After a 17-month-long winter, it's finally nice out. So while it might be 70 degrees and sunny when you order, by the time your check comes the patio might look like the set from White Squall.
So when it comes to finding a restaurant on a day when the forecast is iffy, use this guide. Each spot has outdoor dining with fully-covered tables so you and your food won’t turn into soggier, unhappier versions of yourselves.
There are two locations of Beatnik, the original in West Town and one in the Loop. Both are big on atmosphere, and that atmosphere is best summed up as “Wes Anderson movie set in the.” That means you’ll find lots of tropical plants, sunlight, and ornate furniture. The West Town location has an all-season patio with a retractable roof, and the downtown location has a patio right on the river with heaters, clear plastic to protect from the wind, and a great view. The menus are also similar with dishes like Lebanese lamb, beef cheek arepas, and red curry noodles.
90 Miles Cuban Cafe
It’s remarkably easy to forget how terrible it is outside when you’re eating empanadas and Cubanos on the heated outdoor patio at 90 Miles. This Logan Square spot is BYOB, so don’t forget to pick up some wine or rum to add to their tasty sangria or mojito mix.
Cabra is like a terrarium sitting on top of the Hoxton hotel. It’s filled with plants, natural light, and has a great view of the West Loop. They also serve some very good Peruvian-inspired food. The best things here are the ceviches (the bass with leche de tigre and the duck are stand-outs), and the shrimp tacu tacu which comes on a delicious crispy rice cake.
Aba, a Mediterranean spot in the West Loop has a partially enclosed rooftop patio with heat lamps, fire pits, and plastic domes you can reserve for private dining. Plus, the restaurant has so much foliage you can pretend you’re in Fern Gully.
3 Arts Club Cafe
Full disclosure: this place doesn’t have outdoor dining. But hanging out at 3 Arts during the winter is like being in the terraformed biodome our great-great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren will be living in after they’re forced to flee Earth. It’s a huge space with a glass ceiling and lots of actual trees surrounding the tables. Come to the all-day cafe here for breakfast or lunch, with dishes like soft scrambled eggs and truffled grilled cheese, which you can eat while pondering how we’re going to tap the sun’s core for energy.
Pilsen Yards is a mostly Mexican spot that recently took over the Monnie Burke’s space in Pilsen. Monnie’s had a great back patio, and Pilsen Yards has taken full advantage. They added a retractable roof, lots of heaters, and installed a heated floor. This restaurant has a very detailed IG post letting you know how warm the patio feels based on the temperature outside. During single digits, it felt about 60 degrees. So, by our calculations this week it will feel like the Spring Break you’re not going on this year.
This Wicker Park spot is part of a trifecta of pizza places that includes Happy Camper and Homeslice, and has the same menu of tasty pizzas, salads, and bar snacks. Paradise Park’s heated and covered outdoor patio is decorated with swings, lawn furniture, pink flamingos, and a Winnebago. Plus, the astroturf is a nice touch.
Summer House Santa Monica
How you feel about Summer House might depend on how triggering you find a literal countdown of “days left until summer” posted on the wall. But it can’t be denied that the California theme, tented front patio, and retractable roof is a nice change of pace. Plus, there’s also a display case full of really tasty baked goods. And not even a terrible Chicago winter can ruin the joy of eating a brown butter Rice Krispy treat.
On a 40-degree day, don’t hesitate - just get in the car, roll down the windows (then roll them back up because it’s still really f*cking cold), and head to Superdawg in Norwood Park. It’s an old-fashioned drive-in that’s been around since 1948. You can order your hot dogs, cheeseburgers, and milkshakes from a speaker, and a carhop will bring them out to you. They’ll even hook a tray to your window.