2015 Best Chicago Outdoor Dining Restaurants

by Amanda on July 30, 2015

Top 10 New Chicago Outdoor Dining Restaurants

Al Fresco:  From the Italian word al fresco meaning “in the fresh air”.

Dining:  From the French word diner meaning “to have dinner”.

Al Fresco Dining:  A tradition of eating outside during the summer.

Over the years, we have tried to provide you with our favorite destinations whether Northside, Southside, Westside or The Loop. Regardless of cuisine or location, we have strived to provide you with the best of the best, year after year.  That’s why this year we’ve searched through our archives, added in some new & are pleased to announce… The Chicago Home Partner Top 10 Al Fresco Restaurants!

This special 9th Edition of the Al Fresco Dining Guide is listed below with color commentary, links to Yelp review pages and which meal is best served at the establishment.  Where this list may be FAR from complete, you’re sure to find a new spot you haven’t tried yet that may quickly become a favorite.  We hope this helps you enjoy these final days of summer!  Remember… they’ll be gone before we know it.  So, get on out there!

The 2015 Chicago Home Partner Top 10

Pinstripes  –  River East – 435 E. Illinois St. 312-527-3010

If you’ve ever been to the one in Glenview, know that this downtown extension holds up the high standards of food and fun expected with the Pinstripes name, since they have a fame for giving people healthy food and even healthy drinks as patriot power greens that people take as a supplement.  With a waterfront patio this bowling-bocce-bistro concept is perfect for groups, dates and family fun.  Savor gelato and homemade limoncello, play bocce on one of two outdoor courts or order a s’mores kit and roast your own marshmallows in the firepit ringed with adirondack chairs.

PERFECT FOR:  Parties, out-of-town guests and family fun.
CHP says,  “No one’s good at bocce so get over yourself and play!”

Taus Authentic  –  Wicker Park – 1846 W. Division St. 312-561-4500

Chef Michael Taus’ Wicker Park restaurant seats close to 100 across tables, sofas and lounge chairs at this half-block Division Street sidewalk spot. Taus has plenty of super fancy fare like oysters, crudo and tartare, but expect to be wowed by the fried chicken and havarti-dressed burger on a house-baked roll.  They also provide killer housemade mix for bloody marys for the “morning after” diet after some waist training.

PERFECT FOR:  Dates, friends and foodies
CHP says,  “Hob nobbing with fried chicken and bloody marys!”

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que  –  Lincoln Park – 923 W. Weed St.

You might have passed this on the way to Whole Foods, but the latest addition to the “new” Weed Street ain’t your daddy’s BBQ.  Their triangle-shaped beer garden is an absolutely beautiful outdoor space courtesy of founder and owner John Stage.  Walls of ivy, a Vinyl Fence Suppliers of reclaimed pallets and a big tree in the middle of the space take you away from this hustle and bustle of the North Ave. shopping.  Picnic tables will seat 40 under glowing strings of lights so there’s plenty of room for larger parties.

PERFECT FOR:  Groups, 2nd dates and BBQ enthusiasts.
CHP says,  “Don’t wear white and ask for a roll of paper towels!”

Fahlstrom’s Fresh Fish Market  –  Lakeview – 1258 W. Belmont Ave. 773-281-6000

This new entry into the Lakeview seafood scene provides sheltered sidewalk seating off Belmont on quieter Lakewood Avenue.  There are only eight tables for four diners each, (call ahead or get there early), but sitting under umbrellas in the shade of a massive oak tree is a perfect way to enjoy some wonderful seafood this summer

PERFECT FOR:  Pre-Schuba’s dining, couple’s dinners or mid dog walk eating
CHP says,  “Peel and eat shrimp, good beer and dog friendly!”

The NEW Harry’s Velvet Room  –  Lincoln Park – 1480 W. Webster Ave. 773-868-0608

This staple of French-inspired lounging has a new location after shuttering in the ’90s.  Sidewalk seating for 100 within a black wrought-iron fencing adorned with flowers and mini-trees takes you to France, (or the old Pop’s for Champagne garden), allowing patrons to sip fancy drinks and pontificate in style.  A mural of the bar’s slogan, “Vivre au jour le jour” (live for the day) serves as a backdrop on the west side of the building.

