After a winter of drinking indoors, it's time to come out of hibernation and drink on a roof. These alfresco bars are some of the top spots in Chicago for the summer of 2013—an update to our 2012 list, and a nice chaser to February's Best Bars package. Just keep a sweater on hand in case a chill comes to join the party.
160 E. Pearson St., 312-573-5160
It’s a deck bar outside a restaurant inside a hotel popular with an older crowd. That said, The Dec (above) makes masterful use of the 12th-floor space outside Deca restaurant, with a full bar and an ice cream sundae cart. If you’re feeling reflective, peer into “The Lens,” an eye-shaped statue made of the same material as Millennium Park’s “Cloud Gate.”
1970 W. Montrose Ave., 773-697-8204
Nestled in the intersection of three neighborhoods (Ravenswood, Lincoln Square, and North Center) this beercentric gastropub is as multifaceted as its clientele. The rooftop garden, with nearly 90 seats and a retractable awning, is its crowning jewel. Expect to see all types on the deck now that it’s reopened for the season.
The J. Parker
1816 N. Clark St., 312-254-4747
The sweeping 13th-floor vista at Hotel Lincoln’s rooftop lounge drew the hippest Chicagoans when it debuted last summer, and a 55-seat indoor space satisfied view-cravers during the winter. Now that the weather has warmed back up, you can once again enjoy summery craft cocktails out on the deck.
ROOF on theWit
201 N. State St., 312-239-9501
This chic 27th-floor lounge is bound to be crowded, but that only boosts the patio’s summer party atmosphere. A retractable roof keeps the revelry going when Mother Nature threatens the fun.
108 E. Superior St., 312-573-6744
A 1930s Shanghai supper club is spectacularly recreated on the fourth-floor deck at The Peninsula Chicago. Stacked against elegant Cantonese-style food and decadent cocktails like the Golden Apple (Absolut Oriental Apple, Absolut pepper, osmanthus fragrans infused Chinese wine, and gold flakes), the skyline view is almost an afterthought.
501 N. Ogden Ave., 312-666-1500
For a reputed whiskey haven, Twisted Spoke has a wide beer selection at its summertime rooftop deck, and the biker bar vibe is friendlier than you may think. On tepid days, sit inside near the open windows to watch the game while still enjoying some sunshine.
401 N. Wabash Ave., 312-588-8600
Before heading to this oft-packed drinking destination, check to be sure it isn’t closed for one of its frequent private events. Everyone wants to check The Terrace out—but with a vantage point 16 stories above River North, can you really blame them?
159 E. Monroe St., 312-443-8650
Even if you don’t quite “get” the installations at the Art Institute’s Modern Wing, you’ll appreciate the unparalleled Loop view from the canteen on its roof. Artistic seasonal cocktails are a fitting final stroke on the panoramic tableau.
2 W. Erie St., 312-202-6060
You might expect the second-highest bar on this list to be a little overwhelming, but the intimate, fire-lit terrace is pleasantly relaxing. A younger crowd comes for the 26th-floor view, but stays for the laid-back vibe.
201 E. Delaware Pl., 312-943-5000
When Craig Schoettler (Aviary, Alinea) came to Drumbar in March, he brought along his signature sciencey approach to cocktail creation. Classic drinks like an Old Fashioned and a Rob Roy are on the menu, but the adventurous might try An Elusive Spring (Drumbar single barrel Elijah Craig 12-year aged bourbon, blueberry, and lemon). The 1,500-square-foot terrace isn’t bad, either.
1 W. Grand Ave., 312-755-9339
When you hit Rock Bottom, the only place to go is up—to the rooftop deck, where an ever-changing list of inventive microbrews will distract you from the bustling downtown traffic below.
59 W. Hubbard St., 312-595-0800
Each of the perks of Studio Paris comes with its own caveat: The glass-roofed deck has a nice ambience, but the crowd can get rowdy later in the night; the drinks are good, but an emphasis on bottle service will inevitably inflate your bill. So go early and order á la carte to fully properly bask in the rooftop luxury.
Still thirsty? Check out Chicagoist for more rooftop hotspots.