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  3. The 12 best restaurants to dine outdoors in Chicago

The 12 best restaurants to dine outdoors in Chicago

A photo of Red logo
by Lisa Shames
Updated May 29, 2024

Patio season might be on the shorter side in Chicago—but that doesn’t dampen enthusiasm for dining outside, thanks to scenic spaces that go above and beyond.

For an especially transportive meal, head to the drop-dead gorgeous garden at an Italian favorite. A spacious patio at a modern steakhouse means you get an up-close look at the Chicago River. An all-weather beer garden, complete with a retractable roof, stretches outdoor dining season at a stylish lodge-inspired restaurant.

Whether you’re craving rooftop or water views, this list has you covered. Read on for the 12 best places to dine outdoors in Chicago.

A photo of Aba - Chicago restaurant
4.8
4.8 (2364)
$50 and over
Mediterranean
West Loop
About the restaurant

With towering trees and many plants, Aba’s green dining room is just a preview of the restaurant’s beloved third-floor outdoor space. For shade, there’s a pergola and oversize umbrellas. A mix of tables, chairs, and low-slung couches add up to a rooftop lounge-like vibe as the night progresses. Celebrate scoring one of Chicago’s most sought-after outdoor seats with a glass of Old World wine and spreads (smoky garlic hummus or charred eggplant), kebabs, and hot mezze.


Top review
SoniaK
Dined 2 days ago
Food was excellent. Service was excellent. Restaurant was beautiful. We sat outside. I enjoyed every minute of it!
A photo of Piccolo Sogno restaurant
4.7
4.7 (6775)
$30 and under
Italian
River West
About the restaurant

Piccolo Sogno means “little dream” in Italian, and its lush outdoor space more than lives up to that description. A large ivy-covered tree anchors the Italian restaurant’s backyard, decorated with twinkly lights and lush foliage. The seasonal menu from celebrated chef Tony Priolo focuses on rustic dishes like housemade sausage, black spaghetti with seafood, and prosciutto di Parma pizza. Consider a glass or two from the all-Italian wine list to extend your alfresco meal.


Top review
OpenTable Diner
Dined 2 days ago
Always a wonderful meal. All cooked and created with perfection! The ambiance both outdoors and indoors is a delight.
A photo of The Dawson restaurant
4.6
4.6 (85)
$30 and under
American
Rockefeller Center
About the restaurant

The Dawson’s River West patio—a very popular outdoor spot—makes a killer first impression. Glass, brick, wood, and ivy accents create a magical spot in the heart of the city. Attention to detail is everywhere, from the lights in the trees to colorful flowers and a beautiful tiled floor. On the menu, expect imaginative American food like sticky duck wings and rabbit pappardelle, which pair well with warm-weather cocktails including a guava and grapefruit rosé sangria.


Top review
KimberleyP
Dined on Jul 2, 2024
Good food, good portions. Ordered the skillet mac n' cheese to try and the fish and chips. Both were great! You get 3 large pieces of fish that are cooked to perfection! The salads are large too. the crab cakes were on the smaller side than we thought they'd be...and they need to be more crabby! Otherwise great meal.
A photo of Chicago Cut Steakhouse restaurant
4.7
4.7 (9779)
$50 and over
Steakhouse
River North (Chicago)
About the restaurant

Leaning more modern than traditional, this sceney River North steakhouse has attracted those who can’t get enough of dry-aged steaks and sophisticated wines—its fans include President Obama and Charles Barkley. Floor-to-ceiling windows give those dining inside a great view of the nearby Chicago River, but the restaurant’s spacious outdoor patio offers an uninterrupted look at passing boats and the iconic skyscrapers across the water. Arrive before sunset to take advantage of the stellar view.


Top review
Fritznigvip
Dined 7 days ago
Great place for steak. Food was perfectly prepared. Staff is very knowledgeable and friendly. The place is very noisy but that's part of its vibe--don't recommend for a quiet, romantic meal! Best steak in Chicago
A photo of Recess restaurant
4.4
4.4 (1447)
$31 to $50
American
West Loop
About the restaurant

The last thing you want while soaking in Chicago’s short but sweet summer is to waste time fighting for a patio table. To avoid that, opt for one of the West Loop’s larger outdoor dining spaces at Recess. This expansive patio has plenty of seats, from high-tops on the turf to spots inside repurposed shipping containers. Enjoy snacks, burgers, and hearty sandwiches plus refreshing cocktails, such as the Monkey Bars with whiskey and blackberry sage shrub.


