18 Outdoor Dining Spots to Enjoy in Chicago This Summer

From rooftop vistas and lakefront bistros to sunny patios rife with live music.

Recess
Courtesy of Recess

It’s summer in Chicago. Which means dining indoors is about as popular as wearing a Cardinals jersey on the North Side. Look around—do you really need more convincing? Here are Chicago’s 18 top spots for chowing down while working on your tan.

Logan Square, Roscoe Village, & River West
This longtime Cuban staple encourages guests to “taste the forbidden” with a highly respected lineup of authentic Cubanos, guajiritos, and breakfast classics like huevos rancheros Cubano. The festive Logan Square patio is a neighborhood institution, but don’t get intimidated by the menu, newbies—pretty much anything you order is gonna be good.
How to book: Reserve via Yelp.

Beatnik on the River bar
Courtesy of Beatnik on the River

Loop
This exotic escape from Bonhomme Hospitality is an instant mood enhancer with enough lush greenery and cheery colors to perk up any tired old Instagram account. Besides likes, the joint can be counted on for globetrotting cuisine from baba ganoush and ceviche to steak kebabs and a highly underrated Angus beef double cheeseburger. There will, of course, be drinks involved, so don’t skimp on the Oaxacan Old Fashioned or Two Minutes Turkish.
How to book: Reserve via Resy.

River West
One of Chicago’s largest patios is keeping the vibe jovial with its “endless summer” calendar of live music and dining experiences, so there’s absolutely no excuse to miss out on a sun-soaked deep dive into chicken fried lobster, duck tacos, fennel sausage rigatoni, and pan seared halibut. The space is gorgeous, the booze is free-flowing, and the peanut butter fudge pie is starting to become a bit of a problem, if you know what we mean.
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable.

Bridgeport
This Bridgeport stalwart sports a cute outdoor area perfect for date nights and hanging out with friends alike, paired with a menu that aims to please. The signature rotisserie duck and duck and foie gras crepinette certainly have their fair share of loyal devotees, but there’s certainly nothing wrong with something slightly more lowbrow like a stellar hamburger sandwich or always on-point duck fat dog. Besides the cozy digs, they boast a standout selection of cocktails including something called Year of the Drunkey and the Devil’s Tongue.
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable.

Piccolo Sogno
Courtesy of Piccolo Sogno

West Town
One of Chicago’s most romantic restaurants is a must for any date night done right, with the intimate picture-perfect patio making the evening even more memorable. Hand-formed pasta classics like four cheese ravioli paired with rustic secondi from braised beef short ribs to grilled swordfish form the basis of any self-respecting evening celebrating or romancing. And, obviously, there will be wine—more than 400 selections, to be precise.
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable.

Theater on the Lake
Courtesy of Theater on the Lake

Lincoln Park
The views don’t get much better than Theatre on the Lake, where your outdoor table is parked just steps from the softly crashing waves of Lake Michigan. With seating for 80 and a focused selection of entrées from chicken tinga tacos to brisket dip, Theatre on the Lake continues to serve as something of a mental health break come to life. Stop by for weekend brunch served from 10 am to 3 pm.
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable.

Logan Square
This iconic dog-friendly Logan Square patio from the crew at Scofflaw Group is synonymous with lazy summer days wiled away with abandon. Settle into one of the trademark shady yellow and black picnic tables to explore the burger- and wings-heavy menu and toss in a beer cheese pretzel for good measure. The beer collection is deep, the “taco party” comes complete with a can of High Life and a shot of Old Grand-Dad, and the chocolate caramel turtle cake is alarmingly addictive.
How to book: Reserve via Resy.

West Loop, Wicker Park, & River North
Pizza on the patio is a warm weather tradition in Chicago, and Parlor is often where said tradition goes down. Whether nestled into a chair at the West Loop, Wicker Park, or River North location, outdoor diners can rely on the same festive atmosphere alongside a smorgasbord of pizza options from the sausage-topped Abe Froman’s Fave and Italian beef-smothered Beefer Sutherland to the basic Margherita or the ALL CAPS with black truffle cream and mushrooms. Unsurprisingly, there’s no shortage of booze either.
How to book: Reserve online.

Big Star
Big Star | Courtesy of Cassie Stadnicki

Big Star

Wicker Park & Wrigleyville
One of Chicago’s most iconic outdoor dining destinations continues to do what it does best as we gladly resume our normal positions in the sun with a couple of tacos and a huge pitcher of margaritas in front of us. Both the OG Wicker Park and dog-friendly Wrigleyville locations are summer staples, where you can get your al pastor fix set to the musical stylings of the appropriately named DJ Funky Cowboy on the first Tuesday of the month.
How to book: Reserve via Tock (Wicker Park, Wrigleyville).

