired space will feel like a hidden oasis and offer vintage punch bowls and Victorian-style seating arrangements.

Big Star

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As one of the busiest outdoor patios, Big Star needs little introduction. It’s easy to spend an entire afternoon lounging around enjoying tacos and margaritas on a warm day. And if you’re not in the mood to wait, there’s always the to-go window.

Cicchetti

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Mike Sheerin’s Italian restaurant has received endless praise and its massive 100-seat sidewalk café opening this month will offer even more diners a chance to see what the buzz is about.

CH Distillery & Cocktail Bar

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Snow cone versions of CH Distillery’s cocktails made with house-distilled liquor? Sign us up. Look for the 20-seat patio to open in mid-May.

The Terrace at Trump Tower

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The Terrace at Trump is set to reopen for the season. Located 16 floors above downtown Chicago, the spot is one of the city’s hottest summertime destinations featuring an unparalleled view of Michigan Avenue and the Chicago River. The menu offers innovative cocktails and inspired summer fare.

Howells & Hood

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Howells & Hood’s enormous 300-seat patio on Michigan Avenue will offer guests 5,700 square feet of al fresco dining. Relax outside at the pavilion bar or the two communal tables and enjoy the craft beer selection and a menu full of twists on American classics. It’s the perfect spot to people watch with views of the Magnificent Mile and Pioneer Court.

Chuck's: A Kerry Simon Kitchen

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Chuck’s will open its kitchen patio this spring, featuring a stunning view of downtown Chicago centered between the Magnificent Mile and Millennium Park. The restaurant offers classic American fare for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and new items include Chef Kerry Simon’s signature Sangria to sip on in the springtime.

Mercadito

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Mercadito is again opening its glass, garage-style retractable front door to reveal a 35-seat patio. Sip on some margaritas while trying Patricio Sandoval’s ceviches, guacamoles, tacos and more.

Sportsman's Club

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Sportsman’s Club is opening a rear patio this month featuring a fire pit, communal tables and a satellite bar. Look for earlier weekend hours, afternoon DJ sessions and of course lots of cocktails.

Perennial Virant

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Celebrate patio season with Paul Virant’s menu of dishes highlighting fresh and local ingredients. The cozy patio offers a gorgeous view of Lincoln Park and is just across the street from Green City Market.

Enjoy Korean barbecue from bellyQ or slurp up some ramen from Urban Belly on the 50-seat patio, or cozy up at the fire pit in the back. Come summertime, Bill Kim will also host cooking demos in the outdoor space.

Ada Street

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The restaurant will open its backyard patio for its third summer season, featuring fresh, seasonal BBQ-inspired dishes, summer cocktails, outdoor ping pong and more.

NoMI garden is an urban sanctuary high above the city. The secluded retreat on the seventh floor offers guests casual outdoor dining such as summer soups, sushi, Yakitori stations, homemade milkshakes and soft serve ice cream, as well as a seasonal cocktails program.

Barcito

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River North’s bustling and chic Barcito features 60 outdoor seats for sipping, sharing and soaking up the sun. Enjoy the bar’s kegged cocktails, wines, beer and sangria as well as menu offering a range of tapas and housemade sodas.

Michelin dining goes outdoors at Acadia’s new street-side dining patio opening this spring. 12 to 16 guests can enjoy the acclaimed bar menu from Ryan McCaskey, with options such as Stonington lobster roll and the popular Acadia burger.

Japonais by Morimoto

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Revamped Japonais by Morimoto has a new look and menu to go along with riverside seating in the rear. The raw fish offerings are some of the best in town, while the sea urchin carbonara is flavorful decadence.

Packing House

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What was once Market, the newly reopened Packing House is a modern restaurant concept featuring American cuisine with a Mediterranean influence. The first of the three floors offers guests al fresco and there's also a terrace and bar under a retractable roof.

Tre Soldi

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Tre Soldi has been getting the attention of Streeterville residents and visitors alike with its rustic, Roman dishes. And on a warm day, it's hard to beat a glass of wine outside to go along with the hand-tossed pizzas and hearty pastas.

Mercat a la Planxa

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Right along Michigan Avenue and across from Grant Park, Mercat a la Planxa brings Catalan dining outside with its 60-seat patio. Guests can soak in the sun while enjoying tapas dishes, charcuterie, cheeses, fresh seafood, steaks, sangrias and more.

Parts and Labor

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The menu keeps things simple but sometimes all you want is a good burger, and Parts and Labor has you covered. Add a root beer float on the large front patio and it's like being a little kid again.

Shanghai Terrace

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Located on the fourth floor of The Peninsula, enjoy al fresco dining over dim sum and a newly-crafted lunch menu. At night, unwind with friends over Asian-inspired cocktails plus a specialty cocktail menu to debut at opening.

DryHop Brewers

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Lakeview’s neighborhood brewery has added a 16-seat sidewalk patio/beer garden for the spring. So now’s your chance to try some craft brews alongside refined pub fare including fish tacos, poutine, bone-in pork chop, buttermilk fried chicken and more.

Grand Tour

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The new Ravenswood spot celebrating international cuisine will offer al fresco dining come warm weather. The street-side patio will seat 80 and offer guests an array of dishes spanning the globe, from beef bulgogi bao buns to foie gras torchon.

Evanston favorite Found features a Parisian-inspired sidewalk café offering patrons a view of downtown. The rustic new American menu showcases local produce and ingredients, with a spotlight on vegetables alongside select cuts of meat. Dishes include lamb meat balls, kale and swiss chard salad, roasted squash and brussel sprouts, and more.

Elle on the River

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The Travelle team is set to open a casual taco spot soon, located between the bridges on State and Wabash. The menu will focus on just four types of tacos on roti flatbreads and boozy punches. With a view right next to the river, it's sure to be a hotspot once it opens.

The Kensington

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Set to open May 22, the rooftop garden atop Parliament will accommodate 150 guests and offer private seating areas, specially crafted libations and a panoramic skyline view.

Chop Shop

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Chop Shop's "secret garden" upstairs patio seats over 60 and is enclosed by four walls. Complementing the al fresco dining are new cocktails and punches as well as seasonal menu items.

Homestead on the Roof

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Homestead will feature 80 seats on its revamped outdoor patio that is adjacent to the restaurant’s 1,000 square foot organic rooftop garden. New spring food and beverage menus will also debut along with the opening of the patio.

III Forks Prime Steakhouse

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III Forks has opened its rooftop lounge for stunning scenery, refreshing cocktails, sharable plates, steaks and seafood. There's also a newly-created menu for the season, available exclusively on the rooftop.

Parson's Chicken & Fish

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Last year's patio of the year is poised to defend its title. The massive outdoor space now features bocce along with tons of tables, ping pong, negroni slushies, sand and music.

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Tanta

One of the hottest restaurants of the past year, Tanta has opened its indoor/outdoor second floor Pisco lounge and rooftop. It features a bar along with booth and table seating surrounding a skylight looking down on the first floor. The rooftop menu offers Pisco-focused cocktails and Peruvian street food-focused small bites.

The J. Parker

With one of the most spectacular views of the shoreline and downtown, J. Parker is the perfect spot for a nice spring day. Enjoy the sights from one of the 140 outdoor seats while sipping on the expertly crafted cocktails. An upgraded heating system will ensure guests stay warm even if the weather doesn’t cooperate.

Nico Osteria

The outdoor patio at Nico is a great spot for people watching in the Gold Coast while enjoying the food at one of the city’s hottest spots. Erling Wu-Bower’s Italian fare is complimented by Matty Eggleston’s cocktail menu, which has changed to include warm weather drinks.

Little Goat