Hundreds of the city’s restaurants and bars set up outdoor dining catering to customers starved for summer. We’ve selected 25 notable spots, including some newcomers; for complete alfresco listings search under “features” at chicagoreader.com/chicago/RestaurantFinder/Page.
90 Miles Cuban Cafe | Wicker Park/Bucktown | $
The second outpost of Alberto and Christine Gonzalez’s 90 Miles Cuban Cafe has table seating and a charming enclosed patio in addition to a counter. But it retains the warmth of its predecessor, as well as sharing the menu. A big part of the appeal of 90 Miles is the friendly, efficient service. BYO. 2540 W. Armitage, 773-227-2822, 90milescubancafe.com. Breakfast, lunch, dinner: daily. Open late: Fri & Sat till 11.
Anteprima | Andersonville | $$$
Owner Marty Fosse’s neighborhood Italian place has many virtues, among them a frequently changing menu tailored to the season and a charming back patio—though good luck getting a seat, which is first come, first served. 5316 N. Clark, 773-506-9990, anteprimachicago.net. Dinner: daily. Open late: Fri & Sat till 11.
Athena | Greektown | $$
At Athena you’ll find old-world fare like loukaniko, dolmades, and lamb with artichokes. The bright interior is spacious and colorful, but the big draw is the lovely two-level outdoor garden, open spring to fall. 212 S. Halsted, 312-655-0000, athenarestaurantchicago.com. Lunch, Dinner: daily. Open late: Fri & Sat till midnight, other nights till 11.
Big Star | Wicker Park/Bucktown | $
At Paul Kahan’s taqueria and bar both food (by Justin Large, formerly of Avec) and drink (by Michael Rubel of Violet Hour) are pitched to a very agreeable price point, making the place a surefire, low-cost, high-value good time. The downside: there are only a few tables indoors, and they’re for parties of four or more; the utilitarian patio is likewise always packed. But ordering from the carryout window is always an option. Cash only. 1531 N. Damen, 773-235-4039. Lunch, dinner: daily. Open late: Sat till 3, other nights till 2.
Birchwood Kitchen | Wicker Park/Bucktown | $
There’s not a cheap shortcut to be found at this ambitious sandwich shop: here the words local and sustainable have real meaning. The weekend brunch menu has items such as croque madame and Belgian waffles, and burger nights are offered out back from Tuesday through Friday. 2211 W. North, 773-276-2100, birchwoodkitchen.com. Lunch, dinner: Tue-Fri. Sat & Sun brunch.
The Chicago Firehouse | South Loop | $$$
Chef Kendall Duque (Sepia) has spiffed up the menu at this sprawling three-story restaurant in a 1905 firehouse, which remains focused on surf and turf. The leafy outdoor patio seats 70. 1401 S. Michigan, 312-786-1401, chicagofirehouse.com. Lunch: Mon-Fri; dinner: daily. Sun brunch.
Chief O’Neill’s | Avondale | $
The entire bar and most of the staff at this northwest-side pub was imported from Ireland, and the kitchen dishes up traditional fare. The festive outdoor beer garden seats 200. 3471 N. Elston, 773-583-3066, chiefoneillspub.com. Breakfast, lunch: Sat; dinner: seven days. Sun brunch. Open late: Sat till 3, other nights till 2.
Crust | Ukrainian Village/East Village | $$
Chef Michael Altenberg’s casual flatbread-pizza joint is a sleek modern dining hall; the spacious back patio and sidewalk cafe (tented, with a retractable roof) add seats for another 130. The bar offers a short but respectable wine and beer list, plus a selection of cocktails with infused organic vodka. 2056 W. Division, 773-235-5511, crustorganic.com. Lunch, dinner: daily. Open late: Fri & Sat till midnight.
Duchamp | Wicker Park/Bucktown | $$$
“Aesthetic delectation is the danger to be avoided,” declared Marcel Duchamp. So he’d have to scoff at the chummy Bucktown spot Duchamp, which under former sous chef Aaron Lirette—now exec—remains aesthetically delectable in a couple ways. With communal seating on the patio, this is a comfortable, enjoyable spot the neighborhood’s lucky to have. 2118 N. Damen, 773-235-6434, duchamp-chicago.com. Dinner: Sun, Tue-Sat. Open late: Fri & Sat till 11.
