When someone you went to school with sends you a DM that they “would love to hang,” what do you do? When you half-heartedly agree to meet a person who identifies as a “creator slash curator” on a dating app, where will you turn? When the benevolent couple at the dog park suggests you hang out without your dogs present, where will you convene?
Now that “catching up” is suddenly everyone’s favorite pastime, it’s time to practice the art of the hour-long drink-and-snack. These spots are ideal for first dates, coworker reunions, and third-tier friend meetups - especially because you can be in and out by 9pm to go home and watch TV by yourself.
Ever since the temperature rose above 40 degrees, 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.
Nothing says “quick get together” like agreeing to meet at a cafe. And one of our favorite new cafes is Good Ambler in the West Loop. This place has outstanding sweet and savory pastries, and also lunch food like BLTs and salad. It’s also open seven days a week, so you can agree to meet someone for an hour on a Monday and have the rest of the week to recover your lost “me time.”
This Logan Square sandwich shop is a collaboration between the former Blackbird Chef and a chef from the sandwich spot Turkey and the Wolf in New Orleans. Unsurprisingly, sandwiches (like the collard melt with braised collard greens, Russian dressing, and Swiss cheese on rye) are incredible, but the small bites (like the tater tots) are also good. But the specific reason this place is on this guide is that they have a cute outdoor space that’s first-come-first-served after you get your sandwich, and sandwiches are portable if you decide to just take-off after 30 minutes.
In case you didn’t know, Revival Food Hall is having a moment. Three of the restaurants on our Hit List are located in this downtown food hall, which means you can meet friends here after work, and everyone will find something they like. For the purposes of this list, we’re going to suggest grabbing a glass of wine from the bar, then ordering from Boonie Foods. This Filipino spot has great entrees like bagnet and liempo, which comes with delicious garlic rice and a fried egg. We also love the “Boonie Bomb” tacos, which are their tastiest dishes (like the sisig) wrapped in a flour tortilla.
Landbirds is a casual counter-service spot that’s ideal for a quick meal involving delicious Korean lollipop chicken wings and rice. The wings are twice-fried, crispy, and drizzled in a gingery sauce that’s sweet and not too sticky. This place also has fantastic musubi rice made with spam, kimchi, and wing sauce. Other great things about this place: they’re BYOB, and they have an outdoor patio too.
Mini Mott is another casual counter-service operation in Logan Square, and it’s from the team behind Mott St. The specialty here is a very good burger topped with American cheese, frizzled sweet potato, and a hoisin mayo but they have other stuff like chicken wings, soft serve, and vegetarian jackfruit carnitas. Sit on their patio, or head to one of the nearby parks. Then, head straight home to recover from small talk fatigue.
We really appreciate catching up with people on the relaxed rooftop at Bernie’s Lunch & Supper. The tables here are far enough apart to make it feel extra spacious, and they just expanded their awning too so it’s nice and shaded. You can still eat here even when it rains, and more importantly, they have Happy Hour from 4:30-6:30pm with drink specials and snacks like wings and sliders. Also important: You have been saving episodes of Mare of Eastown and will get home with enough time to watch them all.
This carryout window spot in Bridgeport serves (wait for it) pizza, fried chicken, and ice cream. It’s right next to Maria’s and Kimski (they do the fried chicken, and the ice cream comes from Pretty Cool Ice Cream). But what we really like about this place is their large back patio. Order a slice of pepperoni, get a drink from Maria’s next door, and set your timer for exactly 60 minutes so you know when to start wrapping things up.
L’Patron is a casual BYOB Mexican spot that has great tacos. There’s a long menu of options including carne asada, lengua, shrimp, and poblana rajas with caramelized onions. But for something more substantial, order the Gringa taco. It’s al pastor with a lot of melted chihuahua cheese served on thick handmade tortillas, and it will give you all the sustenance necessary to explain to your friends that you need to get home to your dog. You know, because it’s the “dog” who has separation anxiety.
Kasama is a West Town spot that’s open all day, and does everything exceedingly well: pastries (like the ham and cheese danish or cardamom kouign amann), Filipino plates like the chicken adobo, snacks like the lumpia - everything we’ve tried has been absolutely delicious. Right now they’re counter service only and closed for indoor dining, but they have a great side patio next to the restaurant.
If you want something with a range of options, consider Three House. It’s another counter-service spot in West Town that’s open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and has things like a delicious smashburger, fried chicken biscuit with chorizo gravy, empanadas, and entrees like fried brussels sprouts topped with shallots, feta cheese, and tender slices of skirt steak. They don’t serve booze but they have great smoothies, and, besides, you have a box of wine at home.
The Delta is a casual Southern bar and restaurant in Wicker Park that’s great for drinks and light bites. There’s a long cocktail menu, and you can also get snacks like hushpuppies, tamales, fried green tomatoes, and a great burger. They have an awesome secluded back patio, and take both reservations and walk-ins.
This Logan Square spot has both a sidewalk and rooftop patio, and 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. And then, after you’ve had enough vitamin D and queso, utilize that excuse to leave you’ve been formulating for the last 72 hours.
Little Victories in Wicker Park is a fun bar that has great bar food like burgers and spinach dip, and plenty of outdoor and indoor 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 only spoken to over DM.
We were very happy when Ludlow Liquors reopened after being closed during the pandemic. 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, they make great Sicilian-style pizza, too.
This is a diner (complete with laminated menus and spinny stools) from the Girl & the Goat team. And while this place can be busy on the weekends, during the week it’s great for a casual meetup in the West Loop. You can order things like nachos, patty melts, pancakes (they serve breakfast all day), along with cocktails.
Momo World is a casual counter-service spot in University Village, and they have fantastic dumplings here. There are a lot of different preparations, including the classic steamed, jhol (served in a spicy soup), and creative options like the momo chaat or tandoori, which are steamed, fried, and then grilled. They’re all delicious, each order is under $10, and you’ll be in and out in less than an hour.
Along with having some of Chicago’s best sandwiches (the Beet Street, with beets, apples, and almond butter, is one of our favorites), Tempesta Market is also a deli and specialty store. This means you can get a sandwich, some meat and cheese, prepared foods like potato and pasta salads, and set up a little picnic with some friends on their sidewalk patio.