As long as you pick the right one, being on a rooftop in Chicago is great. You get a view of the city, plus a breeze that will save you from the unrelenting summertime humidity (which we all know is just the pent-up energy from frustrated snow). But a rooftop with bad drinks or a boring view is about as much fun as sitting in a plane on the tarmac - and you definitely don’t have time for that this year. Here are the best rooftops in Chicago, for all sorts of occasions.
Yes, even during the pandemic Aba can be kind of a scene. Thankfully now it’s a socially distanced one with great food and a huge rooftop patio full of firepits and comfortable couches. And as with its sister restaurant Ema, a lot of things (like the hummuses and spreads) on the Mediterranean menu are meant to be shared.
Cabra is filled with plants, natural light, and has a great view of the West Loop. They also serve some very good Peruvian food. The best things here are the ceviches - the bass with leche de tigre and the duck are great)- and the shrimp tacu tacu which comes on a delicious crispy rice cake.
Eleven Eleven is an upscale wine bar with great food that (despite being in the West Loop) manages to be relatively relaxed. You’ll find options like shrimp and grits, bucatini, and a dish of cauliflower “burnt ends” that tastes like something your stoner roommate who’s also a very good chef would make after a night out.
The spacious rooftop bar at the Godfrey has lots of couches that are perfect for hanging out with your friends over drinks. Plus, it has a retractable roof so you don’t need to worry about bad weather ruining your plans.
The Kennedy is on top of the Hyatt in Wicker Park, and since you’re not literally in the skyline, you have a nice view of downtown Chicago. It also has a long menu full of cocktails and bar food, and plenty of tables and couches spaced far apart for social distancing.
This is another rooftop in Wicker Park, and at 3,000 square feet, is very large. Whiskey Business also has other things to do besides eating and drinking. On Tuesdays they have movie night and every Wednesday they have their rooftop concert series, where they play shows and have a light show. All socially distanced, of course.
You might know Joy District as the loud bar on top of Parlay in River North, because it is. But now this rooftop bar serves food and has couches and high tops so you can hang out for a while.
The Rooftop At Nobu Hotel
After a lot of delays (this project started in 2015), Nobu has finally opened in the West Loop. This rooftop bar is 11 stories up on top of the hotel, and along with a long list of sake and cocktails, they also serve Japanese small plates and sushi.
Cerise is the bar on the 26th floor of the Virgin Hotel in the Loop, and it’s exactly what you’re looking for in a sceney downtown rooftop: great drinks, a short menu of just-fine snacks (like avocado toast and a fried chicken sandwich), and fantastic views of the city.
Vu is a rooftop bar on the 22nd floor of a building near the McCormick Center. And since it has both firepits and retractable windows, it’s good for the occasional 53-degree Chicago summer day. There’s a long menu of small plates, with dishes like mushroom tostadas, pork belly bao, and grilled jerk shrimp. It’s all fine, but our favorite activity here is to drink and be glad we’re not going to the Morningstar Investment Conference this year.
Take your average Chicago block party and plop it on a rooftop deck, and you have Reggies in the South Loop. This casual bar and music venue (yes, they’re hosting some shows) has cold beer, burgers and wings. And unlike your neighborhood block party, the rooftop has very little probability of screaming children. What it lacks in view (overlooking a deserted section of State Street and Cermak) it makes up for in a relaxed and fun atmosphere.
This is a fancy spot at the top of The Peninsula, a luxury hotel near Michigan Ave. Because of its location, it has a great view of the Magnificent Mile, which makes it an ideal place to take out-of-towners. You’ll find small plates like foie gras-filled bon bons and marrow “poppers” (which are basically tater tots filled with bone marrow). Come here and eat some expensive bar food with anyone you’re trying to impress - like visiting colleagues, or your soon-to-be sister-in-law who kind of hates the city.
Tanta is always a great restaurant, but it’s best in the summer when you can hang out at the rooftop bar. Not only can you eat tasty Peruvian food like cebiches and skewers, but you can also avoid the typical outdoor dining situation in River North - i.e. sitting on a sidewalk while trying to igore the garbage trucks going by. This place is perfect for a weekend date, or even a nicer dinner during the week.
We really appreciate hanging out 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. They also still take reservations even when it rains, and more importantly, your hair won’t get wet. Also important? They have one of our favorite burgers in Chicago.
Raised is a cute flower-box-lined rooftop right on Wacker and State with a great view of the Chicago River. This spot is low key, with a menu of elevated bar food items like tenderloin sliders, lobster rolls, and charcuterie. Come here when you don’t want to worry about being blown away by gale-force winds.
The Woodlawn (located in...wait for it...Woodlawn) has rooftop seating, along with private party domes you can reserve for $125 per person, and they seat two to six people. The reservation includes a three-course meal and you can still BYOB.