Feels like warm weather is finally here to stay (through the summer at least). Per usual, Chicagoans are ravenous for outdoor dining, and with so many restaurants unveiling al fresco options, it takes a special place to stand out. From zen patios to neighborhood terraces, here are a few new options to savor this season.
Sumi Robata Bar is red hot right now, so mosey outside to their zen patio to cool off. Going into their first warm weather season, the acclaimed robata restaurant is doing al fresco in style with a soothing urban oasis as relaxing as therapy. This new patio is a serious operation, constructed to a tee like a restaurant in and of itself. As guests enter into the serene setting, they're surrounded by Japanese siding known as "kura," meant to resemble a storefront, and a wall of evergreens. The space is intimate and calm, like a giant hammock hanging in a Japanese jungle, with seating for 20. The wooden deck features a number of two-tops as well as a posh lounge area festooned with drapes. As the name implies, the zen patio houses a Japanese zen garden, tended to by chef Gene Kato. I wonder if this hospitality wunderkind also performs geisha massages? The zen patio serves the full dinner and beverage menus from 5:00 p.m. until 11:00 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, and from 5:00 p.m. until 12:00 a.m. Thursday through Saturday.
(Gather's terrace. Photo: Gather)
On the other end of the spectrum and the other side of the city, humble neighborhood gem Gather just debuted its own patio. The covered outdoor terrace contains seating for 40 and is set to remain open for nine months out of the year, great for diners who like to fool themselves into thinking they live someplace tropical. The new space feels like an urban Secret Garden, bedecked by a large mural designed by a local artist, granite tables, benches, and mod chairs. Dining on this transportive terrace, especially after the sun sets, one almost expects to hear crickets chirp and fireflies illuminate. It does a city-dweller's body good. The space also offers a special outdoor menu, with a focus on appetizers and shared plates, the kind of food you'd expect at a garden party. Think steamed mussels, beet salad, and brandade. Beverage-wise, expect an emphasis on Champagne and white wines, as well as summer wine coolers available by the pitcher and crisp cocktails utilizing seasonal produce.
Re-opening tomorrow, The Terrace at Trump brings plenty of pomp and circumstance to Chicago's al fresco dining landscape. Located on the 16th floor of the sprawling tower, the patio offers ravishing views of the Chicago River, city architecture, and fireworks over Navy Pier. Everything about this setting is chic and sophisticated, from the floral decorations to the custom-designed lounge and the regal seating. Even the soundtrack is unique, exclusively choreographed by Vourteque to evoke a simpler era via swing music, cabaret, and big band tunes. Try not to dance on the tables, because this is still a ritzy joint. Menu items are perfect for outdoor noshing, from executive chef Michael Fiddler's savory creations such as Caribbean crab cocktail and summer lobster rolls to pastry chef Patrick Fahy's summery sweets like gourmet push-up pops, root beer floats, and banana splits. The terrace will be open daily from 2:00 p.m. until 12:00 a.m.
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