The COVID pandemic has many of us dining and drinking alfresco more than usual. Thankfully, Chicago is already well known for its many rooftop bars that offer guests world-class dining (and drinking) options and hypnotic, panoramic views of the city and lakefront. From opulent penthouses like the LH Rooftop on the Gold Coast to laid-back hot spots like the Lonesome Rose in Logan Square, grab a seat at one of these Chicago rooftop bars.
Tanta provides the perfect high-rise alternative to the typical River North “outdoor” seating arrangement (i.e., a table on the sidewalk). At arguably one of Chicago’s more beloved Peruvian restaurants (here’s the Chicago Tribune making the case that the spot should have gotten a Michelin Bib Gourmand award), celebrity Peruvian chef Gastón Acurio creates truly special dishes.
On the Tanta menu, Acurio makes it a point to spotlight the Chinese, Japanese, African, and Italian influences on Peruvian cuisine and creates entrées like pescado charapa or quinoa a lo pobre, that look like works of art adorned with garnishes of edible flowers. There is, of course, a good variety of fun drinks to choose from, like its El Cholito (pisco, bitter bianco, vermouth, cucumber, jalapeño, ginger, and tajin) or a pisco sour, Peru’s national cocktail. Tanta also has a rooftop happy hour 4–6 p.m.
2. Cabra Cevicheria
Cabra Cevicheria has a lot going for it: location, for starters, in Chi-Town’s hip Fulton Market district on the rooftop of the stylish Hoxton Chicago. It also has serious street cred with chef Stephanie Izard serving traditional and contemporary Peruvian dishes. Cabra (“goat” in Spanish) was founded in 2019 and inspired by Izard’s travels through Lima, Arequipa, and Cusco—the restaurant is even decorated with items she picked up along her journey. Highlights of the menu include generously stuffed goat empanadas and crispy chicharron del puerco.
Be sure to pair your meal with one of its signature cocktails like Lima Dreamin’ (Lunazul tequila, huckleberry, cardamom, lime, and a splash of ginger ale) or Spilling the Tea (Evan Williams bourbon, lemon verbena, palo cortado, lemon, and egg white). Bonus: Cabra even has a rooftop pool.
3. The Rooftop at Nobu Hotel
Award-winning chef Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa and his phalanx of business partners (which includes Hollywood legend Robert De Niro) are continuing to expand their gastronomic empire around the world, and now their ambitions have taken them to new (ahem) heights. The Rooftop at Nobu Hotel opened with much fanfare last October after years of teasing and a series of unexpected delays, thanks to the pandemic. The actual restaurant is on the ground floor of the hotel, but there’s a rooftop bar on the 11th floor that also serves as an outdoor dining space when the weather permits.
Nobu’s signature delicate and elegant style shines through on its menu, with options like toro tartare with caviar and lobster ceviche on limestone lettuce. (There are more substantial selections like lamb chop anticuchos, a type of Peruvian grilled kebab, available.) Consider finishing off the evening with something like the Nobu Sidecar: Iwai Tradition Blended Japanese whisky, yuzu extract, and Torres Magdala orange liqueur served over hand-carved ice.
4. Lonesome Rose
The Lonesome Rose is in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood, known for its long-standing Latinx community that has recently seen an influx of artists and musicians. Though this restaurant’s rooftop bar is not on a towering skyscraper, it still provides pleasant views of the surrounding neighborhood and a comfortable place to dine outdoors in Chicago. Awarded with a Michelin Bib Gourmand in 2021, the Lonesome Rose has a casual Tex-Mex atmosphere with great Mexican street food–inspired fare.
After finishing up one of its Baja burritos or al pastor tacos, end your outing with something sweet like the horchata soft serve or Growth Spurt cocktail (Sotol por Siempre, cucumber, lime, agave, cane syrup, and salt).
5. Upstairs at the Gwen
Enjoy live music, ample seating, and 360-degree skyscraper views at Upstairs at the Gwen, a River North rooftop where chef Matt Jergens spins out a range of contemporary dishes (from Parisian gnocchi to hand-cut pappardelle). Bring a group in the winter months for a go at its iceless curling rink, a custom-designed perk that pairs perfectly with the bar team’s seasonal drinks. Warm up between rounds at the curling cabin, with an electric fireplace and faux furs, along with alpine-inspired bites.
