With pandemic restrictions increasingly easing, andChicago making huge strides to a return to pre-pandemic normalcy, the area’s restaurant community is adding a spring/summertime favorite to its menus: al fresco dining.
Devasted by the pandemic, Chicago’s culinary scene has weathered more than a year of closures, carryout, delivery-only options and limited indoor dining. But customers have done their best to patronize their favorite eateries — and discover some new ones along the way.
Here’s a look at some of what the area’s outdoor dining scene is offering. But check out your neighborhood as well — there are hundreds of restaurants, diners and food-offering bars serving up some of the best food in the country.
Aba: The rooftop patio seating features heaters and fire pits throughout, and a Mediterranean menu from chef CJ Jacobson, highlighting influences from the Mediterranean, including Israel, Lebanon, Turkey and Greece. 302 N. Green St.; abarestaurants.com
Aire: Located at the Hyatt Centric in the Loop, this rooftop hotspot has a 360-degree view of the city and features fire pits, cabanas and couches. The menu includes an array of appetizers, flatbreads and salads plus craft cocktails and beer. 100 W. Monroe; hyatt.com
Athena: This Greektown staple has a charming patio with a retractable roof, Greek columns and a waterfall. The extensive menu is full of Greek-inspired classics from flaming saganaki to gyros and solmades plus many varieties of lamb. 212 S. Halsted; athenachicago.com
Bar Avec: Located in River North, this new rooftop is inspired by the leisurely style of dining found at seaside diners in coastal Spanish and Portuguese towns. Chefs Paul Kahan and Ross Henke’s menu is simple fare that showcases seafood and seasonal vegetables as well as Avec classics. 640 N. LaSalle; baravec.com
Big Star Wicker Park & Big Star Wrigleyville: The outdoor patio of the Wicker Park location is a lively neighborhood cornerstone with tasty tacos, slushies and margaritas with music provided by DJs. A smaller streetside patio at the restaurant’s Wrigleyville location features the same food and honky-tonk vibe within sightlines of the ballpark. 1531 N. Damen and 3640 N. Clark; bigstarchicago.com
BiXi Beer: The Asian-inspired brewpub located in Logan Square features a roof deck with a covered section for outdoor dining in inclement weather. Chef Bo Fowler’s menu includes noodles, burgers, seafood and more. 2515 N. Milwaukee; bixi.beer
The Bureau Bar + Restaurant: The South Loop restaurant and event space is equipped with outdoor patio seating, a pool table, live music, and a comprehensive menu including brunch options. 2115 S. State. Visit bureaubarandrestaurant.com.
Cabra: Stephanie Izzard’s Peruvian-influenced restaurant is situated atop the Hoxton hotel and includes a partially covered patio space with views of Fulton Market. The menu features small plates including salmon ceviche, goat empanadas, eggplant saltado and more. 200 N. Green; cabrachicago.com
Café Ba-Ba-Reeba: Chicago’s original tapas bar has tented outdoor tables where patrons can enjoy a menu of authentic Spanish cuisine designed to share. 2024 N. Halsted; cafebabareeba.com
Chez Moi: The French restaurant located in Lincoln Park features bistro-style outdoor dining with a romantic ambiance. Chef Dominique Tougne’s classic French menu includes onion soup, foie gras, steak frites, crème brulee and more. 2100 N. Halsted; chezmoichicago.com
City Winery: The restaurant/music venue has a large dog-friendly outdoor patio where patrons can enjoy a selection of small and large plates, pizzas, salads, cocktails and, of course, wine. 1200 W. Randolph; citywinery.com/chicago
Coco Pazzo Café: This casual eatery has reopened with an outdoor patio and a new menu of small plates. 212 E. Ohio; cocopazzocafe.com
The Duck Inn: Enjoy everything duck (rotisserie duck, duck fat French fries, duck wings and more) under a tent on the Bridgeport restaurant’s backyard patio. 2701 S. Eleanor; theduckinnchicago.com
Found Kitchen & Social House: The restaurant includes an outdoor patio where you can enjoy chef Debbie Gold’s menu that highlights seasonal flatbreads, an array of cheeses, shared plates and kitchen driven craft cocktails. 1631 Chicago, Evanston; foundkitchen.com
Frontier: Chef Brian Jupiter’s bar/restaurant features a covered patio with string lights and a fireplace. Famous for its Whole Animal Experience perfect for a large group, the menu also features blackened salmon, wagyu ribs, char-grilled oysters and the fan favorite five-cheese mac. 1072 N. Milwaukee; thefrontierchicago.com
Fulton Market Kitchen: Chef Jonathan Harootunian offers a new seasonal menu with ingredients sourced from regional farms and markets at this part restaurant, part art gallery crossover that also has a comfortable outdoor patio. 311 N. Sangamon; fultonmarketkitchen.com
Geja’s Café: Enjoy fondue and fine wines on a pergola-covered patio at this North Side staple know as “Chicago’s most romantic restaurant.” 340 W. Armitage; gejascafe.com
Gibson’s Italia: The restaurant’s outdoor area features a retractable roof and walls for warm summer nights along the Chicago River. Chef Jose Sosa’s menu pairs the tastes of Italy with the meat-based menu of Gibson’s Steakhouse. 233 N. Canal; gibsonsitalia.com
Greek Islands: The Greektown restaurant has a traditionally decorated outdoor space and a menu of favorite Greek classics. 200 S. Halsted; greekislands.net
Harold’s #88 Chicken Meets Beer: While the hook is the chicken, the South Loop location stands out with outdoor patio seating, “infused” smoothies, and an occasional Thursday comedy night. 1450 S. Michigan. Visit instagram.com/haroldschicken-88meetsbeer/.
