I had so much fun writing the rooftop roundup, I thought I’d just continue on down the line with a riverfront patio roundup. The Chicago River cuts right through the city and only adds to the already breathtaking backdrop of skyscrapers and the lake. There aren’t very many restaurants or bars right on the lake – I’m thinking that has to do with zoning (research project for later!) – so if you’re a fan of waterfront dining, these riverfront establishments are the way to go… unless, of course, you’re in the mood for a Miami Vice at Castaways!
Some of these patios are up all year long and are attached to brick and mortar establishments, and others are “pop-up” style – they’re usually put up by a restaurant group that doesn’t have riverfront property for a few months in the summer only!
Here’s some of my favorites, and any fun happy hour specials that I know of or could find advertised.
Riverfront Patio Roundup
> photo via
One of my favorite patios to grab a glass of wine and chat with a girlfriend after work. S&W is a Chicago staple and nothing signals the start of summer more than their famous big white tents going up on the patio. They have a fun summer menu that I’m dying to try – especially the Lobster Mango salad.
Specials: Buy one, get one free bar menu Monday through Friday, 3:30 to 6 PM in the Grill Bar
Okay, I’m cheating a little bit with this one, because it’s not technically riverfront. But it is really CLOSE to the river, and they have incredible happy hour specials, so I’m throwing it in! Walk down the river from your job in the loop and stop in to meet a group of friends on a Friday – after a $22 bottle of wine, you’ll forget you’re not right on the river anyway.
Specials: Check out the full list here
In my humble opinion, Bridge House has hands-down the best atmosphere out of Chicago’s River Patios. Prop yourself up on the river-facing bar with a cocktail and watch the boats float by all evening.
Specials: Drink and food specials Monday – Thursday and $5 Mimosas/Bloody Marys on the weekends
South Branch just opened last summer in the Loop. They could go toe-to-toe with Bridge House and it’d be a pretty close match in terms of atmosphere, but I think this patio’s best asset is their food. Coconut shrimp? Blackened red snapper? Yes, please!
I’ve mentioned before that River East is practically another planet in terms of Chicago neighborhoods – don’t get me wrong, it’s GORGEOUS, but its rare that I have the occasion to just end up there. But, in the instances I do, Lizzie McNeill’s is a great, casual option – you’re so close to the lake that you get a really unique view. A great way to spend a laid-back Sunday afternoon.
Specials: Some daily and monthly specials, check out the list here
A pop-up! This is an offshoot of O’Brien’s in Old Town. Tons of space, right under the Michigan Avenue bridge. It’s nothing fancy, but a relaxed, super summery atmosphere to grab a cocktail and appetizers after work or after shopping on Michigan.
An absolutely gorgeous, upscale patio off of the new steakhouse that opened in River North. A great way to start off your Friday or Saturday night with dinner from the restaurant, watching the scene inside and the boats on the river. I hear they have a $1 Oyster happy hour special – you know I’ll be there before the end of the summer!