By Elizabeth SanFilippo
Summer doesn’t last long in the Windy City, so take your meal outside when you can. The outdoor dining scene is huge in Chicago, what with so many restaurants adding chairs outside when the weather grows warm. But outdoor dining is just as much about ambiance–and occasionally people watching–as it is about the food.
1531 N Damen Ave
Chicago, IL 60622
While Big Star recently extended the size of its indoor space by taking some from the patio, outdoor dining in Chicago doesn’t get much better than this, in part because it’s open until 2 a.m. most nights and 3 a.m. on Saturday. In the heart of Wicker Park, Big Star’s patio is the perfect place for gourmet Mexican food like saucy pork belly tacos, creamy guacamole to go with your chips and a flavorful Sonoran hot dog (which just might be too big for one sitting). Arrive early, because this trendy patio is sure to be packed.
Deleece Grill Pub
3313 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60657
When warm weather hits, head to Deleece’s Clark Street location for a great dining experience. Unlike most al fresco dining spots in the city, this patio is located at the back of the restaurant, creating the feel that you’re hanging out in a friend’s backyard rather than at a charming restaurant. But this is no simple barbecue, because Deleece offers a great whiskey selection as well as some mouth-watering mac-n-cheeses on the garden patio (which fits 60 guests). The pub is open for dinner throughout the week (closed Mondays) as well as for brunch on weekends. You can also grab a late lunch here on Cubs home game days.
Related: The Best Chicago Rooftop Bars
464 N Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60642
At the corner of Halsted and Grand, one wouldn’t expect a gorgeous patio, but that’s exactly what you’ll find at Piccolo Sogno, which means “little dream” in Italian. In fact, out on the spacious patio sparkling with Italian lights at night, you’ll feel like you’ve been swept away to Italy. This romantic spot is also great for food, too; try classic and seasonal Italian dishes like hand-tossed pizzas and pappardelle con cinghaile (wild boar pasta). No matter how filling the dishes, don’t pass by the divine desserts, and that includes the gelato, a perfect summertime treat.
1321 W Taylor St
Chicago, IL 60607
This gastropub in Little Italy doesn’t offer your typical bar foods, nor does it have a typical patio. While it may look like a biker/rock-n-roll bar, it offers upscale dining at reasonable prices, such as a pork belly bowl for $15. The stellar outdoor patio has taken over the pub’s parking lot, spreading across 2,500 square feet, and features picnic tables for seating. Three Aces offers both brunch and dinner out on the patio; order its bolognese fries, similar to a poutine, with an amazing thick meaty sauce on top.
2147 W Roscoe St
Chicago, IL 60618
The simple ambiance inside Turquoise Cafe is charming and relaxing, but it’s the beautiful sidewalk patio that makes it a wonderfully romantic destination in the heart of Roscoe Village. After all, despite being on the sidewalk, it still feels intimate and serves as a wonderful place to people watch. The cafe is also known for offering the best Turkish food in the city, as well as a few Italian and Mediterranean dishes, from delicious starters of lahmacun to hearty entrees of lamb begendi and salt crust Mediterranean porgies.
Related: Waterside Dining Guide
Elizabeth SanFilippo is a freelance writer, who enjoys trying new foods from all over the world. But her favorite city for culinary treats will always be Chicago. When not writing about food, she’s scribbling novels, and TV show reviews and recaps. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.