Food & Drink

The 15 Best Spots for Outdoor Dining in Chicago

Soak up the sun.

Recess
Courtesy of Recess

Sick of takeout and Netflix yet? Congratulations, Chicago. You made it to outdoor dining season. And while it seems like al fresco dining season never really ended thanks to the seemingly never-really-ending pandemic, these days you at least don’t have to dress like you’re mushing a dogsled in the Iditarod to grab a meal under the sun. With spring in the air and hope for normalcy around the corner, now’s the perfect time to check out one of the 15 best spots for outdoor dining in Chicago.

Kaiser Tiger

West Loop
Those in the market for bacon, sausage, and beer need look no further than the outdoor patio of West Loop staple Kaiser Tiger, known for its pop-up curling rink in winter and bocce court in summer. Even if you’re not partaking in such esteemed seasonal “sports”, it’s an ideal setting from which post up while watching the world go by with a bacon, pork, and Lagunitas IPA sausage or absurdly massive five-pound “bacon bomb” paired with a stout assemblage of beers, booze, and even CBD punch. Reserve your patio spot for parties of six or fewer here.

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 lasagna Bolognese and four cheese ravioli paired with rustic secondi courses from braised beef short ribs to Mediterranean sea bass on the patio forge the basis of any self-respecting evening of celebrating or romancing. And, obviously, there will be wine. More than 400 wines, actually. Reserve your slice of paradise on Resy.

Theater on the Lake

Lincoln Park
You can’t get a much better view than what you’re looking at from Theatre on the Lake, where your outdoor patio table is perched just steps from the softly crashing waves of Lake Michigan. With outdoor seating for 80 and a wide array of entrées from corned beef and fried chicken to cauliflower tacos and beef stew courtesy of chef Cleetus Friedman, Theatre on the Lake is pretty much a mental health break come to life. Stop by for weekend brunch served from 10 am to 3 pm, and make a reservation here.

Moonlighter

Logan Square
This iconic dog-friendly Logan Square patio from the crew at Scofflaw Group is synonymous with lazy summer days whiled away in the hood. Settle into one of the trademark shady yellow and black picnic tables to explore the burger and wings-heavy menu with a side of beer cheese pretzel for good measure. The beer collection is deep, the hot cocoa is infused with Fireball, and the chocolate caramel turtle cake is alarmingly addictive. Make a 90-minute reservation on Resy today.

Parlor

West Loop, Wicker Park & River North
Pizza on the patio is a warm weather tradition in Chicago. And Parlor is often where such tradition happens. Whether nestled into a chair at the West Loop, Wicker Park, or River North location, outdoor diners can rely on the same festive atmosphere from which to dive into 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. Book a table here.

Big Star
Big Star | Courtesy of Cassie Stadnicki

Big Star 

Wicker Park & Wrigleyville
One of Chicago’s most iconic outdoor dining destinations brings a welcome semblance of normalcy back to local life, as we hole up 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 open for lunch and dinner service starting at 4pm every day of the week, with weekend action kicking off at 11:30 am and the Wicker Park takeout window open at 11:30 am daily. Reserve your table on Tock (Wicker Park, Wrigleyville) with a $15 deposit applied to your final bill.

Frontier
Courtesy of Frontier

Frontier

West Town
To the delight of northwest siders, 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) has remained a covid-era lifeline for those seeking the “whole hog” experience. Frontier’s seasonally appropriate menu includes hearty sides and salads, smoked meats, grilled specialties (hello Wagyu burger), and overstuffed sandwiches. Save room for their house-made peach bread pudding served with ice cream, cookie crumbles and whiskey sauce. Make your reservation through Tock for parties of one to six.
 

Daisies 

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 potato gnocchi and truffle ricotta ravioli for dinner. Nab a reservation for groups of eight or fewer during the week (or five or fewer Thursday - Saturday) on Tock today.

Furious Spoon
Courtesy of Furious Spoon

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 neighborhood locations. Known for pairing ramen with hip-hop, the Logan Square joint seats 40 while Lakeview can accommodate 20 diners. To slurp a bowl of their signature Furious Ramen or Tokyo Sushi Ramen paired with a house-made cocktail like the Uptown Sangria or the summery Ass Kicker (vodka, ginger, citrus) is to know true happiness. Reservations can be made on Tock for both the Logan Square and Lakeview locations.

Recess
Courtesy of Recess

Recess 

West Loop
Touted as Chicago’s largest outdoor patio at a 14,000-square-feet, this multilevel West Loop patio and deck is never a bad idea on a sunny day. A whimsical collection of shipping containers plays host to a variety of bars, cabanas, and food stations dishing up signature cocktails from large-format “water coolers” to peanut butter cup cocktails served alongside refined pub grub seven days a week (reservations here). While you’re at it, make sure to brush up on the joint’s multitude of strictly enforced safety guidelines before coming out to play.

Aba
Courtesy of Aba

Aba 

West Loop
With its lush, 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. With culinary influences from Greece, Lebanon, Israel, and Turkey paired with a killer bar program from local bar star Liz Pearce, this mezze-lovers paradise has long provided an oasis in the covid-era desert. Reservations for groups of up to 12 can be made via Tock with a $50 deposit, and the spacious seating area can safely accommodate up to 110 lucky diners as they feast on spreads, hummus, kebabs, stellar craft cocktails, and so much more.

 

Cabra Cevicheria 

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 views, loungey pool party vibes, and the best dang ceviche this side of Machu Picchu. A reservation gets you access to all the bright and summery pisco sours and goat empanadas you can handle. And you can rest easy that the staff has your back, safety-wise—they’ve even put together a handy rule sheet detailing everything you need to know from checking in to washing up right here.

The J. Parker 

Lincoln Park
The Hotel Lincoln’s famous retractable rooftop oasis continues to wine and dine cocktail-craving Chicagoans atop its uniquely sundrenched parkside perch. Take in the breathtaking lakefront while nibbling upmarket bar snacks like truffle fries and buffalo cauliflower paired with inventive mixed drinks like the vodka-infused Annie Oakley and or the gin-based Daniel Boone on Mondays to Thursdays starting at 5 pm or Fridays through Sundays starting at 3 pm. Before you go, read up on Boka Group’s latest safety guidelines and be sure to get there early—this is first come, first served territory.

Courtesy of RPM Seafood

RPM Seafood 

River North
Enjoy your chilled Alaskan King Crab and Japanese Hamachi with a side of sweeping riverfront views at this stunning and still-young addition to LEYE’s RPM family. A $30 - $50 deposit via Tock ensures a two-hour, socially distanced, and fully luxurious meal amid the sparkling 90-seat expanse on Mondays through Fridays starting at 4 pm and Saturdays through Sundays kicking off at noon. Guests may also dine in fully enclosed riverfront greenhouses for the ultimate Instagrammable experience.
 

Virtue 

Hyde Park
This Southern-tinged Southside favorite from James Beard finalist Erick Williams features a small but lively sidewalk seating area open for outdoor diners. 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. Also be sure to stop by for their weekly “black expression series” event every Friday for dialog with local leaders in the Black community on topics such as food, art, and more. Reservations through Resy span 90 minutes on Wednesdays through Saturdays from 4 pm to 9 pm.
 

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
Our Newsletter
By Signing Up, I Agree to the Terms and Privacy Policy.