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, 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.
310 Green Bay Rd., Highwood, 224-765-9490
This new Italian hot spot that took over the PM Prime location in Highwood hits all the right spots. 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.
214 Green Bay Rd., Highwood, 847-780-3396
Ballaro is another new Italian hot spot that hit the Highwood scene in November. 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.
Found Kitchen and Social House
1631 Chicago Ave., Evanston, 847-868-8945
Voted Make It Better’s Hippest Restaurant on the North Shore last year, 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.
623 Howard St., Evanston, 847-491-6778
This relatively new gastropub hits all the right spots - 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 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.
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.
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.
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 new 35 seat enclosed patio with strung lighting, cafe tables and lunge furniture, umbrellas and heat lamps for cooler nights. Bonus, the restaurant is now open for lunch as well!
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.
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.
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!
Grille on Laurel
181 E. Laurel Ave., Lake Forest, 847-234-9660
Currently closed for renovations, but with plans to reopen in June, this Marcus Lemonis owned modern, yet comfortable restaurant 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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