Last Updated on September 20, 2020 by Kristin

Photo credit: Jeff Marini/Aba

Looking for outdoor dining spots in Chicago? When the weather’s nice, residents eat outside whenever they can. Thanks to an impressive culinary scene that way goes beyond epic pizza, the Windy City delivers an array of outdoor dining options. Here are some of the best places in Chicago to enjoy a meal outside.

Aba (302 N. Green St, 3rd Fl.; 773-645-1400) Fulton Market/West Loop

The closest thing Chicago has to an upscale Tel Aviv beach bar just might be Aba’s stunning rooftop patio. A decadent marble bar presides over comfy seats nestled among lush green plants. Tthe restaurant has been deemed one of the country’s most romantic by OpenTable and “crazy-popular” by the Chicago Tribune. One recent Yelp review says the patio has a “great view of the Chicago skyline.” The whimsical atmosphere encourages diners to kick back with craft cocktails and mezze dishes before sampling heartier fare such as an eggplant-wrapped, slow-braised leg of lamb. The only downside to this place is that it fills up quickly, so TripAdvisor diners recommend getting there early.

The Dawson (730 W. Grand Ave.; 312-243-8955) River West

Blessed with unfettered greenery, an outdoor fireplace and string lights, The Dawson’s gigantic patio is an enchanting hangout in the city. “With the perfect location, great vibes and even better food, this rustic gem isn’t one to be ignored,” says one Google local guide. On Yelp, one reviewer says it’s “especially great to visit in the warmer months with their huge patio.” The food has earned kudos from Wine Spectator and OpenTable. This oasis draws diners with its wood-fired grilled specialties like grilled ahi tuna and Mediterranean beef kebabs. However, it’s the mix of impeccable service, high-quality flavors and spacious outdoor area that makes The Dawson one of the hottest restaurants in town. “This place is firing on all cylinders,” as one TripAdvisor puts it.

Big Star (1531 N. Damen Ave.; 773-235-4039) Wicker Park

Named to Eater Chicago’s list of 20 essential outdoor dining spots in the city, the patio at Big Star is a local go-to when the sun comes out. One TripAdvisor reviewer calls it “one of the summer’s best patios for people watching, sipping margs, and eating tacos.” This no-frills Mexican restaurant in the heart of eclectic hub Wicker Park is one of the most fun places to unwind and enjoy classics like tacos al pastor with guacamole.

“This is a Chicago staple,” one Yelp fan says, who feels “very safe eating outside” with Big Star’s COVID-19 precautions. Love baseball? Big Star has a second location right outside Wrigley Field.

Shanghai Terrace (108 E. Superior St.; 312-573-6695) Magnificent Mile

This swanky outdoor dining spot is in the heart of the Magnificent Mile. Located in the five-star Peninsula Chicago hotel near attractions like the John Hancock building, this Cantonese dim sum restaurant has been voted the no. 1 Chinese restaurant in Chicago by Zagat Survey and boasts some of the best skyline views. OpenTable reviewers love the expanded outdoor rooftop dining area, while TripAdvisor diners highly recommend the Peking duck and craft cocktails. The restaurant is on the fancier side, so wear your smart casual attire.

Blue Door Kitchen & Garden (52 W. Elm St.; 312-573-4000) Gold Coast

Any restaurant that mentions nature in its name is sure to have an outdoor vibe, and Blue Door Kitchen & Garden doesn’t disappoint. OpenTable reviewers love the “fantastic outdoor seating and ambiance” and “lovely” garden at this rustic farm-to-table oasis. One TripAdvisor user raves about what is “maybe the best fried chicken ever.” Conveniently located in the Gold Coast, Blue Door is a must after relaxing on Oak Street Beach, taking in views from the John Hancock building or browsing the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.