6. Z Bar
Escape the shopping stress of Michigan Avenue with a stop at Z Bar on the sixth floor of the Peninsula Hotel. Saddle up at the bar for a front row show of expertly crafted cocktails from the bar team, who hold nothing back in the way of beverage pomp and circumstance. (The Manhattan Royale, made with your choice of 15-year-old WhistlePig rye whiskey, Elijah Craig 18-year-old bourbon, or 21-year-old Balvenie scotch, black truffle bitters, and 24-karat gold flakes, is priced at a cool $100.) Chase that indulgence with even more decadence from chef Toni Robertson, who puts forth wide-ranging East Asian–inspired dishes like goggi wings, daikon frites, and a jidori chicken sandwich.
Expect epic views and seriously cool vibes at Mediterranean restaurant, Aba, which opened in the Fulton Market neighborhood in 2018. Chef CJ Jacobson delivers dishes with global influence (chicken kefta kabobs or tamarind-braised short ribs). Try them with any of the playful drinks from lead mixologist Liz Pearce: maybe a Cactus King (with Nosotros Reposado tequila, BroVo pink rosé vermouth, pink guava, and honey) or an Añejo Cadillac Martini (Casamigos Añejo tequila, Grand Marnier Cuvée du Centenaire, lime)? Summer is the sweet spot here, but don’t let the colder months scare you off—several “igloos” grace the roof come winter, kitted out with blankets, space heaters, and speakers for an evening of urban chill.
Lush greenery, plenty of lounge seating, and a glimmering pool greet Gold Coasters and visitors alike at rooftop bar, Devereaux, on the 18th floor of the Viceroy Chicago. Classic cocktails undergo a makeover with offbeat ingredients to create such drinks as a Golden Ratio, Voodoo Boogie, and Made Men. Once you settle in with a drink, it’s time to peruse chef Lee Wolen’s substantial menu, which has a collection of crowd-pleasing plates like beet tartare with smoked salmon latke and foie gras brûlée.
For unrivaled views of Chicago’s best sights, head to rooftop bar Cindy’s for its sweeping take of Millennium Park and “The Bean,” Pritzker Pavilion, and the expansive lakefront. Cindy’s offers its entrées in two different sizes: the half portion is intended for one or two people while the full portion is meant to be shared with three to four people.
Executive chef Christian Ragano relies on independent purveyors to inform his New American menu (with options like Porterhouse Au Poivre for Two). Visit on Wednesdays and Saturdays in summer to watch Navy Pier’s fireworks displays, and come early or be prepared to wait—Cindy’s draws throngs of well-heeled Chicagoans.
10. NoMI Garden
On the seventh floor of the Park Hyatt Chicago, NoMI Garden is an urban oasis for couples on date night, executives on lunch hour, and Windy City visitors needing a break from street-level shopping crowds. That being said, the people-watching here is as good as the sunset views, and the drinks only help matters. When hunger strikes, start with any of chef Terence Zubieta’s eclectic menus, including egg tartine and chirashi bowls.
This high-rise haven sits directly over Wacker Drive, meaning it offers one of the best places in town to take in the meandering Chicago River. At Raised, enjoy the views in comfort and style thanks to the space’s many thoughtful touches, including firepits and cabanas. Kick things off with a round of drinks (maybe something like the Garden & Grove, with Rhum Barbancourt, Cointreau, pimento, lime, rhubarb syrup, and coconut milk), then delve into gussied-up gastropub favorites, such as its hand-cut signature parmesan rosemary frites and barbecue pork sliders. Save room for dessert—the dulce de leche profiteroles are a surefire way to please anybody, anytime.
12. Rooftop at Torali
Seasonal Italian cuisine and an Old World–leaning beverage program are the focus of Torali, a downtown retreat on the 12th floor of the Ritz-Carlton. Enjoy all-encompassing skyline views while sipping some of the handiwork from the bar team. Build up an appetite for hearty fixes of poached shrimp and pasture-raised chicken Vesuvio, served up by chef Franco Diaz nightly.
13. LH Rooftop
This always-buzzing penthouse bar has three levels—a main dining area and bar, a large patio with killer views of Michigan Lake, and LH Rooftop, an exclusive, Beaux Arts–style cupola that has some of the best views in the city. On sunny days, folks will want to head straight to the 22nd floor—where a sprawling outdoor bar welcomes guests for sunset views, lounge seating, and art deco details. Chef Elizabeth Sweeney’s menu pays homage to Hawaiian cuisine with options like upscale loco moco and udon noodle stir-fry. Brunch is an equally exciting outing with chilaquiles and chicken and waffles listed under its “hangover cures” section.
This story was originally published on February 6, 2019, and was updated on July 15, 2021 with new information. Mae Hamilton contributed original reporting.