Clockwise from top left: Baha’I Temple, Belgian Waffle with over-easy eggs and applewood smoked bacon, Wilmette Beach, bright purse on a fun night out, the park at Belmont Harbor, perfectly ripe green mangoes.
Clockwise from top left: Bridgehouse tavern for mimosas and brunch, fresh flowers from the farmer’s market, Laura’s drop-back dress, summer sky, churros from Xoco.
Though it was a Monday – a hot and muggy Monday, long anticipated and dreaded in the way solely reserved for Mondays – we packed our work bags accordingly and vowed to make it to the weekly opening concert in the Pritzker Pavilion in Millenium Park. We weren’t quite sure how we would feel about the “Screaming Eagle of Soul,” Charles Bradley but were immediately charmed by his incredible passion and equally incredible voice. Armed with wine and snacks (jalepeno hummus, organic strawberries and blackberries) and our trusty towel for two, we headed over to the steamy park for some Monday night entertainment. Amazed and delighted (and at times – let’s keep it honest, sister – dismayed) by the variety of fashion, shoesorlackthereof and hairstyles, we settled in for a night of good music and better people watching.
Big strawberry – tiny stem-hat! I was obsessed
Chicago river kayakers on my walk home.
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!
On Friday I have a glorious day off of work. These days come few and far between, and fewer even when it’s a warm summers day. I had planned a day at the pool, lounging and relaxing, but was given a last minute invite to the Cubs game – poor me! Jokes aside, this presented a bit of a wardrobe dilemma. The largest block party in the US happens annually right here in Chicago and coincidentally, occurs this Friday night. Known as Old Saint Pat’s Block Party, this yearly street fest is known for it’s drinking and dancing, but actually has a lesser known good side: proceeds support the mission and outreach activities of Old St. Pat’s including the Education Center, the Outreach Group, Horizons For Youth, Career Transitions Center of Chicago and Global Alliance for Africa. I however, am attending for the 5 drink tickets included in the admit price :)
Jokes aside, this packed day of Chicago fun caused me to stop, think and shop for an appropriate day to night outfit on a Friday that promises to bring the heat and the walking. How do you typically go from an afternoon baseball game to a lets-try-to-look-impressive-after-being-out-all-afternoon-no-no-I-only-had-one-beer-what?-okay-fine-three-sue-me! type evening? Here’s my choice and stay tuned for results!
For those counting – the ring reads: Be free spirited, Live, Love & Laugh. I intend to do just that.
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
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.
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!
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
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.
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!