10 Wine-Centric Chicago Spots Open for Outdoor Dining

Soak up the Windy City summer on these restaurant patios

10 Wine-Centric Chicago Spots Open for Outdoor Dining
Best of Award of Excellence winner Gibsons Italia serves up quintessential Chicago views. (Gibsons Italia)
Jun 18, 2020

Chicago is a grand and dynamic city for dining, so the community faced a palpable loss when that all came to a halt as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. But as of June 3, the city’s restaurants can reopen for outdoor dining, with tables spaced 6 feet apart—just in time for summer. The 10 restaurants featured here are good places to start, with Wine Spectator Restaurant Award–winning wine programs and teams that can’t wait to welcome you back.

See all 70-plus Restaurant Award winners in the Chicago Metro Area, and to check out more wine-and-food destinations around the world, see Wine Spectator’s nearly 3,800 Restaurant Award–winning picks, including the 100 Grand Award recipients worldwide that hold our highest honor.

Do you have a favorite you’d like to see on this list? Send your recommendations to restaurantawards@mshanken.com. We want to hear from you!

Note: Opening hours and menus are subject to change as the industry continues to adjust to evolving regulations.

Gibsons Italia

233 N. Canal St., Chicago, Ill.
Telephone (312) 414-1100
Website www.gibsonsitalia.com
Best of Award of Excellence

Under chef Jose Sosa, Gibsons Italia has become a leader for authentic Italian cuisine in Chicago’s Fulton River District. During its temporary closure, the restaurant focused on working with charities, incluing World Central Kitchen and Ronald McDonald House. Now guests can once again enjoy cuisine inspired by Sosa’s years spent on his family’s farm, as well as his love for nature. The menu offers steak-house classics like a bone-in filet mignon and a dry-aged porterhouse, plus Italian dishes such as meatballs, prosciutto and mozzarella, cacio e pepe and risotto. The menu is met by a wide range of options from wine director Zackariah Taylor’s Best of Award of Excellence-winning wine list. The 550 labels from a 6,000-bottle cellar focus on wines from California, Italy and France.

Maple & Ash

8 W. Maple St., Chicago, Ill.
Telephone (312) 944-8888
Website www.mapleandash.com
Best of Award of Excellence

Diners on Maple & Ash’s patio
In addition to this Chicago location, Maple & Ash has a second outpost in Scottsdale, Ariz., that opened last year. (Courtesy of Maple & Ash)

Maple & Ash encapsulates Chicago’s classic steak-house culture, but with a modern spin, in the city’s historic Gold Coast neighborhood. After focusing on delivery and pickup, as well as virtual wine tastings, the restaurant’s patio is now open. The patio menu brings a shortened selection of dishes from chef Danny Grant, like steak frites, a wedge salad and coconut cream pie, plus options inspired by international cuisines, like crispy fried chicken and ricotta agnolotti. Alongside these dishes is an abbreviated wine list from Maple & Ash’s 10,000-bottle cellar, a Best of Award of Excellence winner. Overseen by wine director Amy Mundwiler, selected options from the restaurant’s 1,600 labels include an array of whites, with emphasis on Chardonnays from California and France, and several Pinot Noirs, Cabernet Sauvignons and Italian reds.

Morton’s, the Steakhouse

65 E. Wacker Place, Chicago, Ill.
Telephone (312) 201-0410
Website www.mortons.com
Best of Award of Excellence

Morton's (part of the Landry’s family) has set a standard for wine-focused steak-house chains. The Best of Award of Excellence–winning location in downtown Chicago’s Wacker Place is now open for patio dining, where chef Juan Enriquez is serving everything from jumbo lump crab cake and Wagyu meatballs to a hefty range of steak cuts and sizes, plus traditional sides like creamed spinach and a baked potato. Although the current wine list is limited to just a few options, there are still top picks from wine director John Maraffa’s 1,300-label list, which best represents regions in California, Italy and France. Fans of Morton’s can now visit the other Chicago location—an Award of Excellence winner since 2016—for outdoor dining too.

RPM Steak

66 W. Kinzie St., Chicago, Ill.
Telephone (312) 284-4990
Website www.rpmrestaurants.com
Best of Award of Excellence

Steak tartare with a side of toasts at RPM Steak
Find favorites like tartare with a quail egg at RPM Steak. (Courtesy of RPM Steak)

Located in Chicago's River North neighborhood, RPM Steak is one of several restaurants started by celebrity entrepreneurs Giuliana and Bill Rancic. Like other Windy City establishments, it looks to update the steak-house experience, which guests can once again enjoy on the restaurant’s patio. RPM now presents a shortened menu of dishes including steak tartare, chilled oysters, Mediterranean octopus and cuts of Wagyu beef. As for bottles, RPM’s wine list, which is overseen by wine director Kyle Tarczynski, has been a Best of Award of Excellence winner since 2015. It is largely focused on reds from California, Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhône, Italy and Washington, with a diverse selection of 1,200 labels from a 6,500-bottle cellar. Highlights include a wide range of Amarones from top wineries, many large-format bottles from Napa and a vertical of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Romanée St.-Vivant. Finish the meal with one of RPM’s dessert wines from Sauternes, Port and beyond, including several vintages from Château d'Yquem.

