Eat Safely – Outdoors! – at Chicago's Best Restaurants

Virtue Restaurant & Bar

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With summer upon us and restaurants starting to reopen with new safety guidelines in place, there’s never been a better time to have dinner on the patio, roof, or other outdoor dining areas of Chicago’s best restaurants. Dining outside is a healthier option than dining inside, and hey, it’s summer and it’s nice to be outside in the fresh air, right?


You’ve probably been eating at home for a long time now, and that was likely the safest place to enjoy a good meal. Now, with increased awareness and new guidelines in place, it’s time to tentatively start visiting your favorite restaurants again.


Here are seven of Chicago’s best restaurants, all serving food outdoors, so you can stay safe…and well-fed.


City Mouse.  Patio dining, pick up and delivery are all available from City Mouse, located in the reviving Fulton Market area.  The “all-day menu” is immense, with hearty options such as Lady Edison country ham and grilled New York strip steak, as well as veggie-forward dishes like whole grain salad and grilled eggplant. Of course, there are all-day cocktails like chamomile spritz and a tequila bramble.


Virtue Restaurant & Bar. Chef Erick Williams received a lot of well-deserved national attention since he opened Hyde Park’s Virtue Restaurant & Bar not long ago. Now, with an open patio, he’s serving up some of his most popular dishes, including green tomatoes and gizzards (MUCH better than you might imagine), shrimp over cheddar grits, catfish perched upon Carolina Gold rice with barbecued carrots, and smoked turkey with collards. Been feeling tense lately? Virtue will make you feel comfortable, right at home, happy, and full of good food.


City Mouse


Homestead on the Roof. With a huge dining space “on the roof,” Homestead is ready to serve you in the safest of environments, with lots of fresh air and good food. Their on-site West Town Bakery is open for breakfast, and the roof is open late afternoon and evening. There’s loads of room for social distancing, and sitting on the roof, beneath the stars, is a wonderful way to spend a summer evening.


Summer House Santa Monica. The always-fun patio at Summer House Santa Monica is now open (at 50% capacity, for your safety, but call ahead for a reservation to make sure you get a seat).  On the menu, the food you love: prime beef meatballs, Summer House Cobb salad, spicy Hobbs pepperoni pizza and “California comfort food” like chicken tinga tacos and wood-grilled Brandt beef skirt steak. Of course, Summer House Santa Monica offers lots of summery cocktails to help you feel like you’re on vacation even if you’re stuck at home this season.


Big Star. Paul Kahan’s Big Star has always been a popular patio dining option, and with the pandemic upon us, sitting outside and enjoying fabulous Mexican-inspired food and cocktails has never seemed more attractive. Fish tacos and tacos al pastor are highly recommended, but there’s so much good food to choose from at Big Star, it will be very hard to choose and whatever you choose, you can count on it being fabulous.


Utopian Tailgate. Utopian Tailgate beckons with 10,000 square feet of outdoor party space. The food (like Ganja Goo Balls, Insane Grilled Cheese and Wagyu steak kebabs), the cocktails (including Tijuana mule, Key lime pie shot, and gin & chronic) and the games (such as Jenga, putterball and foosball) are all you’ll need to forget the world outside. Utopian Tailgate is a very good time.


Beatrix. On their patio and at select indoor tables, Beatrix offers some of the most inventive vegetarian dishes in the city. Creations like vegan corn chowder, enlightened Caesar salad, and mushroom and quinoa burger will help you feel healthy even during this time of everyday health scares. You’ll feel no less robust with heartier options like pot roast filet mignon and skirt steak chimichurri.