Wonderful winter dining solutions are available all over Chicago!
With indoor dining off the table and the harshness of the Midwest winter upon us bars, cafes, and restaurants have scrambled to create winter solutions that ensure both safety and warmth. A city-wide contest back in August of 2020 utilized Chicago’s hive-mind potential and sort to find a safe solution to the problems facing Chicago’s hospitality industry. Nearly 650 possible ideas were sent to the City of Chicago including design concepts for nests, heated outdoor glow chairs, geodesic dome lounges, and much more.
Fast forward a few months and we are in the midst of winter, restaurants have been scrambled to optimize their outdoor spaces, and we have a wealth of fantastically adapted outdoor spaces across the city. Outdoor dining has become a lifeline for restaurants this year and Chicago’s hospitality industry has not failed us in its response. Domes, firepits, greenhouses, and state-of-the-art heaters have popped up all over Chicago, and here we have gathered some of the very best.
Recess down in West Loop was already offering a unique outdoor winter hideout before bars and restaurants were forced to turn to their exteriors. The iconic venue has now raised the bar even higher with its new Fire & Ice Winter Pop-Up. Nestled within 30 shipping containers on a West Loop corner, Recess is home to a cozy amalgamation of bars, food stands, and cabana houses within a 14,500 -square-foot space that holds the title of the largest patio in Chicago.
This snug sanctuary is renowned for its’s unparalleled vibe but as the largest and most spacious patio in Chicago, it is also one of the safest drinking spots in the city. An arrangement of socially distanced bonfire tables can be found inside the den of containers, and a selection of hot drinks provide extra warmth. With their new Fire & Ice Winter Pop-Up, however, it is simply an essential winter visit.
Ice sculptures and winter photo ops provide ideal Instagram material whilst fire pit tables and boozy hot chocolates provide the perfect recipe to enjoy an evening outside. Each ticket to Recess’s Fire & Ice Winter Experience includes a Recess peanut butter boozy hot chocolate, a specialty cocktail, a S’mores kit, and 1-hour admission to view ice sculptures & winter photo ops. Settling down beside the crackle of flames with a specialty cocktail in hand and you will quickly realize that amidst the doom and gloom there are still memories to be made.
Location: 838 W. Kinzie Street, Chicago
River North’s Joy District is something of a pioneer when it comes to winter outdoor dining. Last year they were one step ahead of the game when they filled their rooftop patio with cozy winter snow globes before Covid-19 was even a thing. This year the Rooftop Winter Igloos are back but this time they are only one of the attractions Joy has to offer.
A select few can compete with the astounding set up at Joy District’s Heated Winter Wonderland Rooftop And Holiday Cocktails. Sparkling lights, comfortable patterned couches, and impeccable views of Chicago’s skyline guarantee a memorable night but it’s the magic of vibrant murals and cascading greenery that truly makes Joy District’s rooftop a unique space. Both aRooftop Ski Lodge and Rooftop Winter Igloos can be rented ensuring a safe and private space to drink beneath the Chicago stars and skyscrapers with your chosen quarantine crew. You’ll have to be quick though, as dates are quickly filling up.
Location: 112 West Hubbard Street, Chicago
A new and improved open-air patio at Old Grounds Social has come as a relief to the bar’s loyal Lincoln Park customers. Old Grounds Social promised a revamp for winter and it has gone above and beyond expectations. The revitalized patio allows guests to enjoy the bar’s notorious bottomless drinks and bottomless snacks as well as a series of January events to get us through the winter.
OGs and Chef Josh Scheid are bringing back their sublime bottomless brunches. 2 hours of bottomless specialty winter cocktails, mimosas, and beers will be available with brunches every Saturday and Sunday providing the perfect way to clock out of our weekly responsibilities. Truth be told you’ll struggle to find a day when there’s not something exciting happening at OGs. Trivia, Drag Bingo, and DJ Nights are taking place weekly all with complimentary specialty cocktails included. Enjoy a Holiday-Themed Trivia Night on Tuesdays, Holiday Drag Bingo on Thursdays, and live DJs every Friday and Saturday night.
Health and safety precautions have been meticulously designed to ensure the safety of all in the new patio whilst guaranteeing fun can be had during Chicago’s teeth-chattering temperatures.
Location: 950 West Wrightwood Avenue, Chicago
Heading back to the River North rooftops, the Godfrey Hotel boasts Chicago’s largest indoor-outdoor rooftop with a retractable roof that gives it the versatility to transform into any type of venue it desires. Luckily that means that retracting the roof officially makes it an outdoor space where fine dining and extraordinary views can be enjoyed. Communal booths and signature heated igloos of different sizes have been erected for a winter wonderland that is set to continue into the new year and it’s certainly one to check out this winter.
