Food & Drink

Everything You Need to Know about Outdoor Dining in Chicago

Bring a mask.

Recess
Courtesy of Recess

It’s no secret that our fair city’s vibrant food and drink scene has been in serious flux since early March and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve been resilient, we’ve ordered in, we’ve dreamt of sunny days spent sucking down margaritas on Damen Avenue. And as of last week, our beloved Chicago bars and restaurants are slowly starting to emerge from their mandated slumber. But this whole phase system might leave you scratching your head over how, when, and where you might be able to stretch your legs and fill your gullets this summer. That’s why we threw together this brief explainer on outdoor dining in Chicago during the time of COVID. As always, we encourage you to be responsible and still recommend takeout and delivery for maximum safety.

Is outdoor dining open yet in Chicago?

Yes. According to Phase 3 of the city’s official reopening plan, Chicago restaurants and bars can resume serving outdoor tables with the following stipulations:

  • Seatings are limited to six guests per table and gatherings limited to 10 people total (aka groups hoping to dine together at separate tables).
  • Tables must be placed six feet apart at all times and/or broken up by structural barriers like counters, registers, or other fixtures.
  • All staff must wear face coverings at all times. Customers must also wear face coverings any time they’re not seated at their assigned table.
  • Restaurant-provided table items like menus, condiments, napkin dispensers, and other necessities should be disposable or single-use if at all possible.
  • Self-serve food and drink stations are off-limits.
  • Sanitizer stations should be available to diners and staff, and staff should be equipped with disinfectant materials to sanitize surfaces between seatings.
  • Restaurants reserve the right to ask anyone who is visibly sick or has reported symptoms to leave the premises, including diners and staff members.

As an extra treat, Chicago has initiated a street-closure program that provides restaurants with even more space to serve by sectioning off certain blocks from car traffic during set times. The streets listed below will be among the first to close. Stay tuned to Chicago.gov’s news updates for more information about the program’s impending roll-out.

  • Chatham: 75th Street from Calumet Avenue to Indiana Avenue
  • Lakeview: Broadway from Belmont Avenue to Diversey Parkway
  • Little Village: 26th Street from Central Park to Harding Avenue
  • Near North: Rush Street from Oak Street to Cedar Street
  • Near West Side: Taylor Street from Loomis Street to Ashland Avenue
  • West Loop: Randolph Street from the Kennedy Expressway no farther than Elizabeth Street
Daisies
Daisies | Courtesy of Ryan Gorey

When will dine-in service resume in Chicago?

If all goes to plan, Mayor Lightfoot announced that Chicago could be ready to enter Phase 4 of reopening as early as Friday, June 26. This phase will allow for dine-in service with these stipulations:

  • Restaurants must keep crowds to 25% total capacity or 50 people, whichever number is smaller.
  • Seatings are limited to 10 guests per table.
  • Counters and barstools are fair game granted they remain a full six feet apart from each other and surrounding tables.
  • Staff must keep their masks on at all times. Guests can only remove their face coverings to eat or drink while seated.
  • Sanitizing stations for both staff and guests must be provided.
  • Self-serve food and drink stations are still a no-no. Buffets can only operate if manned by a PPE-compliant employee at all times.
  • Signage warning customers and staff to stay home if they’re exhibiting any symptoms or other similar health-screening measures are mandatory.
  • Front-of-house areas should be cleaned thoroughly every 30 minutes during the day in addition to opening and closing procedures.

What about drinking outdoors on the street?

Just because Governor Pritzger recently legalized carry-out cocktails doesn’t mean you can start popping bottles on the street. If you’re imbibing, stick to your restaurant's or bar’s designated outdoor area and be extra respectful of their rules so as not to endanger their licenses. We’re still all in this together.

Here are some places that are currently open for your outdoor dining pleasure.

Big Star
Big Star | Courtesy of Cassie Stadnicki

Big Star 

Wicker Park & Wrigleyville
Status: Currently open for outdoor dining, take-out, and delivery
Chicago summer means three things: beaches, baseball, and Big Star’s epic patio. And while the first two aren’t quite ready for their big return, at least we can now 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 11:30am every day of the week while Wicker Park alone has breakfast covered from 8am to 11am. Reserve your table on Tock (Wicker Park, Wrigleyville) and note that deposit requirements differ depending on timing.

Frontier
Courtesy of Frontier

Frontier

West Town
Status: Currently open for outdoor dining, take-out, and delivery 
To the delight of eager northwest siders, James Beard Semi-finalist Chef Brian Jupiter recently opened the patio doors to both this airy, farm-to-table West Town gem as well as the Cajun-influenced Ina Mae Tavern over in Wicker Park. Frontier’s seasonally appropriate, pared down outdoor menu includes hearty sides and salads, smoked meats, grilled specialties (hello Wagyu burger), and overstuffed sandwiches. Save room for a slice of basil Key lime or bourbon-pecan pei from Maya-Camille Broussard’s inimitable Justice of Pies. Make your reservation through Tock for parties of two to four.

