The 16 Best Outdoor Bars In Chicago
By Lisa White in Best Of on Apr 29, 2015 9:10PM
As sunshine returns to our skies and the temperature rises, Chicago starts to thaw out as we head outdoors to bask in the few glorious months of warmer weather our city gets to enjoy. Chicago truly comes alive during the warmer months, with days at the beach strolling along the Lakefront path, weekends spent at outdoor festivals and as much time spent drinking outside.
Today we share our favorite spots where you can soak up some sun while drinking a frosty beverage or two (or many more). If rooftops are more your thing, we've got our list of favorites here. Now throw on some shades, grab a beer and find a warm and sunny patio to enjoy.
Parson’s Chicken & Fish
On a hot summer day you can usually find me catching some shade under an umbrella while sipping on a Negroni slushy on the back patio at Parson's. There are few places I'd rather be, with one of my favorite cocktails in hand while enjoying the nice weather we briefly get to relish every year. Parson's expansive patio has a lovely little bar, a large selection of picnic tables under massive umbrellas and even some table tennis to chase the afternoon away. Grab some hush puppies and a dozen oysters while you're at it and make sure to try any special slushy concoctions they have on the menu, which seem to rotate during the warmer months. But be careful, those things go down smooth but are potent and will creep up on you. Combine them with an afternoon of brutal sun and you could end up with a painfully long and sunburned walk home. Just pace yourself. We've have it on good authority that the patio opens later this week, so get ready for a long summer full of slushies and sun. — Lisa White
Parson's Chicken & Fish is located at 2952 W. Armitage Ave.
Beyond the retro interior of Avondale’s Orbit Room lays a tropical oasis in the form of a tiki patio. Hidden from view on all sides, you’d never know this spacious patio was even there. Perfect for a group celebration or just a summer cocktail in the sun, their patio is large enough to accommodate everyone. In addition to their custom tiki cocktails and specialty drinks (we recommend the surprisingly refreshing cucumber margarita), they also serve a wide craft beer selection as well as comfort food. In the winter months much of the patio is turned into a heated smoking tent which is actually more like a lounge, complete with greenery and hula figurines.— Michelle Meywes
The Orbit Room is located at 2959 N. California Ave.
Ten Cat Tavern
What distinguishes the beer garden at the Ten Cat from other beer gardens? Nothing really, beyond the welcoming, no-frills, no-attitude vibe of the bar as a whole. If you’re spending a relaxing evening out on their secluded patio, you will probably have to venture inside for the next round, as bar staff tends to stick to the bar. But that’s all for the good, as the cozy interior with its mix-and-match furniture, pool table regulars and eclectic artwork is a big part of the establishment’s appeal. What extends from inside to outdoors is the easygoing, neighborhood feel. Artists, sports fans, hipsters, senior citizens and regular Joes mix in no-fuss fashion. As a Music Box Theatre regular, the Ten Cat is my favorite post-movie drinking stop in the summer. It’s only a 10-minute walk away, but it’s a world removed from the often obnoxious, post-Cubs crowds and loud, overcrowded environs of many bars on Southport. — Joel Wicklund
Ten Cat Tavern is located at 3931 N. Ashland Ave., Chicago, IL .
There are many Wrigleyville bars I avoid like the plague during summer. Sheffield’s is definitely not one of them. A relatively relaxed atmosphere, great craft beer list and beautiful, brick-lined beer garden with its own bar are all rare gems in this ‘hood and Sheffield's offers all three. That said, it is still Lakeview during patio season so good luck snagging a table!— Katie Karpowicz
Sheffields is located at 3258 N. Sheffield Ave.
Promontory Point is one of Hyde Park’s natural treasures so it comes as no surprise that the neighborhood restaurant and concert venue named in honor of it is just as splendid. The Promontory—the latest venture from Bruce Finkelman (Empty Bottle) and Craig Golden (Evanston’s SPACE) who previously teamed up on Dusek’s and Thalia Hall—is highlighted by an airy indoor-outdoor layout with two levels of spacious patios. One reaches out from the main restaurant and the other is actually a balcony attached to the upstairs concert hall. Both provide scenic views of the lakeshore area and smells from the rich hearth inside that is the centerpiece of Jared Wentworth’s menu. The bottom patio offers full service of the various plates as well as a versatile cocktail program with sprtized, shaken and stirred options that makes the restaurant feel like one big cookout-and with summer approaching that’s never a bad thing. —Selena Fragassi
The Promontory is located at 5311 South Lake Park Ave West.
Quenchers quaintly epitomizes the beauty of old world meets new. Opened since 1979, Quenchers was pouring craft brews before it was cool and have always supported local music. They used to also condone $1 Malort shots but due to popularity (again, ahead of the curve!) they have raised the price to $3. Still, Quenchers rocks! The space is pretty barebones but fancy doesn’t do well near the highway. Enjoy free popcorn and your favorite brew outside in the enclosed beer garden, replete with iron-wrought patio chairs, a few benches, a colorful mural and rocking tunes that will drown out any residual effects of cars gone by. — Kristine Sherred
Quenchers Saloon is located at 2401 N. Western Ave.
One of the few outdoor bars that remains so even in the winter: The cold-tolerant can even enjoy curling on the beer garden during the frigid months. And in the summer it turns into a bocce court. KT also boasts an excellent list of both beers and ciders to sip on no matter the weather. — Melissa McEwen
Kaiser Tiger is located at 1415 W. Randolph St.
