The Best Rooftop Bars In Chicago

By Staff in Food on Apr 24, 2013 4:00PM

Chicago loves its sidewalk cafés but a growing number of rooftop bars are joining the ranks, vying for your outdoor drinking and dining enjoyment. From hip spots located atop downtown boutique hotels where clientele traffic in the latest fashions and expense accounts to out-of-the-way places in the outlying neighborhoods, there's a rooftop bar somewhere for everyone's tastes.

Here is a small sampling of our favorite rooftop bars in Chicago. If you feel we missed your favorite, leave it in the comments.

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The J. Parker bar atop the Hotel Lincoln gives patrons beautiful views of the Chicago skyline and Lincoln Park. (Photo credit: Melissa Wiley/Chicagoist)

Named after John Parker, the security guard who dipped out for a drink and left Abraham Lincoln unattended just long enough to seal his fate at Ford's Theatre, the J. Parker looks over an incredible view of Lincoln Park and Lake Michigan. With such a beautiful view of the former president's namesake park, the J. Parker could easily serve mediocre food and drink and still turn a profit. However, with Paul Virant of Vie and the Perennial Virant (located downstairs) composing dishes and Erin Hayes shaking cocktails, the view has some serious competition. Though this spot is only a year old, I've had the opportunity to enjoy a few amazing afternoons on this patio, the highlight of which was during last summer's Air and Water Show. The indoor space is also open during colder months and afforded me and a mid-winter date the best view of the Zoo Lights in town, a hot toddy, and a surprise appetizer buffet. While its namesake may have not done his job, the J. Parker lives up to its expectations and more. — Lorna Juett
The J. Parker is located at the Hotel Lincoln, 1816 N. Clark Street.

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The Twisted Spoke (Photo credit: Javier Ayala)
If you're looking for an elevated view of Ogden and Grand Avenues while enjoying a beer, a shot and some underrated food as the sun sets in the West, you can't do better than the Twisted Spoke. The neighborhood around it has gentrified significantly over the years, but Mitch and Cliff Einhorn's biker-themed bar and grill has stayed true to its roots for 18 years. The rooftop bar is the piece de resistance to a spot with an amazing beer selection, Jim Beam on draft, one of the best Bloody Marys in Chicago and their ever-popular "smut and eggs" — a wonderful pairing of eggs and classic 70s porn — every Saturday at midnight. The rooftop is small, but the perfect place to sit back, relax and enjoy a cold one with friends while waiting for Seka and John Holmes to recapture the spirit of the 70s. — Chuck Sudo
The Twisted Spoke is located at 501 N. Ogden Avenue

One of our favorite views of downtown can be found at C-View, the rooftop bar atop the MileNorth Chicago Hotel. the terrace and enclosed lounge offers a view of Mag Mile destination spots and shopping, while guest can enjoy a sampling of food and cocktail menu items from C-House and C-Bar below. During cooler days the lounge is one of the better rooftop destinations in Chicago and you can relax in luxurious splendor. — Chuck Sudo
C-View is located at the MileNorth Chicago Hotel, 166 E. Superior Street.

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Gene's Sausage Shop (Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers)

Gene's Sausage Shop in Lincoln Square has been stuffing us full of German beer and European meats for decades as a grocery store, but just a few years ago they added a rooftop beer garden to complete the European experience. The grill hut cooks up pierogis, sausages and bratwurst while you sip a beer (or chug German potato salad). Bask in the sun amongst tomato plants and flowers and forget about the mad rush of cars just outside. — Samantha Abernethy

Gene's Sausage Shop is at 4750 N. Lincoln Ave. Rooftop hours are Monday to Saturday noon to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

When Drumbar first opened, we dismissed it as yet another scene-y, obnoxious bottle service rooftop bar that we weren't fashionable enough to enter (see: Roof on the Wit). Then mixologist Craig Schoettler, formerly of The Aviary, decamped from that Grant Achatz-run fortress of cuisine and headed up to the roof. Drumbar now features Schoettler's "progressive" cocktails a couple of nights a week — we particularly love the "Smoke" which features a propane torch, a bourbon barrel stave and Lairds Apple Brandy. The room is beautiful, though we prefer the inside to the outside, and there are plenty of hidden corner two-tops for a romantic moment. Go on a weekday and you won't have to worry about beating the crowds. — Anthony Todd
Drumbar is located atop the Rafaello Hotel at 201 E. Delaware Place.

Rooftops are best enjoyed with a good beer in one's hand and one of the best brew lineups in River North is at Rock Bottom Brewery Chicago, which also boasts a rooftop bar as idyllic and underrated as their beers. It's high enough above street level where you can forget you're downtown and right next to the Grand Avenue Red Line station and various CTA bus routes, so you have no excuse to get home safely if you've been over-served.
Rock Bottom Brewery Chicago is located at 1 W. Grand Avenue.

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One of the rooftop window boxes. (Photo credit: Anthony Todd/Chicagoist)

Homestead is technically more rooftop garden than bar. But you’re inevitably coming to this elevated corner of West Chicago Avenue to savor the verdant things in life — some fragrant herbs from the vertical garden are sure to wind up in your cocktail. Every item on the menu incorporates wildflower blossoms from the lush, roving flora adorning the space, itself bejeweled with low-slung strings of Edison lights and neat garden plots that service your salad. Last year, our first visit to this sweetest of Chicago patios coincided with summer’s swan song, but this year we know to visit early and often. — Melissa Wiley
Homestead is located at 1924 W. Chicago Avenue.

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Plymouth Bar and Grill's rooftop bar is open year-round. (Chuck Sudo/Chicagoist)

If you're looking for a good downtown rooftop bar experience without the cost, head to Plymouth Bar and Grill. Their rooftop bar is enclosed and open year-round, meaning you can enjoy the view of the Harold Washington Library and
the Orange, Pink and Brown line trains passing through the Loop while sipping a beer and eating something from their rooftop menu, which keeps the food simple, much like the overall experience. — Chuck Sudo
Plymouth Bar and Grill is located at 327 S. Plymouth Court.

To refer to The Fountainhead as "Hopleaf Jr." may strike some as condescending, and no doubt the phrase has been used in that way. But here's the thing: Going to Hopleaf, one of the best bars in Chicago, without knowing your craft beer would be like trying to run a marathon when you've just mastered jogging. The Fountainhead, by contrast, is more like a 5K or 8K: budding craft beer fans can go at their own pace without being potentially buckling at the knees. Helping that languid pace? The Fountainhead's beautiful, transcendent rooftop garden, which opened last summer. Fully landscaped, spacious, and with a view that's inspiring (provided you sit in the right spot, no disrespect to westward glances which revel the nearby Giordano's), patrons can sit and breathe contentedly while sipping a beer and having a bite to eat. The rooftop is closed right now, but will no doubt open as soon as Spring gets its shit together. Once it does, go here immediately: you will be treating yourself to one of the city's best hidden pleasures. — Jon Graef
The Fountainhead is located at 1970 W. Montrose Avenue.

Friend of Chicagoist Nkosio White of Chicago Beer Geeks calls The Garage Bar and Sandwiches "one of the best kept secrets in Chicago" and with good reason. This Norwood Park tavern has an amazing rooftop bar and 120 craft beers on its menu. Along with Fountainhead and Gene's Sausage Shop, this is another example of how the outlying neighborhoods are proving rooftop decks aren't relegated to downtown. — Chuck Sudo
The Garage Bar and Sandwiches is located at 6154 N. Milwaukee Avenue.

Here's a map of where all of our rooftop bar faves are located.


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