From lush gardens to chic rooftop hideaways, these alfresco dining destinations exude the ultimate in summer cool.
When the temperatures rise, Chicagoans flock outdoors to drink and dine. These favorite half-dozen pop-ups span perennials and newcomers, in moods from romantic to sporty.
Best on the Mag Mile:NoMI Garden combines beautiful food with a monumental, ringed-by-high-rises setting. New Executive Chef Satoru Takeuchi (aka Chef Take) has launched patio-perfect dishes, including the Midwestern-ode crispy walleye sandwich on a soft Parker House bun. Belly up to the new teak bar for post-shopping pick-me-ups, including the gin-jasmine-grapefruit First Movement. 800 N. Michigan Ave., 7th Fl., 312-239-4030
Best secret garden: At Piccolo Sogno, the tree-shaded patio just a wooden fence away from a gritty stretch of Halsted Street best channels Chicago’s motto: urbs in horto, or “city in a garden.” The datefriendly garden serves up romance, while the kitchen turns out paese-transporting dishes such as wild boar ragù. 464 N. Halsted St., 312-421-0077
Most anticipated: Showing serious weather bravado, Element Collective, the cabal behind Nellcôte, RM Champagne Salon, and other hits, newly tees up the patio-only Expat. Composed of just 24 sidewalk seats on buzzy Green Street, Expat turns out heat-weathering crudos, Mt. Tam-on-baguette sandwiches, and crudités with green goddess dressing. Bar stars include classic aperitifs such as Campari and soda. 118 N. Green St.
Best river perch: The Langham Chicago’s seasonal Elle on the River looks out at the Chicago River from the cool shade of the hotel’s brooding Mies van der Rohe tower. Mediterranean flatbread tacos and bright, boozy punches happily suggest an on-holiday version of Travelle, the hotel’s upscale rest aurant. 330 N. Wabash Ave., 312-923-7705
Best hipster crowd: Devotees of Land and Sea Dept. hits from Longman & Eagle to Lost Lake show off their beards and tatts on the back patio of Parson’s Chicken & Fish. The tiny West Side–inspired fryer specialist seats just 32 indoors, but explodes with the seasonal 250-seat yard, now with a fire pit and bleachers near a games area with a Ping-Pong table. Pin the return of adult slushies on Parson’s freezing Dark and Stormys and so-weird-they-work Negronis. 2952 W. Armitage Ave., 773-384-3333
Best bocce break: Not every patio was meant for loafing. Sporty social urges are best met at Pinstripes, the sprawling bowling alley, bocce center, and Italian restaurant. Diners flock to the bi-level outdoor patio to knock around the boules, down a Krankshaft Kölsch, and grab a slice from the wood-burning oven before loafing in good lighting by the fire pits. 435 E. Illinois St., 312-527-3010