Windy City Al Fresco Dining

The sun is peaking out, the city looks alot more green and the temperatures are rising.  That means it’s time for Dining Al Fresco!  Having a few drinks and a good meal outdoors is what makes for great times and memories, and it’s hard to find a better city than Chicago for outdoor dining.  So many great restaurants, bars and lounges to choose from with scenic patio views, haute cuisine, excellent wine lists and craft cocktails.  Here's a few of the best I've picked out for you:

  • The Purple Pig.  Just set to open a large patio overlooking Illinois Street and Michigan Avenue, this self proclaimed “Cheese, Swine & Wine” spot is a hit.  Many small plates including sardines, cured meats, smears and pork are spattered on the menu and great for sharing.  Wash it all down with one of their craft beer selections or pick something from their wine list.  You just can’t go wrong! 

  • Piccolo Sogno.  Not only do they have one of the best patios in the city, but the food and all Italian wine list are also amazing.  Start with some Prosecco and antipasti and enjoy the weather.

  • Chicago Riverwalk.  One of the best vantage points of towering buildings, architechture and the Chicago River is on our Riverwalk.  It opens on May 31st and features great seating and even better dining: Cyrano’s Cafe & Wine Bar, Friendship on the River, Lagniappe Cajun Creole Joynt and O’Brien’s Riverwalk Cafe.

  • Riva.  Head to Navy Pier and enjoy the best views of Lake Michigan, the Ferris Wheel and some great steak and seafood. You might even catch some fireworks at this Phil Stefani Signature Restaurant.

  • Shanghai Terrace.  Enjoy authentic Cantonese Dim Sum and cocktails at the Peninsula Hotel.  This East Asian inspired terrace is a great place to enjoy Chicago's Magnificent Mile.

  • Zapatista.  Fine Mexican cuisine, cerveza, margaritas and an awesome view of the South Loop on Wabash is more than enough satisfy you on any day this summer.  Hard to beat the fish tacos and an ice cold Modelo.

  • Athena.  Authentic Greek cuisine shared outdoors in a garden with a fountain on Halsted.  Nuff said?  Opa!

  • Palmer Place.  One of my favorite suburban spots (La Grange) with one of the best patios in Chicagoland.  A true Bier Garten with over 175 beers from around the world and some good old American food to boot.

Dining in Chicago can be so adventurous and relaxing at the same time. Be sure to let me know what your favorite spots are- myself and my readers would love to hear it!

We aren’t shying away from drink choices as I have a few recommendations for spring and summer as well.  The temperature is a bit cooler in the spring (between 45-75 degree F), so beer with weight like IPAs or Bocks are good, and both red and white wines can be enjoyed.  Try these out: Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA, Sprecher Mai Bock, Casa Lapostolle Sauvignon Blanc, Lange Estate Pinot Noir and Yangarra Old Vine Grenache.  For summer, I love Pilseners and Wheat beers, and mostly white wines like Pinot Gris/Grigio and dry Riesling.  Try these:  Allagash White, Trumer Pils, Big Fire Pinot Gris, Ca' Montini L'Aristocratico Pinot Grigio and Ch. Ste. Michelle Eroica Riesling.  Hope you enjoy these tips and have a great summer on the patio!

The Purple Pig Opening on Michigan Avenue: Cheese, Swine & Wine

For all of those interested in good casual food and wine, The Purple Pig will be opening tonight at 500 N. Michigan Ave, just across the street from my old gig, Eno Wine Room.  It looks to be in the perfect location to attract a large afterwork crowd, including those from the Chicago Tribune, NBC 5, National Association of Realtors, as well as conventioners, retailers and shoppers.  It has been in the works for quite some time now, and the collaboration between chef Scott Harris of Mia Francesca and both Jimmy Bannos Junior & Senior of Heaven on Seven has been long awaited.

The menu mainly consists of Mediterranean-style hot and cold antipasti, salads, smears, panini, charcuterie, and cheeses.  Pork is everwhere, in many different forms: pork neck bone, pâté, chorizo, pig's feet, tails and ears, pork shoulder and blade steak.  Olives, seafood, mushrooms, eggs, and vegetables are also highly prevalent in a large variety of differing dishes: Artichokes with salami, clams with rosemary, fried sardines, croquettes, meatballs, prawns, along with 20 different cheeses and 9 cured meats.

I look forward to reviewing their wine and beverage list in the future, which hopefully includes a large selection of Mediterranean and worldly wine, microbrews, and non-alcoholics. 

During opening week, they will be opening at 5 pm, and after January 4, will be open daily at 11:30 am.  They also offer late hours: open until 1 am Monday through Thursday, 2 am Friday and Saturday, and midnight on Sunday.  Check out the eat and drink starting now and into the New Year!