May 1, 2016

Best Al Fresco Dining on the North Shore

al fresco dining

Is it me or is there is something about dining outdoors that makes everything taste better and drinks go down smoother? While many restaurants on the North Shore can claim they have outdoor seating, (throwing a few seats out on the sidewalk) with such a limited to time to enjoy the pleasure of al fresco dining, you want to make sure you get the best of both worlds – great ambiance and great food and drink – for the ultimate dining experience. We’ve updated the list from last year so be sure to check out some new favorites.


214 Green Bay Rd., Highwood, 847-780-3396

Ballaro is an Italian hot spot that hit the Highwood scene a few years ago. Inspired by Palermo’s Ballaró market, the décor is chic, minimalistic and airy.  The menu is described as refined Italian fare with handmade pastas and hearty entrees with an eclectic, value drive wine list. Drinkers also give the thumbs up to the bartenders for their spot on cocktails. This will be their first foray in the warmer months but a gated patio overlooking the sidewalk with overhanging lights promises to provide diners with a lively, outdoor dining experience. The patio has 10 tables (40 seats) and is for walk-ins only.

Cellar Gate
524 Sheridan Rd., Highwood, 847-748-8086

Cellar Gate is a unique restaurant, wine bar, and wine shop rolled into one. Boasting cozy and eclectic European/farmhouse décor, you won’t find another place like it.  They offer a fantastic wine selection and a lovely menu of small plates and tapas designed to be paired with their wines. Their huge patio complete with fire pit, fountain, twinkly lights, and often times live music, is the perfect spot for dining under the stars.

310 Green Bay Rd., Highwood, 224-765-9490

Another Italian hot spot in Highwood that hits all the right points. Their goal is to transport diners to another place and time…think Nonna’s wine cellar on the Italian countryside with the aroma of fresh sauces and homemade pastas while the laughter of friends of family surrounds you. Brunch menu is getting raves reviews as well. The rustic charm extends to the brick enclosed patio that overlooks the sidewalk, giving patrons a slightly more urban feel yet keeping them fully protected from possible rain – always an added bonus.

Found Kitchen and Social House
1631 Chicago Ave., Evanston, 847-868-8945

Previously voted Make It Better’s Hippest Restaurant on the North Shore, Found is a kitchen, a social house and a restaurant with a mission. Its rustic new American dishes change with the market and season and are served in a relaxed, eclectic atmosphere inspired by 1920’s Bohemian Paris and icons of the Beat Generation. In the warmer months, diners can take advantage of the Parisian-inspired sidewalk seating that can accommodate approximately 25 guests and soak up the sites of the city and the delicious food all at the same time. Even if you can’t find a seat outdoors, a table in the restaurant’s living room that boasts large windows overlooking the sidewalk can provide the same effect but in a more private setting.

Peckish Pig
623 Howard St., Evanston, 847-491-6778

This gastropub has a lot going for it - a fun and lively atmosphere, cool and inviting décor, great service, great food, an onsite brewery (tours available) and wait for it…. a 3,000 sq. foot private outdoor patio, complete with lounge areas, café tables, greenery and umbrellas for shade! The menu consists of mostly shareable plates that cover a wide range of tastes and they typically have 5-8 house-brewed beers on tap. It’s also the perfect place grab brunch on the weekends, meet up with friends or unwind after a long day and enjoy the outdoors! Reservations taken for parties of 12 or more only.

Trifecta Grill
501 Chestnut St., Winnetka, 847-441-1700

Trifecta Grill offers a fun, chic, yet relaxed urban atmosphere and features high-quality food with the freshest ingredients (small bites and large plates), a state of the art wine preserving system, a fantastic craft beer list and expertly crafted cocktails. Throw in the spacious private patio and you have the makings of a perfect dining experience. Reservations now accepted.

Avli Estiatorio
566 Chestnut, Winnetka, 847-446-9300

Better known as just Avli, this authentic Greek restaurant combines traditional dishes with new regional selections that allow patrons to experience Greek dining in a fresh, new way. Their quaint yet spacious patio complete with hanging lights always gets rave reviews and adds to the overall charm of this restaurant, tucked away in the back of a small shopping mall.

