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Take a break rom the sand, surf and sun with a summery cocktail at Shore Club, one of the city’s few bonafide beachfront bars.

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Summer sippin’

Chicago’s outdoor dining and drinking scene is as diverse as the city itself, from swank spots to casual hangouts. We rounded up this year’s best newcomers, including plenty of rooftops.

Chicago’s outdoor dining and drinking scene is as diverse as the city itself, from swank spots for the well-heeled to casual t-shirt and flip-flop hangouts. We’ve rounded up the best newcomers, whether you’re in the mood for a sky high rooftop with skyline views or a simple oasis from urban life.

Vu Skyward

Vu Skyward, 133 E. Cermak Rd., which opened in late fall 2018, lives up to its name, delivering views like no other. This rare South Side rooftop, perched 22 stories above McCormick Place, offers expansive vistas of both the lakefront and Chicago’s southern skyline. Created by the same team behind the ROOF on theWit, Vu thinks big — the 13,000 square-foot space boasts three bars and two patios — while also paying attention to details, including fire pits, cushioned seating and indoor-outdoor areas for those days when Chicago changes seasons on a dime. The eats menu takes advantage of Vu’s wood-fired oven, and cocktails range from full-bodied bourbon to bright gin concoctions. Despite its lofty height, Vu’s palette of greens and browns lends the space an earthy feel — like some sort of lux lodge in the sky. vurooftop.com

Cabra at The Hoxton Hotel

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Chef Stephanie Izard’s Goat family of restaurants welcomed a new kid (sorry, we couldn’t resist) in early April: the Peruvian-inspired Cabra Cevicheria is set atop the roof of the just opened Hoxton Hotel, 200 N. Green St., in the Fulton Market District. Izard’s reputation is sure to be a big draw here, with the lure of Cabra’s open air patio sweetening the deal. The patio’s “petite” pool is just big enough to dip your toes into while sipping a glass of pisco or Peruvian beer and sampling the ceviche and tiradito — raw fish dishes that keep their cool on hot summer days. Izard has said she’d like for Cabra to feel like a mini-getaway and we predict a lot of cubicle dwellers will do just that — get away for a rooftop lunch and never make it back to the office. cabrachicago.com

Femme Fatale
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The Femme Fatale, from SX Sky Bar at Hotel Essex

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Drink: The Femme Fatale

Bar: SX Sky Bar at Hotel Essex, 808 S. Michigan Ave.

Key ingredients: Beefeater Pink strawberry gin, Lillet Rose dessert wine, elderflower liqueur, fresh lemon and seltzer, pomegranate garnish.

SX Sky Bar’s General Manager Erica Piffier describes this fruity, red and pink cocktail as “sexy” which is only fitting for the plush and sensual environment at SX Sky Bar. The lux ambiance is perfected with open-air windows that go from mid-wall to the ceiling, giving a panoramic view of Lake Michigan and Grant Park. —Alexandra Arriaga

SX Sky Bar at Hotel Essex

The historic Essex Inn has been transformed into the Hotel Essex, complete with the April debut of the bi-level restaurant and lounge, SX Sky Bar, 808 S. Michigan Ave. Drinks and dancing are the main attractions at this sexy new addition to the city’s nightlife scene, but SX Sky Bar also was designed with a wall of windows overlooking Grant Park. Be among the first to experience the space when the glass panes retract, creating an open-air terrace-like atmosphere in warm weather. sxskybar.com

Shore Club

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Shore Club, 1603 N. Lakeshore Dr.

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There’s a reason Chicagoans flock to the lakefront every summer: Between the sand, surf and sun, it’s the city’s ultimate playground. Shore Club, 1603 N. Lakeshore Dr., one of the few bonafide beachfront bars, throws a party every day and has upped its game in 2019, unveiling a major patio renovation in May. The space is now dripping in strings of Instagram-friendly lights and has added lawn games. Nab a table for prime people watching, order a Frozignon Blanc off the expanded cocktails list and tell the bartender to keep ‘em coming. shoreclubchi.com

Sophy Hotel

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Put the Sophy, 1411 E. 53rd St., on your stay-cation must list. Hyde Park’s first upscale boutique hotel surrounds visitors with references to the neighborhood’s history and cultural contributions. See if you can spot the homage to the Ferris Wheel, introduced at the 1893 Columbian Exposition. The Sophy’s smartly appointed patio, attached to the hotel’s restaurant, lends itself to sophisticated conversation while sipping a craft beer or cocktail. Given its proximity to the University of Chicago, it should come as no surprise that the Sophy’s bar has drinks down to a science: The menu features figurative drawings that settle once and for all what five- and eight-ounce pours should look like in a wine glass. Finally, math we can all use. sophyhotel.com

Z Bar at Peninsula Hotel

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With its view of the Magnificent Mile, Z Bar, 108 E. Superior St., on the sixth floor of the Peninsula, is firmly planted in Chicago. Yet the vibe on this rooftop terrace, where chic guests come dressed to impress, is anything but provincial. From the custom-created global playlist to a menu influenced by Asian, European and American cuisines, Z Bar has a decidedly international flavor. That extends to the cocktails, as well, which feature lesser known spirits including mastiha from Greece and Japan’s shochu. Allow the mixologists at Z Bar to introduce you to your new best summertime friend: pamplemousse rose, a grapefruit liqueur that will give the other rosé a run for its euros.www.zbarchicago.com

Bixi Beer

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With its soaring atrium roof, Bixi Beer, 2515 N. Milwaukee Ave., is flooded with light year-round. That alone is enough to recommend this Asian-inspired restaurant-brewery from the Owen & Engine team. But when that same roof retracts on balmy days — that’s right, we said retracts — Bixi goes next-level. Stick to the atrium, with its living wall of greenery, or venture onto the outdoor patio. Adventurous beer drinkers will appreciate Bixi’s unusual house brews, which incorporate ingredients and flavors including puffed rice, wild citrus fruits and pearled jasmine tea. bixi.beer