Top review
GeneveveSky
Dined on Jul 13, 2024
Fun atmosphere, great service, also great food and drinks
A photo of Boka restaurant
4.8
4.8 (6961)
$31 to $50
Contemporary American
Lincoln Park
About the restaurant

MICHELIN-starred Boka impresses diners with playful but refined dishes from chef Lee Wolen, like black truffle roasted chicken and porcini ricotta gnudi. For the colder months, there’s a skylight patio and a preserved moss wall to bring the outside in. Once the weather warms up, the restaurant offers two charming outdoor spaces: a tree-lined back patio for peak coziness or three tables along the plant-filled entryway for top-tier people watching—ideal for a pre-Steppenwolf dinner.


Top review
MartinKvip
Dined 7 days ago
An unforgettable night. Try the tasting menu--it won't disappoint.
A photo of Pilsen Yards restaurant
4.6
4.6 (1557)
$30 and under
Mexican
Pilsen
About the restaurant

Pilsen Yards is known for live music, vinyl DJ sets, and a secret speakeasy-style bar (The Alderman). But you’re here for the massive patio, partially covered with exposed wood beams and overhead heaters. It features its own bar—don’t skip the on-draft sangria—plus a fire pit, responsible for excellent Latin-inspired street food like slow-roasted pork shoulder tacos served on handmade tortillas.


Top review
ValerieBN
Dined 3 days ago
Pilsen Yards has everything you’re looking for in a great night out. The ambience was wonderful and the food was sublime! Our waiter was exceptional. I will be going back and back and back again!
A photo of Frontier restaurant
4.5
4.5 (500)
$31 to $50
American
West Town
About the restaurant

Chef Brian Jupiter gets plenty of attention for his mastery of unusual meats like elk, venison, and wild boar. But Frontier also stands out for a knockout all-weather beer garden complete with a retractable roof and stone fireplace. For the ultimate outdoorsy meal, pre-order the “whole animal experience” for you and your group with options that include goat and a free-range American pig, plus plenty of tasty sides.


Top review
OpenTable Diner
Dined 1 day ago
We got a patio and it was nice. Inside looked kinda boring. Food came out pretty quick and everything was amazing. Definitely would go back.
A photo of BLVD Steakhouse restaurant
4.4
4.4 (2806)
$50 and over
Steakhouse
West Loop
About the restaurant

With a couple of very distinct dining spaces, BLVD is almost two restaurants in one. Inside, it’s glam central with metallic finishes and shimmering chandeliers. On its full-season patio, there’s an all-out garden party vibe thanks to greenery, white linen curtains, delicate light fixtures, and an 11-foot-tall wooden pergola. No matter where you sit, you’ll have access to a sophisticated but unfussy menu from Top Chef winner Joe Flamm featuring dishes like mushroom risotto and steak frites.


Top review
OpenTable Dinervip
Dined 5 days ago
Jenny was an excellent server who enhanced our dining experience. The food and drinks were exemplary. We had a lovely dinner and look forward to coming back.
A photo of Gibsons Italia restaurant
4.8
4.8 (3493)
$31 to $50
Italian
River North (Chicago)
About the restaurant

There are Chicago River views, and then there’s the view at Gibsons Italia. Take in the soaring skyscrapers and downtown’s iconic bridges when you dine at this multi-level gem. It’s hard to find a bad seat in the house with all the floor-to-ceiling windows, but the top floor has a retractable glass roof and channels a sophisticated living room, complete with leather couches. It’s a handsome backdrop for world-class steaks and Italian-accented hits like mafaldine with Neapolitan beef.


Top review
OpenTable Diner
Dined 2 days ago
Great service accompanied by phenomenal food all around a 10/10 experience!
A photo of RPM Seafood restaurant
4.7
4.7 (1230)
$50 and over
Seafood
River North (Chicago)
About the restaurant

Stroll the Riverwalk and it’s hard not to stop and stare at the dramatic building that houses RPM Seafood. During the warmer months, you’ll spot the restaurant’s 2,000-square-foot terrace decked out with oversized umbrellas and wood-topped tables just inches from the water. Overflowing seafood towers, delicately grilled fish, and housemade pastas are just a few of the can’t-miss dishes at this elegant outdoor star.


Top review
chicagofoodiesvip
Dined 4 days ago
Top notch service. Our server made thoughtful recommendations. Food was excellent as always. The restaurant was very loud in the main dining room-to the point that it was a relief to step outside.
A photo of Mott Street restaurant
4.7
4.7 (958)
$31 to $50
Central Asian
Bucktown / Wicker Park
About the restaurant

Taking inspiration from Asia’s night markets, this lively neighborhood spot offers exciting fusion food and creative cocktails in a setting that’s just as refreshing. Mott Street’s sprawling patio is adorned with twinkling lights and lots of plants and flowers hanging overhead—and even your pets are welcome here. Signature dishes include the miso-butter mushrooms, everything wings, and stuffed cabbage. Get here before 7 pm to score the restaurant’s legendary burger.


Top review
Dawnvip
Dined 1 day ago
Absolutely stunning food. Every dish we had was great, and most were incredible. This is what Asian American food should look like - innovative, creative, and delicious.
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