Rooftop bars: The best outdoor drinking patios in Chicago
Nothing beats drinking at a rooftop bar with a great view of Chicago, whether it's one of these hotel bars, elevated lounges or come-as-you-are decks.
So what if the patio's the size of a closet and surrounded by enormous, sun-blocking buildings? The point is: We're drinking on a roof! Despite the fact that Chicagoans would probably party on a roof literally filled with garbage, this city has some surprisingly classy rooftop bars. This is a city that likes to get the most out of summer—by which we mean drinking at new rooftops and outdoor bars. Here are our picks for the best rooftop bars in Chicago.
RECOMMENDED: Full list of the best bars in Chicago
Drumbar The gorgeous 18th-floor bar of the Raffaello Hotel boasts three prime sections: a handsome, dim interior full of tufted leather banquettes; a chic exterior deck lounge with open fire pits; and a narrow indoor-outdoor corridor where the marble floor and arched windows play against contemporary green stools. The addition of Aviary vet Craig Schoettler has brought seriousness to the cocktail program; we recommend the full-bodied Pineapple, in which a sprig of mint is dipped in Chartreuse and set aflame. 201 E Delaware Pl. (312-924-2531, drumbar.com). Mon–Wed 5pm–midnight; Thu, Fri 5pm–2am; Sat 5pm–3am (closed Sun). Average cocktail: $13.
Epic Sky No one at Epic restaurant’s rooftop lounge seems to be worrying much about the drinks (strong, decent cocktails) or the view (a third-story close-up of nearby buildings). The point is you’re a few stories up, at a stark white bar or on a sleek white couch, and even the fact that you’re holding a plastic cup can’t stop you from feeling glamorous. 112 W Hubbard St (312-222-4940). Sun–Wed 4pm–midnight; Thu 4pm–1am; Fri 4pm–2am; Sat 4pm–3am. Rooftop closes nightly at midnight. Average cocktail: $12.
The J. Parker On the one hand, the BOKA Restaurant Group’s year-round rooftop bar is unlike any other in the city: It boasts destination-themed cocktails, seasonal small-plates from chef Paul Virant and sweeping, mesmerizing, breathtaking views of Lincoln Park from the 13th-floor roof of the Hotel Lincoln. On the other hand, it’s still a rooftop bar, which means you might need to sacrifice your first-born just to get a seat. 1816 N Clark St, 13th floor (312-254-4747, jparkerchicago.com). Mon–Fri 5pm–1am; Sat, Sun 4pm–1am. Average cocktail: $12.
NoMI Lounge Though the vibe’s still sophisticated, you’ll find this seventh-floor, stunning lounge at the Park Hyatt feels more casual than before. It’s breezy, sexy and substantial (sushi and small plates abound), but it sure ain’t cheap. However, the views of Michigan Ave, food and opportunities to people-watch are worth every penny. 800 N Michigan Ave (312-239-4030, nomirestaurant.com). Sun–Wed 5pm–midnight; Thu–Sat 5pm–1am. Average cocktail: $14.
ROOF TheWit Hotel’s swank rooftop lounge sports a specialty cocktail menu, a well-curated wine list and Mediterranean small plates, but it’s the breezy terrace-with-a-view that draws crowds, all ready to throw elbows to score tables per the seat-yourself policy. (Fireplaces and a glass enclosure mean it’s almost as packed in winter.) 201 N State St, 27th floor (312-239-9501, roofonthewit.com). Mon–Thu 4pm–2am; Fri, Sat 2pm–2am; Sun 4–10pm. Average cocktail: $12.
Shanghai Terrace If the name didn’t tip you off, there’s a terrace attached to this upscale Chinese restaurant and lounge (and a mighty nice rooftop one at that). Thanks to piped in world music, loads of greenery and just the right amount of breeze, it might even fool you into believing you’ve made a tropical escape from the city. (Well, after a few lychee-sake martinis or ginger juleps it might.) The Peninsula Chicago, 108 E Superior St (312-573-6744, chicago.peninsula.com). Lunch, dinner. Average main course: $32.
The Terrace at Trump How does the opulent Trump Tower do rooftop lounge? With up-close views of the Wrigley building, custom-designed uniforms, over-the-top seafood platters and tempting sweets (like summery push pops) from pastry chef Patrick Fahy. 401 N Wabash Ave (312-588-8600). 2pm–midnight. Average cocktail: $20.
Twisted Spoke When you begin brunch by showing your ID at the door, you know you’re in the right place for a Bloody Mary. Spicy and sweet, garnished with salami and completed with a beer back, it’s practically a meal in itself. Don’t let that distract you from the food, however. Grab a few beers, one of the Spoke’s thick and juicy “fatboy” burgers and a seat on the roof deck, and you've got the ideal set-up for a night (or day) of drinking. 501 N Ogden Ave (312-666-1500, twistedspoke.com). Mon–Fri 11am–2am; Sat 9am–3am; Sun 9am–2am. Average Beer: $5.
Vertigo Sky Lounge You’d think the focus of this bar, which sits on the roof of the Dana Hotel, would be the view. But there’s a lot more to distract you—the roaring fire pit, the classic cocktails and the ice bar in winter for starters—so the view pretty much takes a back seat. Dana Hotel & Spa, 660 N State St (312-202-6060, danahotelandspa.com/vertigo-lounge.aspx). Sun–Wed 5pm–1am; Thu–Fri 5pm-2am; Sat 5pm–3am. Terrace closes at midnight. Average cocktail: $10.