Patio Pleasures: Chicago’s Best Al Fresco Dining
Eating al fresco is pure summertime pleasure, especially in Chicago, where warm temps prove all too fleeting. Dining out of doors also allows parents the chance to enjoy fine dining, whether alone or with the tots in tow. As we’ve discovered, a little extra volume from our peanut galleries isn’t nearly as big of a deal in the open air and under the stars.
Fortunately, there’s no shortage of fantastic Chicago restaurants with inviting patios. So strap on the heels, throw on some new threads (just cut the tags off first), and pack up the crayons and coloring books if you’re bringing the kids along; you’re stepping out for a swank outdoor affair. Here are some of our top al fresco picks.
There’s no better ending to a Wiggleworms recital than dinner at many Chicagoans’ favorite French bistro, the incomparably authentic Bistro Campagne. Succulent les plats, from bone marrow to duck breast to chickpea crepes, are unbeatably magnifique, while the patio space, tastefully landscaped with Japanese maples and reclaimed pine trellises, is arguably among the most serene in the city. “Campagne” is French for countryside, and this eatery’s slow and easy agrarian ambiance will leave satiated smiles on everybody’s faces.
Homestead on the Roof
Many restaurants avail themselves of rooftop gardens these days. Homestead, however, invites you to dine right in the midst of its organic roof vegetation, replete with hanging terrariums, air plants, vertical gardens, and a whimsically dubbed “living wall.” Sup on some tender octopus confit, lamb tartare, or mozzarella roulade, all garnered and garnished from the sprawling vegetation at hand and from off-site organic farms. Cocktails infused with the aromatic likes of lavender blossom, green chartreuse, jasmine syrup, and lemon swath will only make you linger the longer at this enchanting new West Town farm-to-table foodie haunt.
No one does comfort food in Chicago quite like The Southern. From crawfish pistolettes to blackened catfish to fried green tomatoes, this sassy Bucktown hot spot caters to your feistier food cravings. Treat yourself to a cool mint julep or a maple bacon Manhattan while lounging like a Southern belle amid the side patio’s languorous palm fronds. Consider this Chicago’s collective Louisiana porch swing, where you and your brood can revel in the laid-back atmosphere and sample the best hush puppies north of the Mason-Dixon line.
The J. Parker
Recently opened atop the Hotel Lincoln, the J. Parker serves up small plates, from summer giardiniera to rainbow trout, from the famed Perennial Virant kitchen. There’s nothing subtle about the astounding beauty from the 13th floor. Nor is there meant to be. This rooftop piece of paradise is a new must for wowing out-of-towners while indulging in a Cuban paloma and inventive seasonal hors d’oeuvres. It’s also — lucky you — your latest, unfathomably stunning staycation escape any night of the week.
Historically Swedish, Andersonville is nevertheless home to one of Chicago’s very best Italian restaurants. Cozy and comfortable with a backyard patio to match, Anteprima’s menu epitomizes traditional ethnic Italian fare stripped of its American baggage. No small plates, no red sauce, and no overblown, carb-loaded fare here. Instead, you’ll feast like real Italians, with appropriate portion sizes and simple, fresh flavors in one of the cutest al fresco spaces around. Let the little ones drift off to O Sole Mio while you’re licking your spoon clean of the spongiest panna cotta you’ve tasted this side of Positano.
Founded in 1972, this beloved Lakeview institution embodies everything we adore about the French. They lovingly invest an inordinate amount of energy into something (in this case crepes) that affords nothing more than a few transient minutes of pleasure. But they’re a divine few minutes indeed, especially when you’re sitting in the soft open air in the enclosed, sun-dappled back patio with some vintage French melodies playing in the background. Have a boeuf bourguignon crepe for dinner and a crème anglaise for dessert. Sound like one too many crepes? Not at all. This is La Creperie, after all, where you’re encouraged to share, sample, and savor.
~By Melissa Wiley, Families in the Loop
[Photo Credit: Redeye]