Hubbard Inn | River North | $$$
The shared plates from chef Bob Zrenner (ex 33 Club, Branch 27, Graze) are almost afterthoughts to the bar’s cocktails—the menu has very little you wouldn’t have seen on dozens of others around town. Alfresco dining on the patio is first come, first served. 110 W. Hubbard, 312-222-1331, hubbardinn.com. Lunch, Dinner: Mon-Sat. Sat brunch. Open late: Mon-Sat till 11.
In Fine Spirits | Andersonville | $$
This sleek but cozy wine bar is a hot spot on the Andersonville strip. The ample menu of accessibly priced glasses and flights is augmented with classic cocktails and a choice selection of craft beer, and there’s an abbreviated rotating menu of cheese, charcuterie, and a bunch of plates for nibbling and noshing. Out back is a pleasant garden patio. 5420 N. Clark, 773-334-9463, infinespirits.com. Dinner: daily. Open late: Fri & Sat till 2, Mon-Thu till midnight, Sun till 11.
LM Restaurant | Lincoln Square | $$$
Blackbird-Tru-NoMi vet Bradford Phillips heads up the kitchen at this classically oriented French contemporary spot. The menu changes frequently, but typically there’s soup, salad, and a list of familiar entrees, some of which—like a juicy pan-roasted poussin with chanterelles and bright green parsley-chive gnocchi—are outstanding. Out back there’s garden seating. 4539 N. Lincoln, 773-942-7585, lmrestaurant.com. Dinner: daily.
Lockdown Bar & Grill | Ukrainian Village/East Village | $
At Lockdown the food’s much better than the tacky prison theme would suggest, including some respectable vegetarian options. There’s a changing repertoire of concert videos screening, and this year Lockdown’s added a patio and sidewalk cafe, with a beer garden slated to open any day now. 1024 N. Western, 773-451-5625, lockdownbar.com. Dinner: daily. Open late: Sat till 3, other nights till 2.
Market | West Loop | $$$
This sprawling sports bar’s ownership includes White Sox GM Kenny Williams, and the corny menu shows it: appetizers are the “Starting Line Up,” “MVPs” “most valuable pizzas.” There’s a short list of entrees in the $20-$30 range, but most people head here for the extensive outdoor seating—or for the chance of seeing local sports stars. 1113 W. Randolph, 312-929-4787, marketbarchicago.com. Lunch, dinner: daily. Sat & Sun brunch. Open late: Sat till 3, other nights till 2.
Nana | Bridgeport | $$
This friendly family-run upscale diner generally adheres to the standards set by the USDA’s National Organic Program. There’s a seasonal cocktail program and a sidewalk patio, and on Sundays from 3 to 9 PM chef Guy Meikle offers a fried chicken dinner served family style for $22 in addition to the regular menu. 3267 S. Halsted, 312-929-2486, nanaorganic.com. Breakfast, lunch, dinner: daily. Sat & Sun brunch.
Nightwood | Pilsen/Little Village | $$$
It’s a testament to the Lula talent trust of Jason Hammel, Amalea Tshilds, and chef Jason Vincent, in tandem with designer Kevin Heisner, that Nightwood is a lot more than just Lula south. Heisner’s sleek design sets the tone, from the clean cubism of the outdoor patio to the modern squiggles of the chairs. The simple yet sophisticated seasonal food mirrors the elegant surroundings, with a wood-fired grill anchoring the ever-changing seasonal menu. 2119 S. Halsted, 312-526-3385, nightwoodrestaurant.com. Dinner: Mon-Sat. Sun brunch. Open Late: Mon-Sat till 11.
Old Oak Tap | Ukrainian Village/East Village | $$
At this barstaurant from the owners of the Continental and Darkroom, the 1,500-square-foot front patio is frequently jammed. The menu’s full of spiffed-up bar standards like sweet-and-sour Thai drumsticks, roasted beet and goat cheese salad, a yellowfin tuna sandwich, and a shrimp po’boy. The craft beer list showcases a lot of predictable crowd-pleasers but also a couple intriguing curveballs. 2109 W. Chicago, 773-772-0406, theoldoaktap.com. Lunch: Sun, Tue-Sat; dinner: daily. Sat & Sun brunch. Open Late: Sat till 3, other nights till 2.
