Warm weather this weekend coaxed Chicagoans out of packed indoor bars and onto the rooftops—likely just as packed, but a whole lot breezier. We rounded up some of the hottest open-air bars with views that might outshine the best spots in town circa 2013. Some newbies on the scene are yet to open, but with sunny summer days approaching soon, it’s only a matter of time before the outdoor party is in full swing.
100 W. Monroe St., 312-236-1234
This wide-open space lives up to its name. For the first time on May 11, it will greet summer with red hibiscus flowers and overflowing potted plants among ample lounge seating for 90. On particularly sunny days, sip specialty cocktails in the shade of a large umbrella, or fend off chills beside a fire pit as the sun fades.
1 W. Upper Wacker Dr., 312-372-7200
This highly anticipated hot spot will raise the bar–get it?–with new mixology and bar food with a twist. Think seasonal berry ginger mint juleps alongside shareable seafood plates. With room for 200 guests in the combined indoor-outdoor space, this large lounge includes décor inspired by the raising of Chicago’s bridges and urban gardening. Guests will be welcomed for the first time on May 13.
112 W. Hubbard St., 312-955-0339
The first floor of this River North newcomer already proved to be a showstopper. Imagine the excitement when this casual crowd is invited to take over the rooftop in May, especially during “joyful hour” with $5 shots of Don Julio 1942. If you’re not feeling shots, order up a piña colada or a shareable plate of jazzed-up deviled eggs (caviar, dill, red onions, caper berries, and crème fraiche) to enjoy with more than 160 new BFFs.
85 E. Wacker Dr., 312-357-1200
This sweeping outdoor lounge is just one part of an extravagant tri-level bar—dubbed simply LH—scheduled to launch in late May at LondonHouse Chicago. Details on cocktail and dining offerings are scarce, but exec chef and beverage director Riley Huddleston is no stranger to entertaining a rooftop crowd: He’s coming from the science-lab-meets-bar scene at IO Urban Roofscape at the Godfrey Hotel. And if the public veranda isn’t good enough, try reserving the Cupola on the 23rd floor for more intimate, private events starting later in the summer.
259 E. Erie St., 312-337-0101
How could the inspired cocktails at one of Chicago’s best new bars get any better? Try pairing one of Julia Momose’s concoctions with the unexpectedly picturesque view from a breezy terrace at Northwestern Medicine’s Streeterville campus. Patrons are welcome to bask in the early sunshine with a GreenRiver Rhum and Cola now, but they’ll have to wait until late April if they want to nibble while they sip: The terrace will have 50 seats on the rooftop dedicated to diners.
39 S. La Salle St., 312-750-9012
This rooftop tribute to the high energy of Latin America is slated to open this summer on the 15th floor of the Kimpton Gray Hotel. The brains behind the bar have yet to be named, but patrons should expect the cocktail offerings to feature Latin American ingredients like roasted chili, smoky mescal, and grilled pineapple, and the food will take a cue from Peruvian and Argentine street fare. Expect a seductive, soulful vibe with live music and a retractable glass roof that’s sure to keep the 150-plus seats filled year-round.
166 E. Superior St., 312-787-6000
Classic cocktails pack a welcome punch at this laidback bar atop the MileNorth Hotel. The intimate, no-frills space is packed with comfy couches perfect for a mixed crowd of cozy couples and pre-partygoers. Grab an old-fashioned and stay awhile.
101 E. Erie St., 312-667-6700
Chef Richard Sandoval (Latinicity) was tapped for the upcoming Conrad Chicago’s three planned restaurants, and the results are sure to live up to the hype. Japanese meets Latin influence with tableside hibachi and plenty of sake to go around. No word yet on who will be leading the bar, which will churn out a variety of whiskey-based cocktails like the Boulevardier (Yamakazi single malt whiskey, Carpano Antica, and Campari), but there’s still time—this rooftop challenger will open behind the competition in mid-July.
12 S. Michigan Ave., 312-792-3502
Don’t let the inevitable summertime queues stop you from reveling in this bar's Instagram-worthy view of Lake Michigan and the Bean. This could very well be the best view on this list, and thanks to spirit guide Nandini Khaund, your thirst for exotic potions will be quenched with an updated spring cocktail menu. Daytime offerings include the Miss Beauregarde, a beer mimosa with blueberry-ginger Demerara, tarragon, and Atlas Brewing Company’s Farmhouse Wheat Ale.
118 W. Grand Ave., 312-222-9700
Peruvian pisco and its tangy cousin the pisco sour are given the star treatment at this rooftop bar, a breezy accompaniment to Gastón Acurio’s ode to Peru’s culinary history. A retractable awning will keep you sipping through the summer no matter what Mother Nature has planned, and on Wednesdays, you’ll even find a little live music accompanying your libations. Could it get any better? Apparently, it can—for the first time, you can get lunch while enjoying the view.
Bernie’s Lunch & Supper
660 N. Orleans St., 312-624-9892
The competition in Chicago hasn’t been enough to slow this place down. With room for 118 roof-hoppers, it’s hardly hurting for space on the rustic terrace where you can order from the full kitchen menu in addition to cocktails. Enjoy rooftop-exclusive drinks like a nitrogen-blended Frappuccino by Sparrow Coffee Roastery alongside an order of lamb hashwi with housemade pita.