While the menus might justifiably play second fiddle to the ambience at these rooftop restos, we've handpicked our favorite nibbles & drinkables: from Little Goat's banana ‘n peanut buttered waffles with bacon maple syrup to Green Streets's Sencha green tea-spiked microbrews.
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.
Belly Q | 1400 W Randolph St
Trendy, minimalist Asian barbecue restaurant with tabletop grill options plus sake & wine on tap.
Enormous outdoor industrial chic patio space. rusted metal beams from the subway overpass, exposed brick face, and street art-adorned garage doors illuminated by vintage string lighting overhead, with a marble fire pit as the focal point. even more impressive than the courtyard space itself is the fact Chef Kim regularly fills it to capacity for his backyard barbecues. The interior is just as sexy, with each booth equipped with its own infrared grill for getting hands on and firing up your own Korean short ribs and banana leaf-wrapped salmon.
Thai fried chicken, wood-fired bacon ‘n kimchi pancakes, or some tea-smoked duck breast served with steamed Chinese buns. Not to mention our two nominees for West Loop foodie favorites, the artisan Ramen & soft serve pop-ups. For drinks, you’d be negligent not to try one of Chef Kim’s works of cocktail art. Our favorites? The Serpentine (soju, coconut vinegar plum infusion, cucumber) and a concoction of roasted pineapple Cocchi Americano, Benedictine, lemon berry tea syrup and orange bitters called the Long Goodnight.
Green St Smoked Meats| 112 N Green St
Hip counter serve dishing house-smoked Texas BBQ & homey sides in woodsy, warehouselike digs.
Make your way down the mural-clad back alley of RM Champagne Salon, pass under a canopy of nostalgic string lighting, and enter to a 120-person-capacity interior with vintage barnwood, distressed metal, and a decidedly grungy but modern aesthetic. The set-up? BBQ on the main floor, with two in-restaurant specialty shops: High Five Ramen, a 15-seat gourmet ramen bar tucked in the basement, and for wheatgrass crowd: Jack and Juice, a cold-pressed juice bar. for a peek at where the Green St. magic happens, have your waiter point you to the 12,000 lb cast steel smoker. Beside the kitchen centerpiece, roomy enough to smoke 72 pork bellies, sit a pile of chopped oak for smoking and bags of mesquite charcoal for the smoker bed — an apt reminder that at Green St., the grub is as delightfully close-to-the-bone as the decor.
Marbled cuts aplenty on the chopping block: short ribs, tamales, salmon, and oysters, Texas-style smoked brisket, pork ribs, pork belly, pulled pork sandwiches, hot links, and the tried-and-true chicken legs. Wash it down with a hopped-up small-batch brew from the gypsy brewers from the folks at Local Option, the heavy metal, renegade beer-makers who develop recipes and brew at other Midwest breweries, then tap them at local spots like Green Street or their Cajun resto in Lincoln Park. Two of the batches stand above the rest: the rambunctiously-titled Morning Wood, an amber ale made with oak-aged coffee — perfect pairing for the Brown Thunder coffee-infused sauce — and the exotic Leif Belgian, infused with super-strong Sencha green tea. Thinking of classing it up ever-so-slightly and going the libation route? Barbecue and bourbon sweet tea are a match made in southern gentleman heaven. Or opt for something a touch more novel: Maria can vouch for the Chartreuse Mule, which adds gin and the tang of Chartreuse to the classic Moscow mix.
Little Goat | 820 W Randolph St
Upscale diner & bakery offshoot of the W. Loop staple, Girl & the Goat.
Hands-down the most picturesque rooftop in the West Loop loft district. Upstairs from Top Chef Stephanie Izard’s bakery and diner sits a lushly-landscaped rooftop with a full view of restaurant row. Little Goat, little sibling to the iconic Girl & The Goat, combines the open-kitchen, Americana vibe of an all-night greasy spoon with a bit of Randolph St. distinction thanks to walls split between vintage wallpaper and rich butcher block below the sexily skylit ceiling.
We’ve hardly kept quiet about our affinity for LG’s sunday fundays (see: this month’s ‘foodie finds’ piece). LG sports truly one of the most creative smorgasbords of brunch fare in Chicago. Despite Top Chef-accolades, Stephanie Izard doesn’t take the menu too seriously. Case in point, banana ‘n peanut buttered Fat Elvis Waffles with bacon maple syrup, or the ever-so-eloquently-titled Asian Style Breakfast Tasty Thing, a hearty helping of kimchi and bacon & eggs, layered with savory pancakes. For more substantive late-day dining, the Sloppy Goat topped with rosemary slaw is the crown jewel of a deservedly-hyped sandwich menu. On the brew front, show some spirit and play it local with Haymarket collab Girl and the Goatee, which works in notes of rhubarb and blackberries juiced on-site in the Little Goat kitchen.
The Dawson | 730 W Grand Ave
Striking, bi-level restaurant featuring an eclectic menu complemented by handcrafted cocktails.
A refined, gentlemanly two-floor drinking den from restaurateurs Billy Lawless (The Gage, Henri) and Branko Palikuca (Topaz, Amber) with a beverage program from GM Clint Rogers (Henri, Graham Elliot), cocktails from Annemarie Sagoi (Big Star, The Charleston), and food from Next’s former Sous Chef Rene De Leon. The interior is done to the nines with a dramatic wood-paneled atrium opening to the lower floor’s open kitchen space and antique zinc bar. The upscale Americana vibe continues upsstairs, with denim-clad walls and private backroom parlor seating centered around a vintage fireplace set-up.
A la Little Goat, the Dawson menu sticks to classing up tried-and-true comfort foods, offering pork belly tacos, chicken-fried steak, house-made sodas, and serious libations. GM Clint Rogers was highly deliberate in planning the food and drink menus concurrently. For insider advice on deciphering the menu, you can use your ask the audience lifeline. Our kitchen confidential reports the three most-ordered pairings as (1) the grilled radicchio Waldorf Salad & the Carillon Cup (gin, applejack, vanilla pear shrub, and black walnut bitters), and (2) marinated pork belly tacos (lusciously laced with salsa crema) & the Thai-influenced Officer’s Club, Dewar’s 12yr and Bruichladdich 10yr mixed with spicy bitters, and garnished with lemongrass and citrus peels.
Packing House | 1113 W Randolph St
Randolph St newcomer combines the best of New-York-Packing-District-cool with bistro-style fare.
Tri-level al fresco seating in the former Market space. Consider it a gentlemanly playpen mirroring the lofty, industrial-chic aesthetic the warehouse district it finds itself in the middle of. Take your pick from the ground floor, the sun-kissed terrace, or the open-air bar under a retractable roof.
Gone with Market’s sports bar fare, the packing house now pumps out up-classed Mediterranean-influenced American food conceived by Amanda Barnes (Moto, Purple Pig, Publican). For patio small plates, we advise the chef’s assortment of 5 crudos & ceviches. Ask your waiter to ensure that the Snapper Ceviche comes as one of the five: with Chilies, Dill, Oregano, Basil, Cilantro, Citrus, Feta it’s light, refreshingly acidic, and perfect snacking fare to accompany the Don Draper of libations: the Modern Gentleman, a sip-slow slurry of Gentleman Jack, Chambord, lemon and orange juices, simple syrup, and egg white. Sip slow, sweet chariot.