Patrons at the bar at III Forks
Outfitted with a rooftop lounge, the Texas-based steakhouse III Forks opened Wednesday in Lakeshore East, just north of Millennium Park.

It may always hit 90 degrees in Dallas in October, but if this were a different kind of fall week here in Chicago, the Texas import III Forks might not have been able to test-drive its rooftop lounge at all.

But yesterday’s balmy temps brought customers out of the woodwork for opening day, and with projected highs that sound like summer, part 2, the weekend is looking just as good.

A view of Aqua from the III Forks bar
The Aqua building towers in the background.

Chicago might seem an unlikely spot for a steakhouse mini chain with locations in Austin, Dallas, Houston, and Florida to migrate—and the owners picked an odd location: a corner of Lakeshore East, the 28-acre development tucked between Millennium Park and the river, where a circle of residential high-rises rings a carefully landscaped park. The spot is just tricky enough to find—and removed just enough from the main thoroughfares nearby—to feel like a little slice of suburbia, especially when your GPS starts giving you such un-downtown-y instructions as: “Turn left on North Field Boulevard.” Huh?

It was on Field Boulevard that I found what might have been the one remaining free parking spot in Chicago when I went to scope out III Forks’ rooftop lounge last night. The lack of a ludicrously priced pay box reminded me that, sometimes, the suburbs are fantastic.

If you’re not one to dress for the club every time you venture outdoors for a drink (ahem, Roof), III Forks is your spot. The tucked-away thing is nice: no incessant honking, no lungfuls of traffic fumes. The lounge looks out over the treetops, and there’s a great view of Jeanne Gang’s Aqua building. The furniture is expansive and comfortable, and the staff, most of whom just moved here from Texas, checks up on you with remarks like, “How y’all doin?” and “It’s the bomb” (in reference to a cheese platter).

On the drink list (clockwise from front left): a raspberry cosmo, an apple martini, a raspberry lemon drop, and a blood-orange berry mojito, all $12.50
On the drink list (clockwise from front left): a raspberry cosmo, an apple martini, a raspberry lemon drop, and a blood-orange berry mojito, all $12.50

The specialty drinks (most $12.50) veer toward the overly sweet, and in the age of craft cocktails, it’s a shock to behold an unapologetic raspberry lemon drop and an actual Long Island iced tea. But the wine list is more sophisticated, and there’s an appealing menu of what I’ll call lounge comfort food (duck and waffles, $9.95; lox flatbread, $16.95; lamb meatballs, $8.95). Last night’s crowd was a collection of Loop office types and Lakeshore East residents, mostly 35 and up.

It remains to be seen if III Forks’ steaks will lure diners away from those empires of meat, River North and the Gold Coast, but as a place to while away the hours of what could be our last gorgeous weekend, the rooftop lounge is a solid bet. And, as in the suburbs, you might actually snag a seat.