The Orbit Room | Avondale | $
This friendly retro-style bar has a tiki-themed patio in addition to a heated smoking tent in winter. The menu of above-average bar food includes house-made soups, pizza, and Baja fish tacvos. 2959 N. California, 773-588-8540, orbitroomchicago.com. Lunch: Sat-Sun; dinner: daily. Open late: every night till 2.
Paris Club | River North | $$$
For R.J. and Jerrod Melman’s takeover of Brasserie Jo, Lettuce Entertain You has enlisted a team of formidable talent. But what results is an unnavigable minefield of well-executed classics, incompatible oddballs, and hilariously misguided attempts to reinvent iconic French dishes. That hasn’t kept the crowds away from the cavernous, noisy bar and dining room, soon to be supplemented by a rooftop lounge with a retractable roof. 59 W. Hubbard, 312-595-0800, parisclubchicago.com. Dinner: daily. Open late: Sat till 3, Thu-Fri till 2, Mon-Wed till midnight.
The Red Canary | Near West Side | $$
The Red Canary is a clubby cavern done up in an overfamiliar Fauxhibition style. A menu of “comfort food” features fried chicken and potpie in addition to bar bites, oysters, and standards like flatbreads and burgers. Out back is a dressy patio filled with dressy types. On Sunday, May 29, from noon to 6 PM there’s an all-you-can-eat Memorial Day patio pig roast; $20. 695 N. Milwaukee, 312-846-1475, redcanarychicago.com. Dinner: Mon-Sat. Sat & Sun brunch. Open late: Sat till 3, Mon-Fri till 2.
Resi’s Bierstube | North Center | $$
Regulars like this German beer parlor for the filling traditional fare. But the real draw is the beer garden, a charming tree-lined outdoor patio lit by lanterns, with picnic tables for seating. 2034 W. Irving Park, 773-472-1749. Dinner: daily. Open late: Sat till 3, other nights till 2.
Roof | Loop | $$
SRO crowds routinely line up to get onto the glass-walled patio of Roof, the sleek on the 27th floor of the Wit Hotel. Two tips: arrive around opening time, and check out “the hangover,” a table for eight on a smaller patio that has the best views in the whole place. 201 N. State, 312-239-9501, roofonthewit.com. Dinner: daily. Open late: Wed-Sat till 2, Sun-Tue till midnight.
Rootstock Wine & Beer Bar | Humboldt Park | $
The main attraction at Humboldt Park’s Rootstock Wine & Beer Bar is the intriguing list of small-batch beverages put together by a trio of Webster’s Wine Bar vets. But the tight, well-curated menu of small and midsize plates is no afterthought. 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. 954 N. California, 773-292-1616, rootstockbar.com. Dinner: Mon-Sat. Sun brunch. Open late: Sat till 3, Mon-Fri till 2.
694 Wine & Spirits | West Town | $$
Juicy Wine Company morphed into 694 Wine & Spirits this January. The two-story wine bar has a spacious upstairs with a DJ booth and an outdoor deck, where the owners will grill burgers on Wednesdays. Cured meats from Armandino Batali (Mario’s papa) are first-rate; sweets from Celestial Kitchens include a decadent Creme de la Creme chocolate cake. 694 N. Milwaukee, 312-492-6620, 694winebar.com. Dinner: seven days. Open late: Sat till 3, other nights till 2.
The Terrace at Trump | River North | $$$
Million-dollar views of the Wrigley Building and the Chicago River are the main reason to check out the Terrace at Trump—but not the only one. Thanks to a no-standing-room policy, the place doesn’t get packed. The downside is that the wait for seating outdoors can stretch into hours. The way to avoid it: come around 2:30 PM, when the doors open. 401 N. Wabash, 312-588-8600, trumpchicagohotel.com/Food_Wine/The_Terrace_at_Trump.asp. Lunch, dinner: daily. Open late: every night till 11.