In a city known for its skyscrapers, there’s little surprise that the next new trend in dining al fresco has turned skyward. There has always been outdoor dining, but this new adventure in drinking and dining is a recent phenomenon, and it’s taking the Windy City by storm. (Well, let’s not mention the possibility of wind or storms. This type of dining, of course, works best when the weather cooperates.) For those who worry that such stratospheric heights might not make for such good options in holding on to your napkin, fear not. Many of these rooftop venues are merely a few stories up off the ground.
Here are a few of the new venues to try.
Art Institute of Chicago
159 E. Monroe
Supporting the Art Institute is always a good idea, and their restaurants (whether the formal dining room or the courtyard café) have always been solid choices for lunch while viewing a little art or even just if you happen to be in the neighborhood. This new rooftop dining venue offers stunning views of Millennium Park and Michigan Avenue from the new addition to the museum (designed by Renzo Piano). Open for lunch (and Thursday dinner), the emphasis is on ingredients “from local family farms, farmers’ markets, and artisan producers who practice traditional, sustainable agriculture and husbandry.”
The menu features food that is “Italian with a modern perspective,” and includes salads, sandwiches, and pastas. Served outdoors in a covered “piazza” with a clean modern look, the food and the views are what’s emphasized here. One signature touch of Terzo Piano is the cheese cave, which features artisan cheeses.
The Terrace at Trump
Trump International Hotel and Tower
401 N. Wabash
Adjoining the Sixteen Restaurant (located, where else, on the 16th floor) at the Trump International Hotel and Tower is the rooftop restaurant and lounge, The Terrace at Trump. With its prime real estate, expect nothing less than spectacular views of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan. Those who love the weekly summer fireworks at Navy Pier have a perfect viewing platform from the restaurant on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
When it comes to food and drinks, The Terrace does not disappoint either. From its sophisticated wine list to signature cocktails (like the yummy Starboard) to a limited menu featuring bar food like truffled hamburger and fries, gnocchi, and skewers, Chicagoans have nothing but praise for The Terrace and its service. It’s a great place to meet up with friends after a hard day of work in the Loop. The Terrace opens at 2:30 pm daily for the post-lunch crowd.
291 N. State Street
This 27th floor indoor/outdoor space in the Wit Hotel features great views in a perfect location. Roof features music, fire pits, and telescopes for additional fun. Roof is about great drinks and small dishes, based on the inspired menu at Cibo Matto, the hotel’s signature restaurant. Even though there is plenty of seating here, the place is so popular that seats can fill up fast. The word has gotten around, and this place is very busy.
The menu at Roof is bar offerings with an Italian twist. The theme here is “crostini, crudo, and carpaccio,” with dishes like goat cheese crostini, which is awesome, and less exciting offerings like mozzarella sticks. Specialty drinks too, can be hit or miss, but Pimm’s Cup Cooler is to be recommended. There are mixologists on site, so look for things to improve on that front. With Roof’s popularity, things are likely to get better as time goes on.
These rooftop experiences are just a sample of the burgeoning scene developing for outdoor drinking and dining. Other Chicago rooftop locations include the newly opened Epic on Hubbard Street, C-View at the Hotel Affinia, and Zed 451 on Clark Street. As everyone knows, going out on the roof can be fun, and when the views are of the Chicago skyline, it can be downright awesome.
Chicago Tribune, “Eat Outside” June 6, 2010
Terzo Piano, www.terzopianochicago.com
The Terrace, www.trumpchicagohotel.com