Driving around Chicago right now, you’ll likely see just as many outdoor dining setups as red-light cameras. Not only have they become staples in the new world of supporting restaurants during a pandemic, but Chicagoans love eating on a patio (56 months of winter will do that to a city). Here are our 23 favorite new patios in the city - either brand new, remodeled, or recently reopened after being closed last year.
Diver At The Park
The Diver at the Park is a Tulum-inspired restaurant in Wrigleyville with a large fenced-in beer garden. And as you might have deduced from that description, this is a party patio. The outdoor (and dog-friendly) space is huge, has picnic tables, swings, a vintage camper bar, and serves food like tacos, nachos, and ceviches. They also do a bottomless brunch on the weekend. Maybe you can train your dog to call the Uber.
Rose Mary is a great new Croatian spot in the West Loop and reservations are hard to get. But now they’re a little bit easier thanks to extra seating on their new outdoor patio. Those new outdoor tables are all covered with large umbrellas to protect you from the sun, and decorated with string lights to distract you from noticing all the construction cranes swinging around the neighborhood. The menu has dishes like a tomato, farro, and asparagus salad, delicious crni rizot topped with grilled squid, and incredible pastas. And the service here is great - both inside and outside.
This Mexican restaurant in the West Loop is from a former chef of Mi Tocaya (one of our favorite spots in the city), and makes delicious dishes like cochinita pibil, tlayudas, tuétano, and pato en mole, along with wonderfully chewy tortillas. Their big sidewalk patio has large covered tables perfect for groups, and lots of plants to help you forget that you’re practically eating in the middle of Fulton (which, thankfully, is still closed to traffic). Also worth noting: they now serve weekend brunch, and nothing goes better with outdoor dining than spiked horchata and churro French toast.
Our takeout dinner from Dear Margaret was one of our favorite meals we ordered last winter. So we were delighted when this French-Canadian restaurant in Lincoln Park finally opened for outdoor dining. And to the surprise of no one, foie gras terrine with fluffy milk bread, snap peas with crispy garlic, and aged duck breast are even more enjoyable on the restaurant’s quiet sidewalk patio versus our apartment. And while the patio is small, the intimacy just adds to the charm of this BYOB spot. In other words, it’s exactly the kind of place where you will gleefully take extra time to finish off that wine you brought, preferably with a piece of their maple chevre cheesecake for dessert.
Gioia is an upscale new Italian restaurant in the West Loop with a cute sidewalk patio that has plenty of plants, and comfortable tables and chairs that don’t look like they were hastily purchased from a discount garden store. The focus here is on handmade pastas, which include things like a fantastic bucatini cacio e pepe, pici with ragu, and paccheri mancini prepared tableside. And while Gioia is on one of Chicago’s busiest streets (Randolph) in one of the busiest neighborhoods, it’s just far enough away from the foot traffic you won’t have to worry about Labradoodles trying to steal your food.
If you just want to sit with friends outside, drink some cocktails, and eat delicious pizza, Pizzeria Lobo in Logan Square is where you can do this. They serve Neapolitan pies, and you’ll find excellent red sauce options like the “amatrice yo-self” (roasted tomato, pancetta, and Calabrian chile), and white pies like the castello bianco - with meatballs, ramps, and parm. Plus, their large patio is heated and partially covered, and you’ll never need to worry about your breadsticks getting soggy because of rain.
Bar Avec is the rooftop bar on the eighth floor above Avec River North, which recently opened in the former Pacific Standard Time space (which is about 78 times larger than the original). The rooftop is full of plants and trees, is shaded, and has a separate Spanish-inspired menu than what you’ll find at Super Avec downstairs. Food options here include small plates like mussels escabeche, crudos, and entrees like fideo noodle paella.
Every summer we tell people to go hang out at the outdoor space at Green Street Smoked Meats. You should still do that, but now you should also check out Trivoli Tavern. It’s owned by the same team and they’re also a part of Gin Alley. This means they have a twinkly lit cobblestoned patio that’s very cute for a date. Trivoli serves upscale bar food like fish and chips (they have a very good steak frites) and dinner here just might take the sting out of your canceled-because-of-the-pandemic European vacation.
The secluded outdoor space at the closed Monty Burke’s in Pilsen was fantastic, so we were happy that Pilsen Yards recently took over the space and re-did the back patio. They added heated floors and a retractable roof. Now you can come here for drinks and Mexican dishes like tacos, sweet corn tamales, and not worry that a 45-degree day in May will affect your catch-up dinner with friends.
Fiya opened in Andersonville last spring, and this Israeli restaurant is wonderful. From the pillowy pita to the tahini-rich hummus that’s slick with olive oil to a khachapuri filled with shakshuka - it’s all delicious. And you can’t see it from the street, but they have a large, quiet, courtyard behind the restaurant that’s filled with strings lights and trees. It’s exactly the kind of relaxing spot that’s perfect in for a low-key summer dinner.
