The guide for when you’d really just rather be on vacation.
After the fun of the holidays is over, there’s January through March – the long, bleak hallway toward spring that seemingly goes on forever. And just when you think the end is in sight, it’s 15 degrees again and/or you wake up to another eight inches of snow. It’s like living in Groundhog Day, with more catching colds on the CTA and less Andie MacDowell.
Even people who’ve lived in this city for a long time and know better than to get their hopes up can use a respite. So here are 16 bars and restaurants with heated patios, covered rooftops, and lots and lots of plants – places where you might plausibly convince yourself, for a second or two at least, that you’re hundreds of miles away. Or at least just in a city where winter doesn’t physically hurt.
Get the rest of The Chicago Winter Survival Guide here.
Stella Barra Pizzeria
We really like the thin-crust pizzas at this Lincoln Park spot. We also like the all-season back patio, which has tall ceilings (creating the illusion of fresh air) and a real tree growing in the middle of it. It makes us think about the circle of life – as opposed to the circle of death that is Chicago in the wintertime.
Three Dots and a Dash
Tiki bars are an excellent line of defense against winter. And even though it’s somewhat hidden in an alley, Three Dots And A Dash in River North is Chicago’s most popular and well-known one. There are plenty of large booths, not to mention over-the-top drinks that are great for sharing (including one in a smoking treasure chest that’s meant for six people). Since the whole bar is in a basement, there are also no windows to shatter the illusion that you’re on a tropical island, and not surrounded by piles of old grey snow that refuses to melt away.
There’s pretending it’s not winter, and then there’s outright denial. Aba, a Mediterranean spot in the West Loop, encourages this second strategy. It has a rooftop patio with covered and heated clear domes you can reserve if you want to sit outside – but if sitting in a life-sized snow globe makes you uncomfortable, the inside of the restaurant has so much foliage that you can pretend you’re in Fern Gully. If only the people who drive five miles an hour on Lake Shore because they see one flurry could be as deep in denial as you are.
Summer House Santa Monica
We’re on the fence about how much this place actually allows us to pretend it’s not winter. Mainly because it has a literal countdown of days left until summer posted on the wall, which forces us to relive the disappointment of all the false springs. But it can’t be denied that the California theme, large skylight, and avocado-heavy menu do help a little bit. Plus, there’s also a case full of really tasty baked goods. And not even a terrible Chicago winter can ruin the joy of eating a brown butter Rice Krispy treat.