Beer gardens and rooftops are understandably cherished in Chicago. Here are a few that have caught our eye already this summer
If you’ve lived in Chicago for at least one summer, chances are you’ve already formulated a list of your favorite beer gardens and rooftop establishments. When summer is as brief as it is here, it’s foolish not to take advantage at every opportunity. With that in mind — and coming to the realization we don’t have the space for all of our favorites (Sheffield’s, Justin’s, Rock Bottom Brewery, Bridgehouse Tavern, etc.) — we decided to ask some of our writers for a spot or two they target as soon as the weather turns.
3471 N. Elston
I have two requirements before I’ll recommend a beer garden to someone I like. First, it has to make you relaxed, like a friendly neighbor’s or relative’s backyard. Second, it has to be the kind of place in which you can lose yourself for a day. You go for a beer in the sun, you end up staying for five hours, weekend errands be damned. Irish favorite Chief O’Neill’s fits the mold better than most with its beautiful, massive, grassy oasis. It effortlessly resonates class and comfort equally, which isn’t as easy as it sounds.
— Trent Modglin
112 W. Hubbard
My girlfriend and I strapped on our least sensible shoes and our on-the-town dresses to mingle with some folks at a season-opening party on EPIC’s rooftop. Their location on Hubbard near LaSalle made for some incredible views of the bustling River North area, especially as the sun set and the evening lights appeared. The stellar DJ and strong drinks served at the full bar had us dancing the night away in spite of the rain.
— Corey O’Day
1970 W. Montrose
Fountainhead’s rooftop bar offers a much sought-after escape from the repetitive barroom interiors and plastic lawn chair beer gardens that dot Chicago. The wood finishing on the bar and furniture gives a feeling of rustic class as you overlook the Ravenswood neighborhood and sip on a delicious craft beer or obscure Japanese whiskey. The bar area is protected by an overhanging rooftop for days when the sun is too bright, and the tables around the perimeter have space heaters and even a roaring fireplace for chillier evenings. Rooftop menu is limited.
— Richard Ray
1202 W. Grand
Weekend brunches are the busiest time for this neighborhood bar with a twist. The bar has large flat-screen TVs throughout the main dining room and beer garden. The adorable beer garden is like stepping into a secret garden. Ivy-covered wood fencing shelters the space from the rest of the world. The menu balances traditional American cuisine with some Italian favorites. Try the grilled calamari with sautéed spinach, roasted red peppers, kalamata olives and feta cheese with their house-made vinaigrette.
— Nicole Weddington
1059 N. Wolcott
Few things pump every Chicagoan full of endorphins like the first real day of summer. On even the coolest days, offices are vacated by 4:30, and beer gardens are at capacity with static lines. From dozens of options to choose from, Happy Village in Ukranian Village has one of the city’s premier beer gardens. It’s like your favorite neighbor’s backyard, packed with friendly people and flowing PBR. Best of all, it’s cheap, BYOF and never fails to provide a relaxing experience, usually accompanied by a visit from the “tamale guy.”
— Leah Karabenick
820 W. Randolph
The Randolph corridor keeps us on our toes with new additions every few months. One of the latest sensations has quickly proven to be on par with its mother goat and is taking strides to set itself apart from any other restaurant on the block. Little Goat premiered its rooftop bar this summer. The space is relatively intimate, and the couches that line the rooftop’s edge provide a comfy feel. Try to get a southeast view as you claim your seat and sip on a cocktail. Little Goat’s rooftop is nice enough for a Sunday day drink with your parents, yet still a viable, sought-after option for a weekend evening.
— Margot Thomas
1113 W. Randolph
Arguably the best view of the city from any rooftop bar is brought to you by Market, a well-established Randolph Street sports bar. It’s spacious and full of friendly service, and they bring up the big screen for the game. The wood-paneled rooftop and layout are beautiful, but may go unnoticed because of the unobstructed view of Chicago’s skyline. Once you discover this spot, it’s hard not to brag to your friends and bring them for the next happy hour.
— Margot Thomas
2959 N. California
The Orbit Room, located in the heart of Avondale, is one of Chicago’s best-kept summer secrets. It has a retro, relaxed feel and is perfect for larger groups. The patio is huge, the staff is friendly and the music is great. They open at noon on weekends, and I suggest getting there around then to reserve your seat for the afternoon.
— Darcy Horath