Arts

The Gadabout— Top 5 Chicago Outdoor Dining

From Old Town to Downtown, Chicago eateries are taking it to the streets.

Photo: Café Orchid
A view of Café Orchid’s half-inside, half-outside eating area. And not an orchid in sight.

While some may enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of one million Chicagoans milling around in Grant Park, we can understand those who want to stay far away from the Taste of Chicago. For those who want an outdoor dining experience that’s a little more mellow, these restaurants offer the best in Chicago’s al fresco eating.

 

Café Orchid

1746 West Addison Street

Chicago, IL 60613

Plastic walls and space heaters keep the patio of Café Orchid open year-round, but it’s never the same without the open air. Affordable, rich Turkish comfort food and the restaurant’s BYOB policy add a picnic-like charm to your meal that makes every return to Café Orchid worthwhile. A perfect rendition of hummus and coban salata added the restaurant to our eating bookmarks, but the iskender and mantar sote utterly stole our stomachs.

Rose Angelis

1314 West Wrightwood Avenue # 1

Chicago, IL 60614

The ivy-laden patio at Rose Angelis features romantic garden lighting and quaint picnic tables that provide the perfect outdoor counterpart to the hand-painted murals and winding rooms inside. The rich menu focuses on traditional Northern Italian specialties and notably skirts red meat in favor of vegetables, poultry, and fish. While dishes run the gamut from delicious to unbelievable, we recommend the mezzalune al burro—spinach half-moon pasta stuffed with pesto and ricotta and served with brown butter sauce, sun-dried tomatoes, toasted pine nuts, and parmesan. If the pear ravioli with rich cream sauce and its satiating blend of sweet-and-salt is on the menu, order it. The dish is so popular and so rarely offered that it has its own e-mail listhost.

Calumet Fisheries

3259 East 95th Street

Chicago, IL 60617

If there’s anything we’ve learned from Saturday Night Live digital shorts and the rapper T-Pain, there are few more desirable places to be this summer than “On a Boat.” Since a luxury yacht with liveried staff is not often available to whisk U of C students away from 57th Street Beach, the South Side’s Calumet Fisheries offers a taste of the sea on dry land in the form of their superb smoked shrimp. Sold by the pound, the delicacy is best enjoyed while sitting on the hood of a car parked along the industrial waterfront the Fisheries calls home. The location might resemble a scene from Blues Brothers more than The Lonely Island’s music video, but that just makes it all the more legit.

Bob San

1805 West Division Street

Chicago, IL 60622

This is the kind of place Anthony Bourdain despises: Wicker Park, yuppie clientele and sushi rolls that are only tangentially related to Japan. We’re talking the kind of maki that comes with cream cheese, mayonnaise, chili and tempura crunch. Bob San doesn’t have the newest, hippest, or highest quality sushi in town, but it’s a decent place to find creative rolls without reservations on most evenings or an exorbitant price tag. The outdoor tables, spilling out onto bustling Division Street, define urban open air dining.

Spacca Napoli

1769 West Sunnyside Street

Chicago, IL 60640

Spacca Napoli approaches urban outdoor dining from a tranquil perspective, with umbrella-covered tables that lie on a cozy stretch of sidewalk in a quiet Far North neighborhood. Waiters are happy to pour glasses of refreshing Italian wine as you wait for a table, which is almost inevitable here. The restaurant’s popularity is unsurprising, given that its Neapolitan thin-crust pizzas consistently rank among the top three in Chicago. (We enjoy Coal Fire better, but it lacks the outdoor ambiance.) Almost all pizzas come with San Marzano tomato sauce, but it’s up to you to ensure the addition of mozzarella di bufala among your chosen ingredients. Bring sunglasses for the patio if you’re dining early—the setting sun is beautiful, but slightly blinding.

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