Cocooned for 6 months of the year, with furnaces and electric blankets blazing, Chicagoans revel in the warm months of late spring, summer, and early autumn. For locals and visitors alike, dining alfresco is an ideal way to experience the sights, sounds, smells, and social fabric of this multifaceted city. In addition to the choices below, see Big Star and Bistro Campagne.
Loop & Vicinity
Athena -- This Greektown mainstay offers a stunning three-level outdoor seating area. It's paved with brick and landscaped with 30-foot trees, flower gardens, and even a waterfall. Best of all: An incredible view of the downtown skyline with the Willis Tower right in the middle. It's located at 212 S. Halsted St., between Adams and Jackson streets (tel. 312/655-0000; www.athenarestaurantchicago.com).
Park Grill -- Millennium Park's restaurant serves upscale versions of American comfort food with panoramic views of Michigan Avenue. In the summer, you can pick up a sandwich and grab a seat on the large patio (converted into an ice-skating rink come winter). It's at 11 N. Michigan Ave., at Madison Street (tel. 312/521-PARK ).
ZED451 -- You'll find another great rooftop deck on top of this funky all-you-can-eat spot. Here the wood decor and laid-back vibe let you imagine you're kicking back at a rich friend's penthouse. It's at 739 N. Clark St., 1 block south of Chicago Ave. (tel. 888/493-3451).
North Pond -- Set on the banks of one of Lincoln Park's beautiful lagoons, the excellent North Pond serves upscale, fresh-as-can-be American cuisine in a romantic and sylvan setting. Also The address is 2610 N. Cannon Dr., halfway between Diversey Parkway and Fullerton Avenue (tel. 773/477-5845).
O'Brien's Restaurant -- Wells Street in Old Town is lined with several alfresco options, but the best belongs to O'Brien's, the unofficial nucleus of neighborhood life. The outdoor patio has teakwood furniture, a gazebo bar, and a mural of the owners' country club on a brick wall. Order the dressed-up chips, a house specialty. Located at 1528 N. Wells St., 2 blocks south of North Avenue (tel. 312/787-3131; www.obriensrestaurant.com).
Wrigleyville & Edgewater
Moody's -- For more than 30 years, Moody's has been grilling some of the best burgers in Chicago. It's ideal in winter for its dark, cozy dining room (warmed by a fireplace), but it's better still in summer for its awesome outdoor patio, a real hidden treasure. The address is 5910 N. Broadway Ave., between Rosedale and Thorndale Avenues (tel. 773/275-2696; www.moodyspub.com).
Wicker Park / Bucktown
Northside Bar -- On a sunny summer day, Northside seems like Wicker Park's town square, packed with an eclectic mix of locals catching up and checking out the scene. The entire front of the restaurant opens onto the street, making it relatively easy to get an "outdoor" table. Located at 1635 N. Damen Ave., just north of North Avenue (tel. 773/384-3555; http://northsidechicago.com).
Chicago Green City Market
Chefs from Chicago’s best restaurants load up their trucks with organic foods sold at this sprawling market, which takes place outdoors in Lincoln Park Wednesday and Saturday mornings June through October and indoors more sporadically (check for dates online) November through April. You might find fresh goat cheese, elk steaks, or (in season) freshly picked blueberries; if you’re hungry, you can get a made-to-order French-style crepe and other on-the-go snacks, while listening to live music (at the south end of Lincoln Park, between Clark St. and Stockton Dr. Indoors beginning in Nov: at Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 2430 N. Cannon Dr. tel. 773/880-1266. www.chicagogreencitymarket.org. June–Oct Wed and Sat 7am–1pm; Nov–Apr on designated Sat 8am–1pm. Check website. Bus: 151).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.