Because Chicago's only seen a few stretches of true heat over the past few months, I'll forgive you for getting a slow start to your summer activities. But now that we've reached mid-August, it's time to get your butt in gear. Remember that handy summer checklist RedEye published at the start of the season—the one that, ahem, should be hanging on your fridge? It's time to start checking off the last awesome to-dos. See the full checklist, then tag your Instagram and Twitter posts #redeyechecklist (there could be a prize in it for you!). To help you complete the full 25-item challenge, consult this chock-full-of-pro-tips guide to the beer-, bar- and booze-related fun.
BYOB at a restaurant patio
A BYO policy and a killer outdoor space? That's like finding a double rainbow. If you're around Wicker Park or Ukrainian Village, tote a bottle of wine to Briciola's side patio (937 N. Damen Ave.) to pair with the restaurant's rustic Italian pastas. Just a few blocks away, Birchwood Kitchen's rear deck (2211 W. North Ave.) is a sunny, cozy spot for mimosas or a fruity beer with brunch. Pick up a six pack of 5 Rabbit Cerveceria's made-in-Chicago Latin-style beers and post up with a Cuban sandwich outside at 90 Miles Cuban Cafe's Roscoe Village (3101 N. Clybourn Ave.) or Logan Square (2540 W. Armitage Ave.) locations.
Squat on a curb at a street fest
Despite the misconception that Lolla marks the end of Chicago's fest season, there are plenty more neighborhood parties left on the calendar. RedEye publishes a comprehensive fest weekend planner each Friday, but here are some of the biggies coming up in August and September: The Boulevard in Logan Square (Aug. 23), North Side Irish Fest in North Center (Sept. 13-14), the inaugural City Made Fest in Andersonville (Sept. 21) and Oktoberfest Chicago in Lincoln Park (Sept. 27-29). See our full schedule of fests.
Really, if you need us to convince you to sip a margarita on a hot summer day, we're shaking our heads. As for finding the best ones in the city, check out the selection of regular and flavored margaritas at Pilsen's Del Toro (2133 S. Halsted St.)--bonus: the house version is only $5 on Tuesdays. Beeritas, a cocktail with a mini-beer bottle inverted and attached to the rim, have been a trend this summer, and you can find them at River North's Ay Chiwowa (311 W. Chicago Ave.) and El Hefe Super Macho Taqueria (15 W. Hubbard St.). Mix up the tequila game with a mezcal-based margarita best sipped at a picnic table outside at Logan Square's Parson's Chicken and Fish (2952 W. Armitage Ave.)
Score a patio seat at Big Star
... just not at 9 p.m. on a Saturday. It can be tough to muscle into one of the most packed patios in the city, but Jenna Liberman, marketing manager for One Off Hospitality, the restaurant group that owns Big Star, has a few tips. Show up early if you can, she said, and remember that weekdays are easier than weekends. Put your name down and grab a drink nearby--I'd suggest Trenchermen (2039 W. North Ave.) for cocktails or Lillie's Q (1856 W. North Ave.) for beer--and Big Star will call you when your table is ready.
Guzzle beers at Gene's Sausage Shop's rooftop garden
The third-floor rooftop at Gene's Sausage Shop's Lincoln Square location may be one of the city's best day drinking hidden gems. They really mean day drinking, though--the rooftop closes at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and at 4 p.m. on Sunday. Stop by during those hours and you'll be rewarded by rotating draft craft beers, wines by the glass and brats and sausages fired up on a wood-burning grill, all of which taste even sweeter as you take in the neighborhood view surrounded by picnic tables, herbs and vegetables. Bonus round: If you've already tried Gene's, try for a seat at the new rooftop above Little Goat in the West Loop. At lunchtime, you can tote up a sandwich from Little Goat Bread below; on the weekends, it's more of a laid-back bar scene with cooling cocktails and tasty snacks.
Turtle racing at Big Joe's in Lincoln Square
One of the weirder recurring bar events in the city, turtle racing goes down each Friday at this divey Lincoln Square hangout. Grab friends for pitchers of beer--a drink purchase gets you a lottery ticket--and hope your number is called to participate in the not-so-fast-paced action.
Take the Metra to Ravinia
Sure, the Under the Sun concert featuring all the one-hit wonders of your junior high days (Sugar Ray! Smashmouth!) was back in July, but the season hasn't wrapped just yet. Lawn tickets ($25) are still available for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's bill of "Lord of the Rings" music on Aug. 15 and 16, Tony Bennett ($34) on Aug. 22 and Cheap Trick ($27) on Aug. 31. If it's sold-out lawn seating for Journey on Aug. 21 that you're after, don't stop believin'--there's always Craigslist.
Try a new food truck
Follow Chicago's newest food trucks on Twitter to keep tabs on there whereabouts. Chow down on smoked meats from Husky Hog Bar-B-Que (@HuskyHogBBQ), waffles from Carbon's Kitchen (@goldenmalted) or frosty treats from Gelato D'Oro (@gelatotruckchi).
>>Read RedEye's Summer Checklist in full online at redeyechicago.com/checklist.
email@example.com | @redeyeeatdrink. Additional reporting by Lisa Arnett. firstname.lastname@example.org