There are a ton of great restaurants in the West Loop, but until recently, there weren’t a lot of great outdoor dining spaces. However, thanks to this year’s new outdoor dining rules, tons of places have been able to set up tables on sidewalks and streets, many for the first time ever. And we’ll be keeping track of all of them in this guide.
The outdoor spots
Yes, even during the pandemic Aba can be kind of a scene. Thankfully now it’s a socially distanced one with great food and a huge rooftop patio full of firepits and comfortable couches. And as with its sister restaurant Ema, a lot of things (like the hummuses and spreads) on the Mediterranean menu are meant to be shared.
Eleven Eleven is an upscale wine bar with great food that (despite being in the West Loop) manages to be relatively relaxed. You’ll find options like shrimp and grits, bucatini, and a dish of cauliflower “burnt ends” that tastes like something your stoner roommate who’s also a very good chef would make after a night out.
When all else fails, Avec. You can never go wrong here, especially when you order staples like the bacon-wrapped dates, branzino, or the taleggio flatbread.
The outdoor dining situation at Bar Siena has a fun atmosphere and their Italian food is always reliably good. Pastas and wood-fired pizzas make up most of the menu, and many of them are really great. For example, the prosciutto and fig pizza has a nice balance of sweet and savory, and the gnocchi is pillowy and delicious.
The sidewalk patio at The Publican has plenty of space between tables, seatings are limited to no more than one hour and 45 minutes, and you must pre-pay and pre-order. Plus, there’s a $60 minimum. As far as the food goes, this place is known for its pork and beer, but also has great seafood and a whole section of the menu devoted to vegetables.
There’s a 99.9% chance you’re well-acquainted with Girl & the Goat - it’s one of Chicago’s best-known restaurants. And you probably already know they’ve always had outdoor seating. This year is no exception.
This is the Chinese restaurant counterpart to Girl & the Goat. Here, you’ll find Chinese food with some twists - for example, goat slap noodles and a shrimp wonton soup with a blueberry base. The outdoor seating situation is a sidewalk patio, or you can grab a drink and soft serve from Bao Bing (their walk-up window), and enjoy those in their first-come-first-served courtyard.
The third spot in the Goat trifecta. This all-day restaurant is currently serving a “snack bar” menu out of a new walk-up window. With dishes like PB&J pancakes and homemade masa with tahini-tofu dip, it’s more complex than what you’d expect to find at your average snack bar, but we’re not complaining.
Along with their sidewalk patio, La Josie also has a cute little rooftop deck. The best things at this Mexican restaurant are their tacos (all on house-made tortillas), and they have an extensive cocktail menu.
Au Cheval. Ever heard of it? Well, now they have an outdoor patio where you can eat the burger.
City Mouse is the all-day American restaurant attached to the Ace Hotel, and happens to have a utility-player outdoor space. It's large, dog-friendly, and even has fireplaces going in the evening.
After being closed since the start of the shutdown, Maude’s Liquor Bar has now reopened for outdoor dining. And in case you didn’t know, this French restaurant is owned by the Au Cheval team.
Beatrix’s well-rounded menu works well for a variety of situations - for instance, eating with someone you don’t know very well. But since it has lots of salads, grains, and things like bulgur wheat poke bowls, it’s a particularly good choice when you’re looking for something kind of healthy.
Like Au Cheval, we mainly come here for the outstanding cheeseburger. Now it has a new French-inspired menu, and a brand new outdoor patio. Thankfully the cheeseburger is still available.
After a lot of delays (this project started in 2015), Nobu has finally opened in the West Loop. This rooftop bar is 11 stories up on top of the hotel, and along with a long list of sake and cocktails, this place also serves Japanese small plates and sushi.
Monteverde has some of the best Italian food in the city, and thankfully, this year they have an outdoor patio. Every pasta dish here is fantastic, in particular the cacio e pepe, which is a menu staple. But the non-pasta is great, too - try the stuffed cabbage or the pork shank.
Cabra is a busy rooftop restaurant in the Hoxton Hotel. This place serves very good Peruvian-inspired food, and you’ll find things like ceviche, salmon huancaina dip, and a variety of empanadas. It also has a great view and a large outdoor deck located right next to the hotel pool.