Location: 127 West Huron Street, Chicago
One West Loop restaurant has taken the snow dome game a step further than others. Rooh’s, an Indian restaurant that prides itself on its progressive Indian cuisine, is now home to a unique 17-foot hexadome tent with high ceilings and infrared heaters. According to the owner, Rina Mallick, the tent was imported all the way from Europe and is the same tent they use in the mountains of Switzerland due to its ability to withstand snow, wind, and fire.
The Rooh menu offers an array of exquisite moderately-priced dishes merging exquisite regional flavors and modern gastronomic techniques but the real magnum opus is a 4-course prix fixe ‘culinary journey’ that invites guests to experience local flavors and traditions from various regions of India.
Location: 736 West Randolph Street, Chicago
One of River West’s favorite cocktail taverns reopened its beloved patio on Friday, January 8 revealing a winterized space decked out with fire pits, propane heaters, and alpine decorations. The Dandy Crown’s patio was a popular Fall escape and now offers a toasty après-ski winter vibe for the harsh winter months. If that’s not enough reason to head down, the Dandy Crown has teamed up with Bittersweet Pastry Shop and Sugar Bliss Cakes to create some extraordinary warm cocktails, divine boozy hot chocolates, and scrumptious hot chocolate bombs that’ll have those with a sweet tooth swooning. The Dandy Crown will also be hosting a fundraiser through the end of February with money from select cocktails going towards the San Lucas Food Pantry.
Location: 694 North Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago
The Darling introduced its adorable greenhouses to Chicago back in July. Located in the West Loop, the restaurant took advantage of the closing of Randolph Street and set up its beautiful outdoor dining area, The Rose Garden. While igloos and snowglobes offer winter wonderlands all around Chicago, this unique spot was adorned with private little greenhouses that make socially-distanced dining all the more charming! The Darling’s Rose Garden has a total of 10 greenhouses for tables of two or four that guests can cozy up in for some English garden-inspired snacks and drinks. The greenhouses are sanitized after each seating and guests can take a look at the menu online, making the process entirely safe and contactless.
Location: 905 West Randolph Street, Chicago
The Woodlawn in South Chicago has erected some beautiful little luxury streetside dining pods with lavish decor and vintage vibes so you can enjoy fine-dining in a whole new way. The new private outdoor dining pods were completed in early December and now offer two hours slots in which you can enjoy a three-course personalized menu for any occasion regardless of the weather. The cute little pods come complete with a fancy dining set up, comfortable chairs, and beautiful decor. Guests can customize their visit and decorate a pod with roses from Rose Blossom Chicago for $50 or for groups of five or less a live musician can sweeten the experience for $100.
Location: 1200 East 79th Street, Chicago
9. Las Fuentes’s Patio Oasis
For those of you familiar with Las Fuentes Restaurant in Lincoln Park, you’ll know that as well as a terrific place to get your taco and margarita fix, the Mexican restaurant is also home to an enchanting outdoor patio with colorful murals and plenty of greenery. Now the magical outdoor space has been transformed into a private patio oasis to accommodate for the Chicago winter rules. A warm and cozy tent now covers the patio with spacious seating situated around the gorgeous fountain creating the atmosphere of a tropical paradise in the heart of Lincoln Park.
Location: 2558 N Halsted Street, Chicago
Another bar using snow globes before they were cool was City Winery. Last year they debuted their series of transparent domes on the Chicago Riverwalk. This year they’re back and better than ever. Though the Riverwalk Patio has packed up for winter City Winery’s West Loop tented patio and domes will be open Wednesday to Sunday each week. Wine made on-site can be enjoyed from the comfort of a climate-controlled dome that is thoroughly cleaned before and after every reservation.
Location: 1200 West Randolph Street, Chicago
A “dine together, safely apart” initiative was launched back in October giving Fulton Market a new flex. A combined effort from West Central Association, the Illinois Restaurant Association, and Stella Artois transformed Fulton Market District into a temporary village of igloos, greenhouses, and plastic structures all situated alongside an eye-catching new street mural by artist Shepard Fairey. Home to some of Chicago’s favorite watering holes and eateries like The Publican, Duck Duck Goat, and Beatrix, there are plenty of outdoor dining options found down at Fulton Market. Now all in the safety of your own little bubble.
Location: 900 West Fulton Street, Chicago
Andersonville’s Fiya revolves around a wood-burning oven that produces unique cuisine inspired by dishes from Israel. From the unique Hummusiya menu to dynamic cocktails and coveted craft beers, Fiya is a special Andersonville hideout that is still very much alive and kicking. The best part? They are constantly expanding their lush patio to make sure it is a safe but vibrant place to spend an evening. There are now a total of seven covid-friendly bubbles in Fiya’s patio available for walk-in seating or for reservation. The bubbles are cleaned and sanitized in between each use and fire pits bring warmth to the comfortable patio.
