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2012 outdoor dining and drinking preview

35+ patios, rooftops and outdoor spaces open now and coming soon

  • Pastry chef Nathan Meads and sommelier Jason Wagner in the courtyard space that will become RM Champagne Salon's patio in mid-May.
Pastry chef Nathan Meads and sommelier Jason Wagner in the courtyard space… (Lenny Gilmore/RedEye )
April 18, 2012|By Lisa Arnett and Emily Van Zandt | RedEye

Chicago's sure sign of summer is a crowded patio. We've already been treated to a few weekends of al fresco-friendly weather, but the best of the outdoor dining and drinking season is yet to come. Here's a look at the patios, rooftops and sidewalk cafes that deserve a spot on your summer to-do list.


Ada Street
1664 N. Ada St. 773-697-7069
This out-of-the-way tavern on the east edge of Bucktown will become even more destination-worthy when the weather warms up for good. The glass garage door at the back of the bar will roll up to reveal a 35-to-40-seat patio with a fire pit, synthetic grass, nightly keg tappings and a special outdoor-only food menu.
ETA: Late May

Estate Ultra Bar
1177 N. Elston Ave. 312-582-4777
This riverside bar adds to its already-open patio seating with a rooftop set to open in the first part of the summer. Call ahead to snag a reservation for the lounge area, which will include cabanas equipped with misters and TVs plus additional seating including recliners, sun chairs and more. We weren't impressed with the food when we stopped by earlier this spring, but something tells us that will be the last thing on most scenesters' minds.
ETA: Mid-June

RM Champagne Salon
116 N. Green St.
A 150-seat courtyard patio surrounded by neighboring buildings at the end of a cobblestone alley sounds like the perfect place to indulge in bubbly from champagne-obsessed sommelier Jason Wagner and sophisticated sweets from former Fritz Pastry chef Nate Meads—and that's exactly what this West Loop lounge is planning. Expect a greenery-trimmed, cafe table-laden space with French black-and-white films projected on the courtyard wall while you sip.
ETA: Late May or early June

841 W. Randolph St.
RM Champagne Salon's courtyard space will be shared with Graham Elliot's coming-soon bistro. "That'll be like one of the coolest blocks in the whole city," Elliot has said of the space, which will have 60 seats with lights and canvas sails to cast shade.
ETA: Late May

Bang Bang Pie Shop
2051 N. California Ave. 773-276-8888
Leave it to a humble pie shop to have plans for what has the potential to be the coolest backyard patio in Logan Square. "We will be building a fence surrounding the yard with antique doors we've been paying a junk collector to find for us in alleyways," co-owner Dave Miller said. "We will be planting an urban garden with herbs and fruits that we will eventually be able to use for our pies and biscuits." Miller predicts the space could seat at least 50 with a combination of picnic tables, cafe tables and grassy areas for picnic-style lounging. Thanks to a partnership with nearby North Coast Video, they'll also host classic movie nights with flicks projected onto the garden wall.
ETA: Late May

The J. Parker
1816 N. Clark St.
Views of the lake and skyline are sure to draw sun-seekers to this lounge atop Lincoln Park's 12-story Hotel Lincoln. Expect seating for more than 150 outside, plus summery drinks and bites created by Paul Virant, the chef of Perennial Virant located on the first floor of the hotel.
ETA: June 1

151 W. Erie St. 312-274-1111
If you want to be on the hottest block in River North this summer, prepare to park yourself at Erie and LaSalle, where this Spanish-inspired hot spot will be setting up 73 seats on the sidewalk. On warm days, the floor-to-ceiling windows bordering the restaurant's pintxos bar, Barcito, open up to the street.
ETA: Early summer

City Winery
1200 W. Randolph St.
The West Loop location of this New York-based winery, restaurant and music venue from music producer Michael Dorf will have plenty going on inside. But thanks to the sprawling 5,000-square-foot wine garden that's planned adjacent to building, it sounds like fans will be just as eager to uncork a bottle outside.
ETA: Aug. 1


The Anthem
1725 W. Division St. 773-697-4804
This Ukrainian Village sports bar features sidewalk seating for 75, plus a view of the huge projection screens inside for drinkers who snag a seat along Division. Look for a special patio menu to debut later this summer.
ETA: Open now, weather permitting.

Bar Toma
110 E. Pearson St. 312-266-3110
Chef Tony Mantuano's Gold Coast eatery channels Italy with a 36-seat front patio lined with planters and strung with lights. New high-top bar tables are expected to replace the traditional dining tables in the coming weeks.
ETA: Open now, weather permitting

Cantina Laredo
508 N. State St. 312-955-0014
At this towering Mexican restaurant in River North, an outdoor alcove set just off the street features a few seats and a fire pit. The floor-to-ceiling windows on both the first and second floors are folded back on warm days for an open-air feel.
ETA: Open now, weather permitting

221 N. Columbus Drive. 312-477-0234
This sleek Italian restaurant and bar features a shady 25-seat sidewalk patio tucked beneath a building overhang on the Aqua Tower.
ETA: Open now, weather permitting

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