Convito Cafe & Market
1515 Sheridan Rd., Wilmette, 847-251-3654

Located in the Plaza Del Lago shopping center, Convito has been a North Shore staple in one variation or another since 1980. Formerly Convito Italiano & Betise, the current cafe and market combines the best of both worlds and offers patrons a chic Italian gourmet market, wine store and upscale yet not pretentious restaurant. The patio's decor transports diners to California and Spanish sea sides and the menu, with its wide selection of classic, yet fresh pastas, as well as salads and land and sea options will surely bring a smile to all that partake. Catering available as well.

Depot Nuevo
1139 Wilmette Ave., Wilmette, 847-251-3111

Depot Nuevo is a modern style Mexican restaurant and nationally acclaimed tequila bar housed in what some call the most historic building in Wilmette. In the summer months, the huge wraparound porch with side lawn offer patrons a spectacular outdoor experience.  Featuring 85 tequilas, the bar serves made-from-scratch margaritas, mojitos and freshly squeezed juices, but is fully stocked in case Tequila is not your thing. But whatever, your palette prefers just be sure to check this place out. Salud!

111 Green Bay Rd., Wilmette, 224-408-2464

You would never know from the outside, but this Brooklyn style bistro now boasts a 35-seat enclosed patio with strung lighting, cafe tables and lunge furniture, umbrellas and heat lamps for cooler nights. Bonus, the restaurant is open for lunch as well!

667 Vernon Ave., Glencoe, 847-786-4324

Be forewarned. The outdoor seating is not ample, but the wide brick sidewalk and the quaint surroundings of downtown Glencoe help earn this new French-American bistro a spot on our list - not to mention the top notch food and cocktails! Crowd favorites include the mussels, steak frites, and cheeseburger. But the fresh fish and desserts get rave reviews too! You can't go wrong!  Bon Appetit!


Bobby’s Deerfield
695 Deerfield Rd., Deerfield, 847-607-9104

Although situated in a nice strip mall with ample parking, Bobby’s offers diners a bit more sophistication than its location would suggest. An American-style bistro with strong Italian and Mediterranean influences, it is also known for its craft cocktails and carefully curated wine list. During the warmer months, their spacious patio offers more than just a few tables thrown outside. It is set off from the parking lot and overlooks a small courtyard. Hanging lights and a floral border also add to the ambiance.

Beelows NorthShore
1850 2nd St., Suite 11A, Highland Park, 847-780-3300

This 1950’s style steakhouse and seafood restaurant features burgers and steaks that come directly from its own farm in Lake County. In the summer, the huge patio takes center stage where diners can also enjoy a drink from the extensive wine list or choose from 30 different craft draft beers poured through an imported custom tower. Rumor has it that a fully enclosed, fully heated, year round patio with its own bar, heated floors, and retractable roof and sides may be in the works…stay tuned!

MLG Chicago
181 E. Laurel Ave., Lake Forest, 847-234-9660

Formerly the Grille on Laurel, this Marcus Lemonis owned-property reopened as a modern, yet comfortable restaurant that offers diners an expansive menu in a fun atmosphere. Their 80-seat patio has ample space, cozy furniture for dining and lounging, trees, over-sized umbrellas, heat lamps and a few fire pits to ward off the cold on chillier nights.

More Casual Settings

1636 Old Deerfield Rd., Highland Park, 847-831-0595

Bluegrass is a casual restaurant with a cozy setting nestled out of the way in the west side of town. Complete with a friendly bar and an American flare, Bluegrass blends in a little Southern influence into its repertoire. The wine and beer selections are all American, along with a full back bar, all hand selected to echo the quality of the fare. Its private, 25 seat outdoor patio provides diners who are truly looking to get away from it all, a low key space to eat, drink and relax.

1905 Sheridan Rd., Highland Park, 847-432-3287

This family-oriented restaurant offers the best of casual American food in downtown Highland Park. In the summer, the front sidewalk patio with seating up to 28 is a well-known gathering place for friends and families while the back patio is a bit cozier and quaint and offers diners more privacy (holds up to 25). Known for live music and its extensive drink menu, Norton’s is like Cheers, eventually everyone will know your name.

Real Urban BBQ
610 Central Ave., Suite 177, Highland Park, 224-770-4227

Often noted as the best BBQ in the burbs, Real Urban BBQ is a no frills establishment that offers mouth- watering meats and tasty sides.  Patrons order cafeteria style, so the service is fast and efficient and you seat yourself. While the outdoor ambiance is nothing special, there are plenty of tables so unless they are really busy you should be able to snag a spot. Great food, quick service and minimal wait (if any) for outdoor seating makes this place a go to in our books.

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