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.
Antique Taco | 1360 Milwaukee
Seasonal menu of gourmet tacos & Mexican appetizers doled out in a shabby-chic, counter-serve space.
Note: if you’re gonna call us out on the technicality that our Antique Taco foodie finds are all liquid-based, then you are far too up-tight and need to revisit the boozy bubble tea before proceeding. With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s get to the goods. First, the kid-friendly: horchata milkshakes and cilantro & mint chocolate chip upside-down ice cream cones. Though true parents will recognize that far too often, ice cream cones end up upside-down regardless.
In honor of true parents needing a drink, might we suggest proceeding to the grown-up beverage of choice: the house-made, seasonal agua fresca spiked with Tito’s vodka, and rosemary-infused margs. Sip now. Thank us later. Sip later later.
Ada Street | 1664 N Ada St
New American-Mediterranean meals & craft cocktails served in a chic candlelit space with patio.
Welp, we’re breaking the rules out of the gate with two items off the Ada St list. One cute, dainty, and light. The other: so very much the opposite of light. But its over! We ate it. And enjoyed it. Decision made. Shhh. These dishes offer a good encapsulation of the female Pinterest board: one cutesy & fit for the garden picnic, the other the sinful indulgence bookmarked in an act of mental adultery to your clean eating regime. First up: the hand-bottled & carbonated cocktails. They’re like Izzes, but so very obviously superior due to the — ahem — active ingredients. Our favorite? The Killing Floor: Jalapeno-Infused Lunazul Tequila, Watermelon, Lime. Yes. Please. And, in the honorable pursuit of making sure Ada St’s batch is safe to consume, we advise a second round: this time, opting for the Flor de Cana: in which 4yr rum, Lemonhart 151 rum, Ginger Syrup, and Lime get along quite nicely.
Now, for the dessert round: the bane of an top chef contestant’s existence… though the beauty of Ada St’s small bites menu. Doughnut. Coffee. Ice cream. From a chef trained under — speak of the devil – Top Chef’s Tom Collichio. It’s serious. Very serious. Like, maybe, on second thought, don’t order it and the kitchen will hold onto it until we have a chance to double-check it and ensure it’s worth our recommendation. Now that’s a realtor that goes above and beyond. In the name of service. And java chip. And service.
Trenchermen | 2039 W North Ave
Hip spot for modern American dining & craft cocktails in a former bathhouse with a vintage vibe.
Full disclosure: stepping into Trenchermen makes me feel significantly cooler than I consider myself to be. The Sheerin Brothers retained some of the original white tile from its bathhouse predecessor, adding in some gentlemanly chocolate-colored leather booths and a two-tiered black walnut bar. Our foodie pick for Trencherman was a hotly-contested two-man race, so it seems only fair to first acknowledge the runner-up: the Wednesday burger special. A wildly creative burger that varies week-to-week, a dark brew, and a small batch of herb-infused popcorn for 10 bucks. Believe us, we’re the first to call BS on the “artisan” label when attached to something like popcorn, but this is seriously gourmet.
Now, without further ado: the actual foodie find nominee. Trenchermen’s pickle tots have informally held the “best bar snack” title in the city for a few years. Now, the folks at Thrillist have made that distinction formal, declaring the mashup of fried pickles, tater tots, and chicken the creme de la bar-snack creme. The tots hold their briny pickle flavor, but is understated enough so you still get the full flavor the accompanying bresaola chicken and a tangy red onion & beet-yogurt dip.
Carriage House | 1700 W Division St
Genteel seasonal Southern cuisine, bourbon & craft cocktails served in an airy, rustic-chic setting.
After setting a bad example with drink-only reccs at Antique Taco, we’re opting for something a bit more wholesome: specifically, the southern charm of Carriage House, bringing the internationally-tinged flavors of regional South Carolina to Wicker Park. For a true down-south brunch, we advise the biscuits with rabbit chaurice sausage, pimento & gravy, or — if you’re feeling bad for Bugs — Johnnycakes with peach preserves, cane syrup & pecans. A former believer of the “a pancake is a pancake” school of thought, I now see the light. Carriage House’s Johnnycakes swap the flour for corn meal, the result being a sweeter, mealier take on the breakfast staple. Perfect for soaking up the last of those spiked agua frescas, I might add. How calculated.
Takito Kitchen | 2013 W Division St
Hip industrial-chic cantina serves up creative tacos, Mexican sharing plates & craft cocktails.
Originally a car wash, the Takito Kitchen space is now a sexy, contemporary take on the modern taqueria: exposed pipes, reclaimed cedar, and vintage brick walls leading up to a graffiti mural bearing the restaurant’s name. Having handsomely made-over one American staple (the car wash), the former Carnivale vet behind Takito evidently felt obliged to take on another: the fruit cup — that mundane, syrupy, room-temperature staple of your grade school bag lunch. The adult fruit cup — noticeably missing the peel-back plastic liner– packs a potent combination of tequila-soaked fruit, piloncillo, sesame, and a sprinkling of chile pequin. While the tequila-fruit pairing might not be intuitive, it’s only fit a resto offering 40+ tequilas found a way to work it in — deliciously so, we might add. Another unexpected pairing on which Takito converted us? The Tomatillo Pistachio Salsa, which will only set you back 3 bucks.
Mott St | 1401 N Ashland Ave
Small plates from around the world & craft cocktails amid funky furnishings & communal tables.
If you’ve noticed a theme thus far in the foodie finds — clever takes on fruit and worthwhile summery cocktails — it is a theme that is about to unapologetically continue. Tis the season! Mott St, an unassuming Asian restaurant started by the folks behind acclaimed BYO spot Ruxbin Kitchen, offers two fresh fruit desserts we had to bring your attention to. Put the exclamation point on your meal with a chocolate-coated banana with Szechuan peppercorn peanuts, or their watermelon wedge dredged in lime juice and chili salt. It’s one of those: “dont think, just try” then “oh dear god, try again” menu items. The lighter takes on dessert also prove quite convenient for the foodie still proceeding with a guilty conscience from the Ada St donut debacle.
Now, as promised: the refreshment that’s worth your while. Everyone loves bubble tea, no? Well, we should clarify: everyone loves bubble tea after moving past that awkward dating period where you’re not quite sold on the gooey lumps of Tapioca popping up on the straw by surprise. Been there. Back to the point: boozy bubble tea. That got your attention. As will the flavors, because the tapioca tinkerers at Mott have whipped up the Solstice Storm: a cloudy tonic made with tequila, cucumber green tea, bird’s eye chili, lime ginger beer, and boba. Sip slowly, my friends. (No seriously: sip slowly — the bird’s eye chili is no joke.)