 

Frontier
Courtesy of Frontier

West Town
To the delight of northwest-siders the neighborhood over, the outdoor patio at James Beard Semi-finalist Chef Brian Jupiter’s airy, farm-to-table West Town gem (as well as the Cajun-influenced Ina Mae Tavern over in Wicker Park) remains a meat-friendly lifeline for those seeking the “whole hog” experience. Frontier’s seasonally sound menu includes hearty sides and salads, smoked meats, bar specialties (hello bison cheesesteak), and overstuffed sandwiches. Save room for their lamb spare ribs and gator gnocchi. Yeah, we said gator gnocchi.
How to book: Reserve via Tock.

Logan Square
Logan Square’s premier destination for fresh pasta and other Italian-inflected comforts is welcoming dinner guests to their romantic open-air patio Wednesdays through Sundays from 5 pm to 10 pm. The updated menu takes a seasonal approach with items like Italian lamb and chicken parm sandwiches for lunch or lamb pancetta gnocchi and truffle ricotta ravioli for dinner. You won’t be disappointed.
How to book: Reserve via Tock.

Furious Spoon
Courtesy of Furious Spoon

Logan Square & Lakeview
This Windy City ramen stalwart is serving tasty noodle bowls, dumplings, and more at both its Logan Square and Lakeview locations. Known for pairing noodles with hip-hop, the Logan Square joint seats 40 while Lakeview can accommodate 20 diners. As they say, to slurp a bowl of their signature Furious Ramen or Tokyo Shoyu Ramen paired with a house-made cocktail like the Uptown Sangria or the summery Ass Kicker (vodka, ginger, citrus) is to know true happiness.
How to book: Reservations via Tock (Logan Square, Lakeview).

Recess
Courtesy of Recess

West Loop
Touted as Chicago’s largest outdoor patio at 14,000-square-feet, this multilevel West Loop drinking deck is never a bad idea on a sunny day. A whimsical collection of mural-adorned shipping containers plays host to a variety of bars, cabanas, and food stations dishing up signature cocktails from large-format “water coolers” to frozé alongside refined pub grub seven days a week.
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable

Aba
Courtesy of Aba

West Loop
With its greenery-strewn, open-air rooftop set against a picturesque West Loop backdrop, fans of this Mediterranean hotspot from Top Chef alum CJ Jacobson absolutely live for patio season. Culinary influences spanning Greece, Lebanon, Israel, and Turkey plus a killer bar program from local drinks maven Liz Pearce form the backbone of this mezze-lovers paradise, a veritable gourmand oasis amid wings-and-burgers desert with a spacious seating area that can safely accommodate up to 110 lucky diners feasting on spreads, hummus, kebabs, stellar craft cocktails, and so much more.
How to book: Reserve via Tock.

Cabra Chicago
Cabra Chicago

Fulton Market
Hop on over to the perennially hip Hoxton Hotel and drop into Chicago chef darling Stephanie Izard’s colorful Peruvian outpost for unparalleled skyline vistas, loungey pool party vibes, and the best dang ceviche this side of Machu Picchu. A sojourn to this Fulton Market hotspot also gets you access to all the bright and summery pisco sours and goat empanadas you can handle.
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable.

The J. Parker
The J. Parker

Lincoln Park
The Hotel Lincoln’s famous retractable rooftop oasis continues to wine and dine cocktail-craving Chicagoans atop its unique parkside perch. Bask in breathtaking lakefront views while nibbling upmarket bar snacks like truffle fries and buffalo cauliflower paired with inventive mixed drinks like the mezcal-infused Fifteen Puzzle or the Scotch-packed See the Elephant. Be sure to get there early—this joint doesn’t take reservations.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Courtesy of RPM Seafood

River North
Enjoy your chilled Alaskan King Crab and Japanese Hamachi with a side of sweeping riverfront panoramas at this stunning and still-young addition to LEYE’s RPM family. What else do you need? Drinks? They got those. Whether it’s an On the River cocktail, a Metro Krankshaft, or a glass of Prosecco, this spot has “special occasion” written all over it.
How to book: Reserve via Tock.

Hyde Park
This Southern-tinged Southside favorite from James Beard finalist Erick Williams features a small but lively sidewalk seating area open for al fresco hopefuls. The menu features belly-warming options like blackened catfish, gizzards with dirty rice and gravy, and the eatery’s famously enticing green tomatoes with plump shrimp and housemade remoulade. In a word, yum.
How to book: Reserve via Resy.

Meredith Heil is originally from St. Louis, now lives in Chicago, and in between has been to all 50 states (that's feet on the ground, none of that airport BS). She enjoys reading about, thinking about, talking about, writing about, putting on events about and drinking about craft beer.
Jay Gentile is an award-winning freelance journalist specializing in travel, food & drink, culture, events and entertainment stories. In addition to Thrillist, you can find his work in The Washington Post, The Guardian, CNN Travel, Chicago Tribune, Lonely Planet, VICE, Outside Magazine and more. Follow @thejaygentile