Frequent travelers of Chicago Ave. might believe Cleo’s patio to be a ruse thanks to its year-round banner out front shouting, “BEER GARDEN NOW OPEN!” But you would be most remiss to not walk through the bar and see for yourself. A super soccer haven, Cleo’s back patio, hidden from street view, was definitely packed during last summer’s World Cup. Fans hailing from Chile to France, Spain to India and everywhere in between sweat happily in the hot sun. There is little shade but plenty of seating and TVs, and their solid pub food, including tots, hits the spot alongside a cold beer and perhaps a shot of bourbon from their growing whiskey wall. On quieter days, Cleo’s holds strong as a delightful West Town hideaway. — Kristine Sherred
Cleo’s is located at 1935 W. Chicago Ave.
Long picnic tables and hanging lights strung between trees overhead set the tone at Sportsman’s Club’s outdoor patio. The space has more of an intimate backyard feel than most sidewalk patios in the city, almost like being at a house party where every stranger is actually just a friend of a friend. Go for the bartender-curated cocktail offerings that rotate daily and stay for the low-life special: a can of Hamm’s and a shot of either whiskey or Malort for $5. — Carrie Laski
Sportsman’s Club is located at 948 N. Western Ave.
Bangers & Lace
Bangers never ceases to surprise with its stellar rotating beer list, and it’s no wonder: They have been named one of Draft Magazine’s 100 Best Beer Bars in the Country four years running. It remains one of the very few places where beer geeks likely may not recognize half of their often single keg options. That variety, not to mention first-rate cocktails, makes this Wicker Park (and now Evanston too!) corner bar a destination; the knowledgeable staff, the well-executed food and the atmosphere keep neighborhood regulars and city-wide friends coming back. The north and long west side walls open up from floor to almost ceiling, spilling onto the front and side patio. The inside space is comfortably small enough that a breeze can reach you even at the bar. I use Bangers’ open windows as my gauge for warm weather’s arrival: people here know how to enjoy themselves! — Kristine Sherred
Bangers & Lace is located at 1670 W. Division St. and 810 Grove St. in Evanston
Cork & Kerry
Although Cork & Kerry at the Park, one of the closest bars to U.S. Cellular Field, is usually packed on game day and outdoor seating is scarce, their Beverly location is a relaxing, shady affair where you can stretch out and enjoy a pint or two. Both locations provide some fresh air, and you're hard pressed to find a better spot to sip before heading to a Sox game. Cork & Kerry's massive back patio not only boasts its own bar but it has plenty of seating for larger groups with sunnier spots and cozy tables in the shade, great since space is a commodity when most of our time is spent in cramped city life. Typical bar fare is available but we suggest numerous rounds of something refreshing to last you through a long afternoon. — Lisa White
Cork & Kerry is located at 10614 S. Western Ave. and Cork & Kerry at the Park is at 3259 S. Princeton Ave.
Howells & Hood
Howells & Hood, from the Bottleneck Management Group that owns Old Town Pour House, Sweetwater and the Boundary, may be its biggest operation to date. The restaurant touts the largest draft beer selection in Chicago with 114 unique local and global varieties and arguably one of the biggest outdoor patios downtown where you can enjoy them. It has 5,700 square feet of space and 300 seats with umbrellas and fire features for when the weather turns chilly. Even better, the restaurant is on the ground floor of the historic Tribune Tower so the adjoining patio offers some of the best views of Michigan Avenue for ample people watching. —Selena Fragassi
Howells & Hood is located at 435 N. Michigan Ave.
The first time I walked through the classic dive bar in front, turned through the hip wallpaper-ed ping pong room in back, and headed outside to the grassy knoll behind Happy Village, I thought for SURE I was unapologetically intruding on a twenty-something’s giant birthday party. That tent! All of the birthday hats and boxes of pizza and cake! But then I realized that there were, in fact, three said birthday parties occurring simultaneously, and that Happy Village’s famed outdoor space lived on in precisely this fashion every night of the week. Open since 1964, this spot remains a stronghold of dive bars everywhere. If it weren’t for the patio, the Village would probably have fallen by the way of so many of our favorites (RIP Club Foot). Thank goodness it is always packed.— Kristine Sherred
Happy Village is located at 1059 N. Wolcott Ave.
In the summer this is one of the best places to grab a nice cool cocktail on the patio that overlooks Logan Square after a trip to the farmer’s market. They also offer farmer’s market grilled specials, too. It’s just another reason we’re looking forward to the warmer weather. — Melissa McEwen
Billy Sunday is located at 3143 W. Logan Blvd.
Will’s Northwoods Inn
Packers affinity aside (the bar still supports Chicago’s other four sports teams), Will’s Northwoods Inn remains a solid neighborhood bar on a quiet stretch of Racine in an area that could use more like 'em! A rare selection of more than one Leinenkugel's tap handle, a tiny bathroom and a beer garden that answers all of your casual group-hang bar prayers awaits one and all. Wisconsin is a pretty place, and Will’s is our ideal home away from a Cheesehead’s home.— Kristine Sherred
Will’s Northwoods Inn is located at 3030 N. Racine Ave.
It’s common knowledge that summer patio scenes are unpleasantly crowded and the kind of places that are more about cruising for a hipster douchebag hookup than eating good food. Three Aces actually has an excellent patio and during lunch especially it has a good amount of elbow room to lean back and enjoy the fireflies under the dim strings of lights against the pale blue sky. Plus, they have incredible food and the kind of excellent beer that’s perfect for washing down things like the Ace Burger with bacon jam and aged cheddar or the calabrese panini, a delicious monstrosity of cheese and spicy sausage. — Melissa McEwen
Three Aces is located at 1321 W. Taylor St.