At long last, the fickle April weather has leveled off and warm weather is here to stay. Until next winter at least. Unsurprisingly, Chicagoans are eager to get outside and make the most of the sunshine by dining and drinking on lush patios all over town. With so many al fresco options to choose from across the city, we’ve helped whittle down the list to a few standout selections. From zen patios to neighborhood terraces, here are a few new options to savor this season.
III Forks Prime Steakhouse: Outfitted with cozy cabanas on the expansive rooftop terrace, this Lakeshore East steakhouse makes for one of the best surefire hits of the season. The spacious lounge provides panoramic vistas of the glistening nearby skyscrapers, hotels, and residences, which is a nice backdrop for enjoying New York strip steaks, flatbreads, filet skewers, cocktails, and wine. Just in case it gets chilly, the terrace is equipped with fireplaces.
Sumi Robata Bar: This River North eatery is beloved for its sensational robata dishes and the masterful cocktails from subterranean Charcoal Bar, but you’ll discover even more to fawn over when you stroll outside. The acclaimed robata restaurant does al fresco in style with a soothing urban oasis as relaxing as sunshine therapy. The patio is a serious operation, constructed to a tee like a restaurant in and of itself. As guests enter 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, with seating for 20. The wooden deck features a number of two-tops as well as a posh lounge area festooned with drapes.
Gather: On the other end of the spectrum and the other side of the city, humble neighborhood haunt Gather has a cozy outdoor nook all its own. 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 al fresco 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.
Elle on the River: What Big Star is to Wicker Park (they've got a killer and sceney patio, by the way), Elle on the River is to River North. Except Elle is entirely seasonal and only operates during the warmer months. The casual sister spot to Travelle in The Langham, Chicago, Elle focuses on Mediterranean-inspired tacos and punch cocktails, all on an enormous concrete patio in front of the hotel overlooking the river. It's a transportive and illustrious experience for any downtown denizen or worker on their lunch break.
Tavern on Rush: One of the most iconic patios in Chicago, the al fresco scene at Tavern on Rush is serious business, and a legit pastime for outdoor diners in the Gold Coast. The restaurant features a massive outdoor area that winds around its entire exterior. Between the steaks, the pizzas, the Manhattans, and the ambience, Tavern on Rush can’t be beat, especially during these prized warmer months.
Perennial Virant: Smack dab at the nexus of Old Town and Lincoln Park, Perennial Virant is conveniently poised to provide some of the best al fresco views in Chicago. Open now for the season, the patio in front of the Hotel Lincoln overlooks Lincoln Park proper, directly across from Green City Market. There's space for 70 on the large patio, presided over by acclaimed chef Paul Virant.
RM Champagne Salon: The alleyway off Green Street in the West Loop may best be known for RM Champagne Salon and its Parisian-inspired cobblestone patio. But the barbecue restaurant that shares the alleyway entrance offers a raucous and summery al fresco alternative that's just as fun. Green Street Smoked Meats unveils its massive patio on warmer days, lending the feel of a barnyard cookout party filled with picnic tables, pulled meats, and booze.