Il Culaccino: Located in the South Loop, this Italian eatery has an outdoor patio with a retractable roof and walls. The menu boasts an extensive list of pasta dishes as well as salmon, chicken and veal. 2134 S. Indiana; ilculaccino.com
The J. Parker: The rooftop restaurant sits atop Hotel Lincoln and features great views of the city and Lake Michigan. The menu features small plates, sandwiches and burgers. There’s also a breakfast menu. 1816 N. Clark; jparkerchicago.com
Kimski: Operating within Bridgeport’s Maria’s Packaged Goods & Community Bar, the Polish-Korean mashup has outdoor patio service, eats such as the “Puff Daddy,” a burger patty in between two pizza puffs, and Chap Chae noodles, a vegan stirfry delicacy. 954-960 W. 31st. Visit kimskichicago.com.
Kinzie Chophouse: The River North mainstay’s streetside patio features overhead awnings and large umbrellas. Order from the expansive menu (steaks, seafood, pasta) or just stop by for happy hour, which features its own drink and food menu that includes buy one get one free appetizers. 400 N. Wells; kinziechophouse.com
La Josie: The West Loop eatery features a rooftop deck plus a sidewalk café. The upscale casual Mexican restaurant’s menu includes tacos, enchiladas and more plus a full agave bar. 740 W. Randolph; lajosie.com
MacArthur’s Restaurant: The West Side institution, which boasts Southern comfort food such as smothered chicken, fried catfish, and collard greens, among many other eats, has an outdoor patio. 5412 W. Madison. Visit macarthursrestaurant.com.
Norman’s Bistro: The North Kenwood hotspot boasts outdoor patio service, a menu featuring signature sandwiches, and a weekly jazz set, among other amenities. 1001 E. 43rd. Visit normansbistro.com.
Offshore: The large rooftop deck located at Navy Pier has spectacular views of the Chicago Skyline and Lake Michigan. The menu offers salads, pizzas, poke bowls, fish and burgers plus an extensive drink menu. 1000 E. Grand; drinkoffshore.com
Open Outcry Brewery Company: The Morgan Park-based brewery, which has a rooftop beer garden and a community taproom, specializes in Neapolitan style pizza. 10934 S. Western. Visit openoutcrybrewing.com.
Pacino’s: Pull up a seat under the outdoor pergola at this Italian eatery where Sicily meets South Loop. Menu includes antipasti, pizza, salads, seafood, pasta and more. 1010 S. Delano; pacinoschicago.com
Pilsen Yards: Sporting a menu including tequila and bourbon options, along with vegan pozole and “Drunken Tres Leches (rum, mezcal, charred pineapple),” the Pilsen eatery and event space has outdoor patio seating and other amenities. Live DJ vinyl sets from local creatives round out the ambiance. 1163 W. 18th. Visit pilsenyards.com.
Pizza Friendly Pizza: Hidden behind the Empty Bottle music club in Ukrainian Village, this is an urban patio that has an alt-rock energy. There’s a walk-up window to order chef Noah Sandoval’s Sicilian-style pizza and tables to sit at under twinkling lights. 1030 N. Western; pizzafriendlypizza.com
The Promontory: The Hyde Park-based restaurant and event space is equipped with an outdoor patio downstairs, an outdoor deck upstairs, and a menu featuring “Heavy Artillery,” a cocktail with bourbon, cognac, rum, pineapple, lime, black pepper, along with food options. 5311 S. Lake Park West. Visit promontorychicago.com.
The Publican: The West Loop mainstay of chef Paul Kahan features a patio expanded into the closed-off street. The menu as always features an array of meat, seafood and vegetables. 837 W. Fulton; thepublicanrestaurant.com
Publican Quality Meats: Patrons can enjoy artisanal meats and cheese plus unique sandwiches in this outdoor café setting. There’s also a menu of charcuterie selections curated by chef-butcher Rob Levitt. 825 W. Fulton; publicanqualitymeats.com
Reggie’s On the Beach: Reggies Chicago’s Jackson Park seasonal location opened in May. While the eatery has a similar menu (burgers, wings, etc.) as the original, the latest iteration sports an outdoor patio within the backdrop of a beachwalk shoreline behind the 63rd Street Beach House. 6300 S. Lake Shore. Visit reggieslive.com.
Roof on the Wit: Check out the sweeping skyline views at this bar atop the Wit hotel with a retractable roof plus an open patio under the stars. The menu features Neapolitan-style pizzas and classic cocktails. 201 N. State; roofonthewit.com
Testaccio: The Logan Square restaurant’s cozy patio echoes al fresco street dining in Europe. The menu features Italian comfort food and wood-fired oven specialties from chef Jacob Solomon plus live music throughout the summer. 2456 N. California; testacciochicago.com
Tuscan Hen Market: The North Center eatery has a quaint European-style patio in its back courtyard where you can enjoy your favorite Italian dinner under the stars. 4019 N. Damen; tuscanhenmarket.com
Venteux: The French brasserie from chef Donald Young offers a Parisian inspired garden patio with umbrellas, hanging plants and floral arrangements. Enjoy Young’s nouvelle French menu along with wine and craft cocktails. 224 N. Michigan; venteuxchicago.com
Virtue: The Hyde Park eatery has a wrap-around patio where you can choose from chef Erick Williams’ Southern-influenced menu, which includes blackened catfish, lemon chicken, pork steak and more. 1462 E. 53rd; virtuerestaurant.com
The Woodlawn: The Chatham eatery and event space, where the menu includes jerk chicken salad, jambalaya flatbread pizza, and turkey tips, among other eats, is equipped with a rooftop deck and outdoor dining. A Juneteenth Block Party on June 19 will feature private DJs, light refreshments and an open bar on the rooftop. 1200 E. 79th. Visit thewoodlawn1200.com.