This is another Italian restaurant with a sidewalk patio as well as in-street dining. They have dishes like cacio e pepe, chicken parmesan, and brown butter raviolo.
Check Forno Rosso out when you want a perfectly charred and chewy thin-crust pizza. This spot has excellent Neapolitan-style pizzas and a very relaxed sidewalk patio.
Bandit is a smallish spot that has a sidewalk patio that extends into the street. Come here for drinks and small plates like a warm pretzel with Merkt’s cheese spread, fried halloumi, and the charred carrots.
Parlor has a fantastic patio (two, in fact - one is on the roof), and the space is perfect for groups. The Neapolitan-style pies here aren’t the best in Chicago, but they’re perfectly tasty, and the large menu of satisfying bar food will please any non-pizza-eaters in your group.
This Korean restaurant has a truly fantastic back patio that’s ideal for a date night in the neighborhood. Order dishes like spicy fire chicken, dumplings, or the kimchi pancake - which is one of the best in Chicago.
The Press Room is a wine bar in a quiet area of the West Loop. They have a great selection of wines, really good cocktails, and a short small plates menu. Come here to unwind, or for a low-key date night out on their new sidewalk patio.
This is the only spot in the city that specializes in okonomiyaki - savory Japanese pancakes topped with things like shrimp, chicken, and beef. They have a covered front patio and a walk-up window where you can get kakigori to-go.
Our favorite thing to eat at this Mexican restaurant/brewery are the taco platters - either the carnitas or the carne asada. Both of which taste even better sitting out on the street.
Right next door to Cruz Blanca is its sister restaurant, Leña Brava. Here you’ll find Baja-inspired dishes like charred avocado, chicken al carbon, and wood-roasted chipotle ribs.
This cafeteria-style Texas BBQ spot has an outdoor patio filled with large picnic tables. Make sure you get the ribs and some cornbread.
Recess is a huge patio spot that’s practically an empire. It’s 14,500 square feet (which includes tables inside repurposed shipping containers so you can pretend your contraband being smuggled). The drinks and food are tasty (with bites like sliders and pigs in a blanket), and it’s a great place for just hanging out.
Joe’s is a never-too-crowded wine bar on Fulton, with tasty small plates and a little sidewalk patio. Order dishes like ricotta with honey, meatballs, the pasta of the day, and about three glasses of wine too many.
This place has giant picnic tables that can basically fit you and all your closest friends six feet apart. Besides that, the most notable thing is that its sausage-and-beer-focused menu includes something called The Bomb: five pounds of beef and pork sausage stuffed with bacon and wrapped in a brown sugar bacon weave.
This popular Mexican spot has a front patio that’s open for outdoor dining. And if that’s full, they also have a takeout window where you can get food and cocktails to-go.
Rooh is an upscale Indian restaurant right on Randolph, and they turned the adjacent parking lot into a nice outdoor dining space. The menu is full of pretty-looking dishes like duck and apricot-stuffed flatbread, tuna bhel, and butter chicken, and everything is always really tasty.
Hopefully, every neighborhood has a casual sushi spot with great food, and the West Loop’s is Sushi Dokku. This place has all the usual suspects (like sashimi and nigiri) and fun rolls made with ingredients like grapefruit and black lava sea salt.
To qualify as a real Chicago neighborhood, you have to have a steakhouse. And Swift & Sons arrived a few years ago, finally legitimizing The West Loop. It’s attached to the Google building and the steakhouse’s patio extends into the building’s courtyard and around the sidewalk.
Kind of like Inception, Cold Storage is normally the seafood restaurant inside Swift & Sons. But now it’s sharing the outdoor space at Swift & Sons, which is sharing the space with the Google building. After you’ve secured that Escher-esque vision inside your head, you should know that Cold Storage also has a great oyster selection, tasty small plates like clams with chorizo, and a fantastic cheeseburger.
To the surprise of many, this divey spot on Aberdeen also serves some solid bar food on its quaint little tree-lined patio.