Bridge House Tavern

We’ve certainly confessed our love for Bridge House Tavern before.  What’s not to like about river-front brunch and $5 mimosas, you silly thing?  This past weekend I was in full mustenjoylastmomentsofsummer mode and dragged my tired behind to Bridge House early on Saturday morning.

Knowing that I was coming, obviously, the head chef must have made an executive decision to include an entire section of the menu dedicated to me, and called it the “Hangover Helper” section.  It included such delicate delicacies as Chicken and Waffles (which includes, for the record, not just chicken and waffles as the vague title implies, but also bacon, eggs and house made sausage gravy), Corned Beef Hash and my order, Huevos Rancheros.

Stuffed with chorizo and spilling out delicious corn and black bean morsels from it’s crispy tostada hat, this creation was to die for.  3 mimosas, 17 architecture tour envious stares and an eventful water taxi ride later, and I was back in action.







Chicago Riverfront Patio Roundup

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!

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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

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Smith & Wollensky

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


McCormick & Schmick

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


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Bridge House Tavern

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

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!


Lizzie McNeill’s

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!


Sister sushi night

Sometimes all you need is an oyster.  It’s almost surprising that’s not a real saying! No?  The other night we ducked out of work early (read: on time for once!) to stroll through our toasty city up to the oh-so-cool Union Sushi and BBQ Bar.  Despite rave reviews from my favorite food critic, this was my first visit to the recent River North addition and we had a great time!  Sampling the oysters and indulging in a few happy hour cocktails, we managed to chat our way through a few delicious maki rolls and walk out a few hours later with our wallets intact and our stomachs very happy.  We’ll be back soon, Union!


The ever lovely Laura, signing off for the evening to enjoy an adorable pink drink made with Olmeca Altos Plata Tequila, Aperol, Blood Orange, Agave, Lime and Hopped Grapefruit Bitters.


Oysters on the half-shell, topped with red tobiko, crispy shallots, green onion and a cilantro/jalapeno ponzu sauce.  We – of course – dressed these little ladies up with a dash of siracha and enjoyed not one, but two rounds of goodness.



Beef filet skewers with ginger soy sauce – seared on the robata grill Union made newly ubiquitous in Chicago.


Shrimp tempura roll (bad in that ohmygoodsooooogood way) and the crispy, smoked salmon skin roll.  A wise chica I know once referred to salmon skin as “pretty much like fish bacon,” and while said chica will remain nameless, I absolutely vouch for the analogy!


Chicago Rooftop Roundup

It’s the first day of summer! As our friend Molly recently discovered, Chicago is truly at its best in the months of June, July and August. I think it’s mostly because the summer is so darn fleeting that there’s this huge sense of urgency that the whole city feels to take advantage of every single second of nice weather. Frankly, I end up feeling a little bit exhausted come September, but right now it’s full-on excitement mode.

I know those of you who are not stuck smack-dab in the middle of the country probably scoff at our beaches, but I swear to you, they’re beautiful. But that’s for another post. Also for another post is the amazingness that is Chicago street fairs (chicken on a stick and a cold beer while listening to live bands? Don’t mind if I do!).

But today, I am just so ridiculously excited for rooftop season! (Hence so! Many! Exclamation! Points! Sorry!) Chicago has recently had this huge surge of these incredible roofdecks, particularly downtown… it’s like this whole new way to experience Chicago nightlife and you HAVE to act fast, because those suckers close down in September when it’ll inevitably freak snowstorm at least once.

I thought I’d share some of our faves and some new rooftops that are slated to open soon or have just opened. Enjoy!


Tried and True

Roof at Wit

In a very unscientific survey of the people around me at work, I’d call this the most famous Chicago rooftop. It has a rectractable roof, so this one is actually doable year-round, but never as good as in the summer!


Great views, comfy lounge furniture, deck umbrellas, all of my favorite things. HUGE line every night in the summer, so best to go when you do dinner here first for guaranteed entry.

Casey Morans

A great way to do Wrigley without reallyyyyyyy having to do Wrigley 🙂


Unique and perfect view of the skyline from the west. I spent my 25th birthday here and it will forever go down as the birthday to remember.


I think this might be the FIRST rooftop I ever went to here in the city! Still standing as a fun, casual place for after-work drinks.


understated décor but good drinks and music with a fun scene, right in the middle of River North. Another one with historically bad lines (and historically bad ‘tudes on the doormen), but worth checking out at least once!

Terrace at Trump

suuuper swanky, you probably need reservations unless it’s a Monday or it’s pouring, and they won’t let you step FOOT on to the roof unless there’s a table available… but a great experience and an incredible view of the river and the city.

Up & Comers

III Forks

just opened in River East at the very end of last summer and we stopped by for one quick rooftop drink and I cannot WAIT to go back this summer… I predict this one will be a big hit, though its SO hard to get to (as is everything East of Michigan Ave.)


I am ridiculously excited for this one. There are speakeasy-style bars popping up all over the place, which I am prettyyyy happy about. I love unique, craft cocktails and I’m totally convinced they’ll be even better on a rooftop.


apparently opened this winter and I haven’t heard much about it, but I suspect if the rooftop is all that it’s cracked up to be, that’ll change quickly. Its actually right on the river, so I’m really curious to see if they’ll allow boats to tie up that come in off the lake – that would instantly make this place a hit.

Perennial Virant

at the Lincoln Hotel has some seriously amazing food, and their ground-floor patio overlooking the park is pretty fabulous as is… so I’m super excited for The J. Parker to open this summer. Chicago Eater reports they’re doing a themed quarterly cocktail program and first up is Mexico – Sangria 3 ways? How will I choose?

If you live in Chicago, which one are you most excited to check out this summer? If you live elsewhere, what’s your favorite outdoor bar? I need to build my nation-wide list!

Cheers to the first day of summer!