If you’re looking to sit outside at a Big New Restaurant (as in popular, and also literally large), the answer is Andros Taverna. This patio at this Greek restaurant in Logan Square is spacious, has great food, and you can usually get same-day reservations. You’ll find appetizers like the must-order kataifi cheese pie (shredded filo layered with cheese, baked, then topped with honey and pistachios), entrees like prawn saganaki in a rich tomato sauce, and the best spanakopita we’ve ever had.
We definitely weren’t expecting to find one of our favorite new patios hanging out on a side street in Bucktown. But that’s where you’ll find Leavitt Tavern, a bar and inn (they have three rooms) that opened last year and just started serving food - specifically a smashburger that’s very good. Despite the fact that it’s pretty close to the Dan Ryan, the outdoor space is incredibly peaceful. There’s no foot or street traffic, and the patio is huge with two sections - one that’s tented and heated, and one that’s on the grass and feels like hanging out in the park.
Mama Delia’s is a Spanish spot that opened in Wicker Park last year. And if you’re familiar with Beatnik, you’ll know what to expect. It’s from the same team, and has a similar atmosphere - meaning loud music and ornate furniture, even on their fantastic covered sidewalk patio. Come here to catch up with friends over cocktails and share dishes like conservas, tartare, or a cheese plate. Or come on a date, and share a bottle of wine and some paella.
Remember fun bars? Well, Little Victories in Wicker Park is a fun bar right next to Mama Delia that has great bar food like burgers and spinach dip, and plenty of outdoor seating. It’s the kind of casual place where you can drop by for a drink to see friends who have been hanging out here for hours, and/or meet a date that you’ve only spoken to over DM.
We were very happy when Ludlow Liquors reopened after being closed during the pandemic, because we badly missed this neighborhood spot’s relaxed outdoor space. This Logan Square bar has a large fenced-in back patio full of colorful picnic tables and bright green turf. It’s a fantastic low-key drinking spot, where you can meet some friends and even bring your dog to hang out with you for an hour on fake grass. Plus, now they make great Sicilian-style pizza.
Just like Ludlow Liquor, we were very happy when Lonesome Rose finally reopened for dine-in service. This Logan Square spot has both a sidewalk and rooftop patio, as well as great Tex-Mex dishes that are easy to share. Get an order of the chili con queso (order extra tortilla chips - they’re excellent), the fish tacos, and any of their cocktails.
You go to Azul Mariscos when you’re in the mood for the kind of spot that has a live DJ, bottle service, a patio on the water, and gives you the option to order cocktails for the table in a $150 clay pot. This seafood restaurant recently opened along the Chicago River in Goose Island, and the food is Latin-inspired. This means the menu is full of things like lobster empanadas, tacos, shrimp aguachile, and seafood towers. Is it Miami? No, but it doesn’t feel like Chicago either.
The Perch is a new-ish brewpub in Wicker Park that’s a collaboration between 4 Star Restaurant Group (who owns Smoke Daddy and Crosby Kitchen) and Finch Beer Co. You’ll find food that is at their other restaurants (like lobster deviled eggs) along with salads, sandwiches, and large plates like ribs and grilled salmon. But our favorite thing about this place is the large patio with lots of shade and a sculpture garden, too.
Ever since the temperature rose above 40 degrees last month Middle Brow has been a part of our unofficial Patio Watch: 2021. Thankfully they’ve recently reopened, and this Logan Square brewery is a perfect place to hang out on some giant picnic tables over delicious pizza, freshly-baked bread, and beer.
This Italian restaurant in Logan Square opened late last summer, and now you can enjoy eating on either their sidewalk, or cute back patio. The menu is short - some hot and cold small plates, two Roman-style pizzas, a few entrees, and pastas like cacio e pepe and mezze maniche. The food here is great, the space is lovely, and if you’re looking for a low-key dinner (or brunch) to catch up with friends, come here.
Ok, hear us out. Babygold Barbecue isn’t in Chicago, it’s actually out in Berwyn. But if you really miss live music, and listening to some jazz while eating some barbecue ribs sounds fun, you should consider a trip out here. This new restaurant opened at FitzGeralds, a 40-year old music venue. They just remodeled their outdoor patio, and they have live music nightly, with bands playing everything from jazz to blues to bluegrass.
Recess in the West Loop is a theme bar, and the theme is basically “City Hall,” which means menus are made to look like municipal forms and cocktails have names like the “Alderman’s Choice.” We’ll be the first to admit that might not sound like fun, but we promise, it is. The outdoor space is huge (14,500 square feet), and includes tables situated inside repurposed shipping containers, giant games of things like Connect Four, and it even has an outpost of Bob’s Pizza. In conclusion, come here, get drunk, order pizza, and repeat all summer long.
Rooh is an upscale Indian restaurant right on Randolph in the West Loop that took over the parking lot next door, which they use for outdoor dining. The patio is large and tented, and the whole space is great for a date or a casual business dinner. They make pretty (and tasty) versions of dishes like duck and apricot-stuffed flatbread, tuna bhel, and butter chicken.