Location: 5419 North Clark Street, Chicago
13. The Willow Room’s Tiny Curbside Houses
The Willow Room is a historic European-American restaurant and tavern located in Lincoln Park. Combining both fantastic food and a lively atmosphere the vibrant bar is often a top choice for those-in-the-know locals. It’s long been considered one of the best places in Chicago to get cocktails and due to the regulations in place, it has now been forced to branch out into the street offering the cutest little glasshouses. Heaters line the street and blankets are available so you can enjoy your favorite cocktails and some exquisite dishes from the comfort of a little transparent curb-side house.
Location: 1800 North Halsted Street, Chicago
District Brew Yards is the nation’s first collective production brewery, pour-your-own beer hall, and shop combination all under one roof. But it’s not about what’s under the roof at the moment, it’s what’s outside that matters, and District Brew Yards’ patio is a guaranteed good time. While it might not yet have incorporated igloos or greenhouses into its fantastic set-up, District Brew Yards has a patio full of fire pits and gas heaters to keep you toasty warm. If that’s not enough to tempt you down one of the 40 unique drafts or specialty smoked meats certainly will be.
Location: 417 North Ashland Avenue, Chicago
While District Brew Yards is the place to go for unique draft beers, Uvae Kitchen and Wine Bar is the place to find great wine. The wine connoisseurs at Uvae have had unique journeys working their way up as students of the Wine Professional Program. You will find few places in Chicago that can better rhapsodize about a grape’s environment and how the wine is enriched and enlivened by fermentation, aging, and the technique of the winemaker. The array of wines can now be enjoyed in some charming greenhouses that line the street outside.
Location: 5553 North Clark Street, Chicago
The Duck Inn is a cozy, modest restaurant that shifts from its beloved Backyard Pizza Night Wednesdays to sublime Sunday Lunches with ease, and that’s not to mention the extraordinary grilled octopus. The Duck Inn’s setup is as versatile as the menu and a massive tent now covers a spacious back patio and several heated porches provide private cozy retreats. A forced-air heater hooked up to a 100-pound propane tank circulates hot air and Duck Inn’s special blankets can be bought to guarantee extra coziness.
Location: 2701 South Eleanor Street, Chicago
Whiskey Business’s rooftop is a notorious Wicker Park’s hideout. Fabled for its variety of over 100 different whiskeys, the 3,000-square-foot patio is now offering activities like movie nights, curling, and weekend brunches.
The best thing you’ll find up on the fun-packed patio, though are some cute rooftop cabanas that have been converted into cozy heated gingerbread houses. The little heated hideaways have been fully equipped with fake fireplaces, candy canes, and Christmas decorations so you can sink a few seasonal cocktails surrounded by friends and festive cheer.
Location: 1367 N Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago
Aba is a Mediterranean restaurant with a rooftop patio located in Chicago’s historic Fulton Market District. The low-key rooftop patio has now erected cute greenhouses so you can privately and safely enjoy dishes from all over the Mediterranean including Israel, Lebanon, Turkey, and Greece. Signature dishes include Crispy Short Rib Hummus, Jerusalem Bagel with Labneh, Char-Grilled Lamb Chops, and Skirt Steak Shawarma. Their bar menu also features rare Mediterranean-inspired wines, spirits, and cocktails to accompany a unique dinner within your own little glass rooftop house under the stars.
Location: 302 North Green Street, Chicago
One of South Loop’s most treasured watering holes down on 701 S. State Street has a new look courtesy of a group of local artists. South Loop Club, first opened in 1988, was one of the many stars of Chicago’s hospitality scene to resort to its outdoor space and create a streetside patio to keep business alive. The beloved bar used scaffolding to create a cozy streetside den and it’s now has been given a fresh new identity. Local artists have given the winterized space its own character not just with colorful murals and messages of hope but also with depictions of the bar’s signature offerings. South Loop Club has been a beating heart of Chicago’s South Loop for more than three decades, and in that time it has built up a reputation for its “World Famous” Wings and “The Best Burgers in Chicago.”
Location: 701 South State Street, Chicago
The Kennedy Rooftop is Wicker Park’s very own urban chic hideout. The interior, food, and drink options are all designed to accentuate the modern, trendy, and diverse fabric of Wicker Park. Panoramic views of Chicago’s iconic skyline and a comfortable layout make it a phenomenal outdoor option and it’s set to stay open through winter. The Kennedy Rooftop is also home to a curling lane meaning you can enjoy a classy evening on the plush rooftop with a bit of competitive fun to keep you warm.