Daisies 

Logan Square
Status: Currently open for outdoor dining and curbside pick-up
Logan Square’s premiere destination for fresh pasta and other Italian-inflected comforts is welcoming dinner guests to their weather-dependent patio Tuesdays through Saturdays from 4pm to 8pm. The updated menu takes a seasonal approach with additions like spring radicchio salad with shaved turnips and the beachy Inland Seas cocktail (rum, parsnip, saffron, lime). Nab your hour and 45 minute reservation for groups of six or fewer on Resy today.

Furious Spoon
Courtesy of Furious Spoon

Furious Spoon

Logan Square, Wicker Park, Pilsen & Lakeview
Status: Currently open for outdoor dining, take-out, and delivery
This Windy City ramen stalwart is now serving tasty noodle bowls, dumplings, and more al fresco out of four different neighborhood locations. The Logan Square joint seats 40 while Wicker Park is limited to 10, Pilsen caps at 16, and Lakeview can accommodate 20 diners, all at tables stationed a safe six feet apart. To boot, they’re also launching a new large-format cocktail program to keep things flowing, with standouts like the Patio Margarita ($40 for a bottle of Espolon Reposado tequila, house-made nori-habanero mix, and garnishes) and the Ol' Dirty Bucket ($40 for a bottle of Wild Turkey 101, signature bitters-infused demerara syrup, and filthy black cherries) leading the pack. All spots will be open daily from 11am to 10pm with seatings doled out on a first come, first served basis.

Recess
Courtesy of Recess

Recess 

West Loop
Status: Currently open for outdoor dining
Just as the summer sun heats up, this hotly anticipated multilevel West Loop patio and deck -- touted as Chicago’s largest at a 14,000-square-feet -- is finally, finally ready for liftoff. A whimsical collection of shipping containers plays host to a variety of bars, cabanas, and food stations dishing up signature cocktails (ahem, frosé all day) alongside refined pub grub starting at 4pm on weekdays and 11am Saturday through Sunday. Reservations aren’t required but 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
Status: Currently open for outdoor dining, take-out, and delivery
With its lush, open-air rooftop set against a picturesque West Loop backdrop, fans of this Mediterranian hotspot from Top Chef alum CJ Jacobson absolutely live for patio season. Thankfully, mezze-lovers in groups of six or less can now get their fix Mondays through Thursdays from 3pm to 9pm, Fridays from 3pm to 11pm, Saturdays from 11am to 11pm, and Sundays from 11am to 9pm. Reservations are required 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
Status: Currently open for patio and poolside dining
Hop on over to the 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 $50 deposit and reservation secured on Tock gets you two hours of table time for groups of one to six and access to all the bright and summery pisco sours 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.

Hub 51, il Porcellino & Ramen-San 

River North
Status: Currently open for outdoor dining (plus carryout and delivery via individual restaurants)
Lettuce Entertain You power players Hub 51, il Porcellino, and Ramen-San have joined forces to provide River North’s hungriest with one of the most diverse (and delicious) outdoor dining experiences in town. The greatest hits menu is a trip around the globe, with highlights including loaded ramen bowls and mantou buns, soul-quenching bucatini cacio e pepe, and grilled halibut fish tacos plus boozy numbers like the Okinawa Ol' Fashioned (Rittenhouse Rye, Okinawa sugar, Angostura bitters). Located at 59 W. Hubbard Street, the breezy surrounds fit 52 at capacity and all it takes is a $30 deposit through Tock to secure an hour and a half of blissful devouring.

The J. Parker 

Lincoln Park
Status: Currently open for outdoor dining, take-out, and delivery
The Hotel Lincoln’s retractable rooftop oasis is once again ready 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 and sipping inventive mixed drinks like the Getty’s Herb (Olmeca Altos Blanco tequila, apricot liqueur, lime, basil-mint syrup) on Wednesdays and Thursdays starting at 5pm and Fridays through Sundays starting at 3pm. 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
Status: Currently open for outdoor dining, take-out, and delivery
Enjoy your chilled Alaskan King Crab and Japanese Hamachi with a side of sweeping riverfront views at this stunning young addition to LEYE’s RPM family. A $50 deposit via Tock ensures a two-hour, socially distinanced, and fully luxurious meal amid the sparkling 90-seat expanse on Mondays through Thursdays from 3pm to 9pm and Fridays through Sundays from 3pm to 10pm. Guests are also encouraged to pre-order and prepay before they arrive for the ultimate contact-free experience. 

Virtue 

Hyde Park
Status: Currently open for outdoor dining and curbside pick-up
This Southern-tinged Southside favorite from James Beard finalist Erick Williams has recently reopened for sidewalk seating and take-out. The menu features belly-warming options like pork chops, gizzards with dirty rice and gravy, and the eatery’s famously enticing green tomatoes with plump shrimp and housemade remoulade. Reservations through Resy are a must and each seating of two to four guests spans 90 minutes on Wednesdays through Saturdays from 4pm to 9pm.

Sign up here for our daily Chicago email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in town.

Meredith Heil is a contributor for Thrillist.