You have a list of our Outdoor Greatest Hits. But what about the new places? After all, you can only go to Big Star so many times before they name a taco after you. When you find yourself getting mad that someone else is sitting at “your” table, it’s time to try something different. Who knows? One of these spots might become your new favorite.
the Outdoor spots
The original Parson’s is in Logan Square, and yes, it has a spot on our Outdoor Greatest Hits List. The one we’re talking about here is in Lincoln Park, and this location uses the same formula for a great outdoor space: large picnic tables that work great for groups, with big umbrellas for shade. This location’s patio isn’t as big as the original, but there’s still lots of room between tables. It has the same menu of chicken, fish, and hush puppies - but more importantly, it has the negroni slushies.
Cabra is the newest restaurant from the Girl & the Goat team, and it’s on the roof of the Hoxton Hotel in the West Loop. Because Girl & the Goat, rooftops, and the West Loop are three things Chicagoans lose their sh*t over, this place is incredibly busy. But the hype is warranted - it serves some very good Peruvian-inspired food and has a great view. The menu is mainly small plates, and the best things here are the ceviches (the bass with leche de tigre and the duck are standouts), a tender and spicy skewered beef heart, and the shrimp tacu tacu served on a crispy rice cake. Make a reservation now and you might be able to get a table before November. Maybe.
The most impressive thing about Monnie Burke’s in Pilsen is the great back patio that just keeps on going, like a hallway to nowhere. But this place also has a well-rounded menu that runs the gamut from burrata to burgers, and it includes a pork shank that’s really fantastic. Since the interior feels a little like a chain restaurant (i.e. very large and TGI Fridays-esque), we prefer sitting outside here. Plus, there’s an outdoor bar, so you won’t have to go inside to see if they’ll make you an Ultimate Mudslide.
Smack Dab Bakery
Smack Dab started out underneath the Morse Red Line stop, then had a brief stint as a pop-up in Glenview, and it might have been at the Des Plaines Oasis at some point. OK, that last one is a lie. But the important thing is that now it has a permanent location in Rogers Park, complete with a patio on which to eat their delicious biscuit sandwiches, donuts, and breakfast specials. Plus, it’s very casual, so you don’t even need to put on real clothes to come here in the morning.
Lost Larson originally opened as just a bakery and cafe, focusing on fantastic bread (made with house-milled grain), pastries, and toasts. Now they also serve dinner, and that’s equally good. But one thing that’s stayed consistent is the fenced-in back patio, which feels like dining in someone’s backyard - except that, unlike someone’s backyard, no one is going to complain if you decide to sit here all day with your dog and eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
The inside of this Logan Square bar is dark and divey. But the large fenced-in back patio is full of colorful picnic tables and bright green turf. You’ll want to spend your summer at this low-key spot drinking with your friends or sitting on the fake grass with a Bernese mountain dog.
Yes, Aba is a scene. But the good news is that Aba is a scene that comes with fantastic food and a huge rooftop patio full of firepits and couches that are perfect for groups. And as with its sister restaurant, Ema, a lot of things on the Mediterranean menu are meant to be shared. So you can come here with friends and split six types of hummus, five varieties of kebabs, and an Uber home after.
This riverwalk restaurant in the Loop is the sister of Beatnik in West Town, and much like the original location, this spot puts a lot of effort into its atmosphere. It’s meant to feel like a lively European cafe, and it has a wide-ranging menu with dishes like beet hummus, crab brandade, and curried meatballs. Come for drinks and small plates, and to celebrate the season of being able to shift work to the summer intern.
Etta in Wicker Park is what’s known as a Big Chicago Restaurant, or BCR - a restaurant with a huge space, an impossibly long menu, and a chef or team that both your boss and doula have heard of. But Etta doubles down: not all BCRs have a rooftop patio and great food, and this place does. They serve delicious housemade pastas and pizzas, plus other dishes (like vegetables and pork shoulder) made in a wood-fired hearth. Etta works for a lot of different situations, from dinner with coworkers to a casual date night to eating with kids.
This Lincoln Square restaurant is from the same people who own Gather (which is right next door and on our Outdoor Greatest Hits List. Like its sister restaurant, The Warbler also has a sizable patio and serves New American food. You’ll find vegetable dishes (like ponzu-glazed crispy cauliflower florets), housemade pastas (their whole wheat cacio e pepe in particular is worth ordering), and traditional entrees like roast chicken and a cheeseburger.
Cebu is a new Filipino restaurant in Wicker Park. The short menu features dishes like kinilaw, sisig, and chicken adobo, which are all delicious, and some fantastic housemade pandesal bread. While the small dining room is cute (with painted brick and a large bar that’s good for dining solo), we really like the quiet back patio. It’s full of hanging plants and other green things, and it channels the feeling of actually owning a house with a backyard.
This Logan Square spot existed last summer too, but they didn’t have a rooftop patio then. Luckily that situation has since been fixed, and now this casual all-day spot has outdoor dining. The Tex-Mex dishes are easy to share, and we highly suggest coming with a group to do so. Get an order of the chili con queso (order extra tortilla chips - they’re excellent), the fish tacos, and any of their cocktails. After you’ve had enough natural light, go downstairs to the basement bar, Golden Teardrops, for a change of scenery.