Now that the weather is somewhat cooperating in Chicago, it's time for everyone to go nuts with outdoor dining. We're cooped up for so long that you just can't be outside enough. Chicago boasts plenty of fabulous patios, rooftops and sidewalk cafes that also have great food. I put together a list of what I think are the best outdoor dining spots. Some of these I've actually been to and love. Others I simply dream about. Do you have a favorite outdoor space in Chi-town?
WHERE I'VE BEEN Howells & Hood(435 North Michigan - Magnificent Mile) This spot located at the base of Tribune Tower is one of my favorite outdoor dining spots in Chicago and their menu is fantastic. They have everything from sandwiches to shareable plates and traditional comfort foods. They have a beer list for days, an enviable wine list and a great selection of whiskey for the liquor aficionados. I highly recommend their Grilled Cheese or the Pulled Pork Sandwich and the Chopped Salad. If you have dietary restrictions, they also have a gluten-free menu. The offer brunch on Sundays and periodical beer dinners.
Little Goat Diner(820 West Randolph Street - West Loop) Little Goat Diner has one of the hardest menus from me to choose from. I mean that in the best way possible. Whenever I go here, I have to come with a top three in mind because I want everything. The breakfast menu is out of this world and the rest of the food as great. Where else would you find a Pork Belly Pancake? One thing is for sure, I will never order the same thing from this restaurant unless I'm craving something I've previously had. I want to try everything. Little Goat also has a bakery where you can get anything from bagels to scones to mini pies and sandwiches.
The Plaza at Park Grill(11 North Michigan - Loop) I love going to The Plaza every summer for the experience. The menu is not something to write home about but the food that they do have is good. I recommend the Fish Tacos, the Pulled Pork Sliders and the Cajun Chicken Sandwich. They also offer barbeque which I haven't tried. They do have pretty good cocktails. Their margaritas are fabulous and the Strawberry Lemonade made with Grey Goose Vodka is one of my favorites. The Plaza is the city's largest al fresco dining area and with the location right below The Bean at Millenium Park, you can't beat a better spot. The views are incredible.
ROOF on theWit (201 North State - Loop) ROOF on theWit is my favorite rooftop in the city. I've been to a few of these and this one has been in my top five for a while. I love the sleek look of the space and I love that you can go from dinner and drinks to dancing. They also have really great food. I recommend the Rosemary Sea Salt Fries, Chicken Chorizo Sliders and Roasted Mushroom Flatbread. Their Punch Bowls are incredible too. The Sex on the ROOF is my favorite. I recommend ROOF on theWit for a night out with the girls. I went there for my birthday one year and had a blast. You can't beat the view and if it rains or happens to get a little chilly, they have a solution so that ROOF stays in season all summer long. ROOF on theWit will be hosting the ROOF Runway series this week on Thursday, May 21st so make sure to stop by for light bites, cocktails and great fashion from Banana Republic.
Sweetwater Tavern and Grille(225 North Michigan - Loop) This is another favorite spot of mine. I went here for my birthday one year and just love the food. Their outdoor seating area is incredible and I've seen people with their dogs if that's an interest of yours. I recommend the Baked Spinach Dip, Sweetwater Burger, Santa Fe Chicken Wrap and Baked Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. Amazing.
Taverna 750(750 West Cornelia - Boystown/Lakeview) This used to be a favorite of ours until it wasn't. I still love Taverna and the food is fantastic but it was much better when it was still a fairly new restaurant. That doesn't take away from the fact that the outdoor seating area is incredible. They make their patio beautiful and it's tough to get a spot out there during peak hours. I've literally tried pretty much the entire menu and have been back for thirds by now. I'd recommend the Bruchetta Board, Spicy Crab Dip, Mozzarella Alla Phyllo and Braised Pork.
The Dawson(730 West Grand Avenue - West Town) The Dawson is one of my new favorite spots. The food is fantastic and the service is great. I've been there a few times now and I've never been disappointed. They have this amazing outdoor patio/garden that is completely fenced in. I recommend the Pork Belly Lettuce Cups and Roasted Half Chicken. They have really innovative and different cocktails and their wine list is pretty great too.
WHERE I'D LIKE TO TRY Big Star(1531 North Damen - Wicker Park) I've walked by Big Star a million times but have never actually been there. It's been on my list of places to go for a while and hopefully I'll make it at some point. They have this giant patio that just looks like a ton of fun. Big Star is a bourbon and beer-focused, taco-slinging, late-night honky-tonk in the heart of Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. They play classic country and rock and roll music, just another reason for me to absolutely love this place. I have my eye on the Taco Al Pastor, Taco de Chorizo Verde, The Walking Taco and Frijoles Charros. Make sure to bring cash if you stop by this place because it is cash only!
Bistro Campagne(4518 North Lincoln Avenue - Ravenswood) Bistro Campagne is a neighborhood restaurant in the style of a traditional French bistro. Their outdoor patio is incredibly charming and a place I'm going to dream about till I can make it there. It's also a farm-to-table restaurant that I'm really hoping to try this summer. I have my eye on Crostini au Fromage de Chèvre, Poulet Rôti Forestière, Steak Frites, Croque Madame and Pot-de-Crème au Chocolat.
Celeste (111 West Hubbard - River North) I've heard only great things about Celeste. One thing I've recently learned is that they have a garden and if the photos do it justice, it's gorgeous. I'd love to visit this restaurant and dine in the garden one day this year. I have my eye on the Red Lentil Falafel, Spring Lamb Shoulder and Avocado Grilled Cheese. Don't they sound amazing?
Homestead on the Roof (1924 West Chicago Avenue - East Village) Homestead on the Roof is a farm-to-table restaurant located west of downtown featuring an 80-seat outdoor rooftop patio, an organic rooftop garden, two massive vertical hanging gardens and dozens of planter boxes with fruits, vegetables and herbs. There's also an indoor seating area that's air-conditioned for the rest of the year. I've got my eye on the Papperdelle and the Nectarine dessert with almond pound cake.