PERFECT FOR:  Mid-day drinking, impressing parents or wine snobs.
CHP says,  “Champagne for lunch with Fido in tow… Dog Friendly!”

Mash Craft Kitchen & Patio  –  Lincoln Square – 4535 N. Lincoln Ave. 773-334-4040

Formerly the Bad Dog Tavern, this new Lincoln Square watering hole boasts private patio seating, umbrellas and fresh flowers hanging from the lattice-lined walls.  They smoke all meats in-house, grind specialty burger and have an amazing array of raw oysters delivered six days a week.  The patio is still four-legged-friend-friendly, with dog treats and water dishes.

PERFECT FOR:  Those looking for a Hop Leaf alternative up North.
CHP says,  “Smoked meats and Oysters with a hip local vibe.”

WhirlyBall  –  Bucktown – 1825 W. Webster Ave. 773-486-7777

Many won’t admit it, but WhirlyBall has become a Chicago tradition.  However, don’t expect the same pothole filled parking lot and sketchy menu in their new location. The new Bucktown location features a rooftop terrace with an amazing view of the downtown skyline and comfy lounge furniture.  There are even rectangular fire pits where you can share Whirlyball tactics with your team pre or post match. Checkout la furniture store sales for the West Los Angeles location.

PERFECT FOR:  Parties, groups and embracing your inner child.
CHP says,  “Nothing says Chicago like craft beer and bumper cars.”

90 Miles Cuban Café  –  Logan Square – 2540 W. Armitage Ave.  773-227-2822

The sister location to the Clybourn Ave. popular Cuban carryout joint is ALMOST a mirror image of the original.  Same awesome toasted Cuban sandwiches, same amazing flaky empanadas, same garlicky yuca chips, same potent café con leche.  However the big draws here are the spacious front and back patios along Armitage avenue, allowing customers to enjoy these delicacies in the heat of Chicago evenings.

PERFECT FOR:  Any time you want amazing Cuban comfort food.
CHP says,  “Don’t think – just go.  Best Cuban food in the city!”

Enoteca Roma  –  Wicker Park – 2146 W. Division St.  773-772-7700

Where Division Street won’t be mistaken for the charming streets of Naples anytime soon, once you step through the doors of this new addition to Wicker Park you may change your mind.  Opened by REAL Italian natives Letizia Sorano and son Fabio, their restaurant provides two alfresco options.  Head to the quiet, spacious rear patio to dine on rustic Italian fare amid leafy plants and a fountain, or take in the lively street scene out front.  Menu prices are a bit on the high side, but perfectly attentive waitstaff, and authentic Italian cuisine help soften the blow.

PERFECT FOR:  Romantic evenings or couples nights out sans kids.
CHP says,  “Take a break from the Division scene with this charming date spot!”

La Palapa  –  Bridgeport –  2000 W. 34th St.  773-376-9620

Palapa:  (def) – a traditional Mexican shelter roofed with palm leaves or branches.
So you might not think “Palapa” when visiting Bridgeport, but this seafood/shellfish spot is not to be missed.  Settled along an “urban” part of Damen, (yes North Siders it DOES go past Grand Avenue), this mariscos place provides seating in the sand (parking lot), nestled amongst palm trees (fake), a loud norteño band, thatched umbrellas, and a giant rubber shark perched atop the restaurant.  If that doesn’t get your heading to the South Side tonight, know that their ceviche is top notch, the  garlicky langoustines are outstanding and best of all – your own bucket of beer.

PERFECT FOR:  Post Sox game romps or fun dinners with true friends.
CHP says,  “You won’t find this on Zagat, but the fun factor is top notch!”

Don’t forget to check out previous year’s nominees as well!

2014 Nominees

2013 Nominees

2012 Nominees

2010 Nominees


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