With patio season well underway, restaurants are breaking out the string lighting and we’re breaking down Wicker Park’s top 5 rooftops, courtyards, and beer gardens for libation-fueled lounging. Read up, drink up, repeat as needed. You earned it this winter.
J Parker | 1816 N Clark St
Handcrafted cocktails, a light New American menu & city views on the Hotel Lincoln’s swanky rooftop.
In an era in which “epic” has been cheapened by overuse, this rooftop duly deserves the monicker. A sky-high 140-seat deck that sits atop the Hotel Lincoln, The J. Parker offers unobstructed views of Chicago and Lake Michigan to go along with a rotating-quarterly lineup of libations and small bites from acclaimed chef Paul Virant’s (of Lincoln Park’s highly-touted farm-to-table Perennial Virant). Flat out, there is not a better vantage point of the lake shore, skyline, or park in the city — surely none with as posh an ambiance nor as tastefully-designed a menu as Virant’s.
The drink options rotate quarterly, with each rendition inspired by a trio of international locales. We were treated to Cuba (classic mojitos muddled with locally-sourced mint from Werps Farms), Spain (Pimm’s & Cointreau-spiked sangria), and a fiery appearance from Mexico (Jalisco Punch combining reposado, Chardonnay, sparkling cider, and caramelized pineapple). For sustenance, the chef has made the answer obvious with a bougie burger earning the honor of namesake dish. The J. Parker Burger gets ritzy with dry-aged beef, butterkase cheese, spicy carrot ketchup, charred onion, and a hiply half-sour pickle.
Home Slice | 938 W Webster Ave
Imaginative thin-crust pizzas & beer in a rustic-style lodge room with tree-trunk tables & TVs.
This Oregon-born log cabin pizza joint is thoroughly outfitted for a good time. The Oregon natives running the show imported 400lb Douglas Firs from the Northwest to build out the 150-set log-lined interior. It’s the outside space that steals the show, however, with a well-heated backyard patio with Pinterest-worthy string lighting canopy and patio seating inside a hollowed-out vintage Airstream trailer making this most certainly one of the more creatively-executed patios we’ve seen in recent memory.
We thought we saw it all after Sunda’s chinese buffet-topped bloody. The Home Slice folks may even have one-upped that behemoth, with this Bloody Mary that comes complete with a cold slice of Hawaiian-style pizza, pepperoni, pepperoncini, and a Miller High Life pony. As for the pies, choose one of six base sauces and then get to picking and choosing amongst 30 thin-crust topping options. With 12 micros on tap, you can choose between a Green Line lager or a signature cocktail that doesn’t take itself too seriously: the Logger, equal parts whiskey, OJ, and — for a blast from the past — Orange Crush.
Zella | 1983 N Clybourn Ave
Relaxed neighborhood bar/restaurant with a beer garden & menu of salads, sandwiches & pizza.
Part upscale bar, part restaurant, part club, and part bountiful beer garden, Zella is as versatile as it is iconic amongst Lincoln Park locals. It makes the list on behalf of it being home to one of the best lounging patios in the city. There’s a tree canopy over the backyard beer garden, or a lounge inside with sofas and chairs around a fireplace — pick your pleasure. The interior functions as a deceptively spacious neighborhood bar (Notre Dame affiliated, it should be noted) with blonde wood, high ceilings, exposed brick walls and a stone fireplace classing up the aesthetic enough to draw scene-seeking young professionals after work. The biggest draw during warmer months is through the double doors in the back, behind which lies a sprawling patio with shaded canopies and ornate wrought-iron furniture. A third bar works hard to keep up with the demand for shots, pitchers, and all-you-can-drink weekend brunch specials.
If you’re seeking Michelin-star cuisine, head elsewhere. But for pub fare with some pizzazz, Zella’s delivers. Pulled pork sammies off-the-grill, flash-fried tempura shrimp tacos and upscale small plates like crab cakes and arugula salad with tomatoes and mozzarella coincide with traditional pasta options. On the drinks front, this isn’t the time to get fancy. Grab a lager from the ice tub or support local with a pitcher of Revolution or carafe of City Winery vino and get back to the canopy cover of the back deck.
Stella Barra | 1954 N Halsted St
Chic Italian spot serving Californian pizzas, drinks & more in industrial digs with an open kitchen.
The sister spot to the airy Summer House Santa Monica, Stella Barra adopts a distinctly more open, industrial aesthetic than its counterpart. Charcoal walls and ceilings are fitted with exposed pipes and ductworks in keeping with the sexy loft aesthetic. Inside, wood-paneled tables and booths surround a communal table and open kitchen and a gorgeous black exposed brick bar opens to a back patio space with al fresco seating for 60 and a 6-foot fireplace to keep al fresco boozy brunching an option come fall.
A spinoff of Chef Jeff Mahin’s artisanal pizzeria on Sunset Boulevard, Stella Barra’s menu focuses on California-style pizza, house-made Italian-style pastas, crudos, simply prepared proteins and seasonal vegetables. One topping combo out of the Chicago shop that just got featured in Food & Wine as the US’s best kale dish (cue oxymoron joke) calls for crispy purple kale, young pecorino, roasted garlic and cracked black peppercorns. For the meat-inclined, the organic Niman Ranch pork is ground & cured in-house. Pair it with your favorite formaggio and you’re set. The wine list here is primo and the waiter can talk you through the pairings. For something with a bit more vim & vigor than the vino, the Lonicera is as simple as it is palate-pleasing, with blanco tequila, lime, honey, and angostura bitters.
Joe’s Bar | 940 W Weed St
Big, warehouse-like space to catch a country concert, watch the game, or order up a BBQ platter & brew.
This sports bar and haven for Chicago-land Hoosier fans has more than 100 TVs, a few 10-foot HD projection screens, and a sprawling in-house concert venue coexisting with the decidedly more tranquil courtyard and rooftop space. On the ground floor, the 40-foot steel bar and wrought iron accents meld industrial decor melds with a sports bar sensibility. When a standing-room-only concert packs the space, you can seek exile on top of all the bustle, on the 3,500-square-foot roof, outfitted with cedar booths and tables.
Barbecue’s your best bet. The brisket tacos might be a tad culturally confused but are top-notch. Pair it with a Goose Island Green Line and sip slowly as you contemplate the merit/malice of the deep-fried cookie dough dessert.