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.
Barcito | 151 W Erie St
Pinxtos tapas bar inside Tavernita, the Spanish restaurant from chef Ryan Poli and the brothers behind Mercadito.
By the culinary creatives behind Tavernita and Mercadito, this Latin-infused hotspot is the definitive answer to your pork belly slider and cheeky craft cocktail needs. The interior syncs perfectly with the street fare aesthetic of the tapas menu with hand-painted colorful lettering by street artist Erni Vale covers each inch of wall-space. Convertible garage doors allow the sexy candle-lit interior to flow fluidly to the L-shaped outdoor patio with gorgeous custom wood and tile-work on the outdoor tables.
The outdoor spot has kegged cocktails, wines, beer and sangria, tapas, and house-made soda. Having sampled each of the kegged cocktails (for research, you’re welcome), the “Bootie Collins” and “The Bigger Little Market” are everything a Latin libation should be: fresh fruit, strong spirits, and some unexpected heat. The first combines green-tea infused vodka, lemon, cayenne, and passionfruit; the second, reposado tequila, chile guajillo, lime, and fresh-cored pineapple. Frugal foodies would be well-advised to get there promptly at 6pm on Monday for bottomless bites of their Latin tapas menu (skip the sliders, save room for what’s truly special: the hamachi with, avocado, lime, and cucumber & the bacon-wrapped dates with feta and balsamic).
I/O Urban Roofscape | 127 W Huron St
Posh rooftop restaurant & lounge in the Godfrey Hotel offering New American fare, booze & more.
This 360-seat, 15,000-square-foot space is an architecturally-exquisite newcomer to the River North rooftop scene. Located on the fourth floor of The Godfrey Hotel Chicago, IO Urban Roofscape combines a spacious cabana-equipped lounge area with two bars, each offering equally-immaculate views of the Chicago skyline through a retractable roof. Cooler yet, the architects installed both a water wall and video wall — consider it a deconstructed take on the iconic Millenium Park installation.
Truffle mac & cheese, a pork belly BLT, and other savory & sophisticated twists on classic American fare from chef Riley Huddleston, formerly of Aviary. For more decadent digestables, the dessert menu leaves little to be desired. We fell fast for the deep dish apple tart, though you may be inclined to play it safe with the tried-and-true Eli’s cheesecake. On the drink front, its thoroughly dependent on the season. For sweater weather, nothing beats a set next to the fire pit and a pitcher of hot butter rum. For rubbing elbows under the summer stars, class it up with a julep made with mint-olive shaved ice from a fleet of perfectionist bartenders who test each drink for acid and alcohol levels before it leaves the bar.
Japonais | 600 W Chicago Ave
Upscale hot spot for creative Japanese cooking in chic rooms plus hip lounge & riverside terrace.
Possibly the most picturesque al fresco set-up in river north with white linen pagodas and day beds sprawled on the river walk. the Japonais redesign catalyzed by Iron Chef Morimoto coming onboard didn’t mess with perfection on the exterior space, but did reboot the interior with brighter decor, an elevated sushi bar, and a gorgeous first-level lounge bar specializing in Japanese vodka and whiskey, Morimoto’s own line of sakes — which he developed with Japan-based Fukumitsuya brewery — and his line of microwbrews, which he developed with Oregon-based Rogue Ales.
The well-funded foodie can opt to splurge for the seven-course Omakase menu to truly acquaint themselves with Morimoto’s globally-acclaimed culinary creativity. For a less commital approach, we’re fans of pairing the small plates (hamachi tacos, foie gras oysters) with a couple maki rolls for family-style snacking. The extensive sushi menu can disorient: take our advice and skip straight to the flash-fried soft shell crab with asparagus, avocado, and scallions.
American Junkie | 15 W Illinois St
Jumbo industrial space with bar, elevated pub eats & second-story dance floor with bottle service.
How’s this for a patriotic pour house: a 320-seat, two-floor industrial barstaurant sporting a retractable skylight roof and American flags carved on tables, etched onto bar stools, and occupying an entire wall of the upstairs bar. They’re also staking claim to the honor of biggest television in the Midwest with a 16x8ft, 1080p high-def wonder. The roof retracts right above the second-floor bar area, giving an open-air vibe to the denim-clad couches in the bottle service seating section and the dance floor/DJ set-up boasting 100,000 watts of sound.
The most worthwhile of the eats is most certainly the oven-fired flatbreads. they come generously tossed with high-brow toppings like the foie gras & pineapple combo, or for something a touch more decadent: bacon, pork belly, kumquat, bourbon & blue cheese flatbread that we waxed poetic about when nominating it as this month’s “foodie find.” If you’re looking for something more substantive and sophisticated, Chef Kendal Duque (Sepia, City Tavern) has an entree menu that would be the envy of many white table-cloth sit-downs, the two highlights of which are (1) the bison rib eye with a side of Brussels sprouts in wild mushroom sauce and (2) the lamb lollipops, in a sour cherry glaze on a bed of navy beans.
Vertigo Sky Lounge | 2 W Erie St
Lounge on the 26th floor of the Dana Hotel & Spa, with year-round patio, DJs & impressive views.
Perched 26 floors above state street, Vertigo is Dana Hotel’s posh penthouse decked out with floor-to-ceiling windows, swanky plush-leather seating, and an expansive outside patio warmed up by a gas-powered firepit. Mingle inside amongst orb lighting & uber-modern furniture or head to the terrace for stunning cityscapes, fire pits, and modular mahogany benches.
The servers will be pushing brass-trimmed carts with your drink of choice. One’s dedicated to mojitos, another martinis, the third a roving small bar of hard-to-find micro drafts. Vertigo’s also serving small plates from the downstairs asian fusion resto Ajasteak, like Wagyu beef carpaccio, sashimi & maki rolls, or Vietnamese cold bahn-mi sammies, served up on sexily sustainable bamboo plates.