Ballast Point

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Ballast Point, 212 N. Green St., may be based on the West Coast, but the views from its Chicago brewpub are pure West Loop. Order one of the more than 40 beers on tap, grab a seat on the rooftop patio — decked out in a Midwestern version of breezy California minimalism — and drink in an urban vista that includes a peek at the Willis Tower. That same sight can even make a workout bearable. Pure Barre classes are held monthly on the roof on Sunday mornings; the $20 fee includes a pint to cool down with after working up a sweat. ballastpoint.com/location/chicago/

Aba

Need a date-night destination? Aba, 302 N. Green St., is it. From the skylight-drenched dining room abloom with greenery to the 220-seat rooftop patio, the setting is undeniably beautiful. Come for dinner, where the menu of Mediterranean dishes is prepared with a light touch, or just for drinks. Cocktails are crafted with Middle Eastern flavorings of arak, turmeric and pistachio, and the wine list features a selection of lesser known varietals from Lebanon, Morocco, Greece and Israel. abarestaurantchicago.com

Parson’s Lincoln Park

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Parson’s Lincoln Park location, 2435 N. Halsted St., opened back in December and its patio has just been sitting there taunting us, like a Christmas gift with a “do not open until spring” tag. Well spring has sprung. And hey, no pressure Lincoln Park, but Parson’s Logan Square is maybe the best patio in the city for a relaxed night of fun with friends. All the little sibling has to do is play copy cat, keep the Negroni slushies flowing and we’ll be happy. parsonschickenandfish.com/restaurant

Welcome to the Jungle
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Welcome to the Jungle at Etta

Adam Sokolowski


Drink: Welcome to the Jungle

Bar: Etta, 1840 W. North Ave.

Key ingredients: El Dorado 12-year rum, Ardberg 10-year scotch whisky, Campari, pineapple, strawberry, basil and lime.

Bar manager Katie Renshaw said this take on a tiki cocktail is fruity and tropical but with scotch that gives the summery drink a smokiness. Sip on the bright red beverage surrounded by fresh plants in the “airy and bright” environment of Etta. “The heart of Etta is comfort,” Renshaw said. “An approachable place you’d want to hang out.” —Alexandra Arriaga

Etta

Sometimes you want to escape the urban grind and that’s where neighborhood rooftops like Etta’s shine, transporting guests above the fray and cocooning them in greenery under a net of twinkling lights. Debuting late in the 2018 outdoor dining season, Etta, 1840 W. North Ave., quickly earned a reputation for its hearth-charred pizzas. Kiddoes are far more welcome here than they would be Downtown; just be prepared for crowds and potential meltdown-inducing waits. A tip for the budget conscious: We hear that house wines by the carafe are the wallet friendly way to go.ettarestaurant.com

Metropolitan Brewing Taproom

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Downtown’s Riverwalk has turned the city’s namesake waterway from a liability into an asset, and a number of bars (e.g., Raised, the forthcoming RPM on the Water) have capitalized on that newfound popularity. For a less touristy riverfront experience, head up the North Branch to Avondale where Metropolitan’s scenic taproom, 3057 N. Rockwell St., is the kind of hidden gem locals would prefer to keep secret. Floor-to-ceiling windows provide year-round views of the river — prettiest in summer’s full bloom or fall’s explosion of color — and a massive outdoor patio brings patrons even closer to nature. Beer flights are the best way to sample Metropolitan’s offerings, some brewed in partnership with neighboring Metropolis Coffee. The super casual taproom is dog-friendly and great for groups — help yourself to any of the board games kept on hand. There’s no kitchen on site, so BYO food or take advantage of Metropolitan’s delivery arrangement with nearby Kuma’s Corner. metrobrewing.com

The Warbler

Lincoln Square’s already solid outdoor dining scene got even stronger with the late 2018 arrival of The Warbler’s patio, 4535 N. Lincoln Ave., in one of the neighborhood’s prime locations (out of commission since 2016 when the space changed hands). Belly up to the outdoor bar, complete with TV so you’ll never miss a ballgame, or grab a table for dinner and drinks and watch the parade of guitar-toting Old Town School students stroll by. This being family-friendly Lincoln Square, the Warbler also caters to that other stroller crowd; the drinks list includes mocktails for the youngest patrons. thewarblerchicago.com

Smashley
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Drink: Smashley

Bar: Delta, 1745 W. North Ave.

Key ingredients: Vodka, elderflower, lemon juice, cucumber syrup and mint, shaken and poured over crushed ice. Served with sprig of mint and cucumber relish.

Beverage director Adam Kamin said he was inspired by the heat of the Mississippi Delta when he created this “crushable” and refreshing cocktail that’s basically a “really really nice vodka lemonade.” Come for the grandmother’s porch vibes, listen to some blues and order the shrimp & grits with this cocktail. —Alexandra Arriaga


The Delta

This buzzed-about Wicker Park restaurant-bar brings the food, drink and culture of the Mississippi Delta to Chicago. What exactly does that mean? Well, there are countless neighborhood patios where you can grab a burger and beer on a warm summer day. The Delta, 1745 W. North Ave., is the only spot serving up Red Hot tamales and sweet tea highballs. Rotating DJs keeping things loose and lively. There’s a small wine and beer list, but cocktails are the real star at The Delta. Super-sized boozy libations, dubbed “vases,” are perfect for sharing, or not, no judgment.thedeltachicago.com

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