Swift & Sons

1000 W. Fulton Market St., Chicago, Ill.
Telephone (312) 733-9420
Website www.swiftandsonschicago.com
Best of Award of Excellence

A burger at Swift & Sons patio
Enjoy American staples at Swift & Sons’ open-air patio. (Courtesy of Swift & Sons)

Boka Restaurant Group is a force in Chicago’s dining scene, especially when it comes to wine destinations. The family of restaurants includes Restaurant Award winners GT Prime, GT Fish & Oyster, Boka and Swift & Sons. The latter two are now open for patio service this week, with more venues to follow. All of Boka’s reopened restaurants are enforcing city and CDC guidelines such as limiting tables to six people and requiring everyone to wear masks when they’re not at their table. At Swift & Sons, chef Chris Pandel is serving a steak-house menu of light bites like kampachi crudo and shrimp cocktail, leading into heftier entrées and premium meats. With 575 selections, the wine list is the largest of Boka’s Restaurant Award winners. Wine director Marcello Cancelli manages the program, which excels in California, France and Italy.

Frontera Grill / Topolobampo

445 N. Clark St., Chicago, Ill.
Telephone (312) 661-1434
Website www.rickbayless.com
Award of Excellence

For decades, chef Rick Bayless has been serving high-end Mexican cuisine in Chicago, through his adjoined restaurants Frontera Grill and Topolobampo, which hold an Award of Excellence. Although Topolobampo’s dining room is still closed, on June 5, Frontera Grill reopened its patio for reservations, after several weeks of shifting to exclusively pickup and delivery. Dine on Oaxacan classics like carne asada, or lighter dishes like king trumpet mushroom enchiladas suizas or Alaskan cod à la Veracruzana. The wine list’s 250 labels add layers to these dishes, from a 2,500-bottle cellar focusing on wines from France, California and, of course, Mexico. Managed by wine director Jill Gubesch, the program features a substantial by-the-glass selection, as well as many choices from Mexico’s Baja California region and a range of older vintages from top wineries including Rudd.

The Gage

24 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill.
Telephone (312) 372-4243
Website www.thegagechicago.com
Award of Excellence

Diners on the Gage’s patio
The Gage is keeping diners spaced apart in the outdoor dining area. (Courtesy of the Gage)

Though the Gage is named after a group of historic 19th century buildings, its take on fine dining is fresh, combining several cuisine styles in a lively atmosphere near Millennium Park. The restaurant’s patio reopened to the public this month, as did the patios at the other Award of Excellence winners run by Gage Hospitality Group: Beacon Tavern, Coda di Volpe and the Dawson. Chef Chris Gawronski’s outdoor menu is a diverse mix of seasonal dishes, including ham-and-cheese beignets, a lobster roll and lighter fare like fava bean and corn succotash and honey-glazed carrots. The wine program presents by-the-glass picks from the restaurant’s 170-label list, assembled by wine director Torrence O’Haire. While California Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignons are available, this list stretches beyond the Gage’s emphasis on the Golden State and France. The varied selection includes German Riesling, Oregon Pinot Noir rosé and Corsican Sangiovese. For guests not quite ready to return to the Gage’s patio, the restaurant is continuing its pickup and delivery programs.

The Palm Chicago

323 E. Wacker Drive, Chicago, Ill.
Telephone (312) 616-1000
Website www.thepalm.com
Award of Excellence

Anyone discussing American steak houses would be remiss not to mention world-famous chain the Palm; the Chicago outpost recently reopened at the city’s Swissôtel. During the shutdown, the restaurant offered a takeaway menu for the New East Side neighborhood. But with its patio readied, including a canopied section, outdoor dining is back on the menu. As are dishes from chef Thomas Michaels, including Chilean sea bass, lobster gnocchi, au gratin potatoes and a meaty list of beef and lamb options. Wine director Victor Munoz’s list—an Award of Excellence winner since 1997—has plenty of top California Cabernets to pair with the Palm’s hearty meat dishes like ribeyes and New York strips. But the 175-label list isn’t limited to full-bodied reds, with options for fans of Napa Chardonnay, Italian whites and Sonoma Pinot Noir.

Roka Akor

456 N. Clark St., Chicago, Ill.
Telephone (312) 477-7652
Website www.rokaakor.com/chicago
Award of Excellence

Robata grill ribeye
Roka Akor serves a selection of meats prepared on a robata grill, like this ribeye. (Courtesy of Roka Akor)

Roka Akor is a modern Japanese steak house with six Restaurant Award–winning locations throughout the country, including the Chicago outpost, which boasts the largest wine list across the brand. At 255 selections, the moderately priced wine program run by director of beverage Rob Holder is strong in California and France. Play with pairings for chef Boyd Cheong’s wide-ranging menu, comprising everything from sushi and ramen to premium steaks on the robata grill. The offerings are usually served in Roka Akor’s sleek dining room in the heart of the River North neighborhood, but for now, soak up the warm Chicago weather on the restaurant’s patio. Guests can also still order for curbside pickup or delivery.

Siena Tavern

51 W. Kinzie St., Chicago, Ill.
Telephone (312) 595-1322
Website www.sienatavern.com
Award of Excellence

Siena Tavern has spent the past few months focusing on takeout and delivery, including $50 food-and-wine packages for at-home family meals. Now patio dining is an option too, just a couple of blocks away from Chicago’s central river. There you’ll find the Award of Excellence–winning wine list of 165 labels managed by wine director Adam Sweders with strengths in Italy and California, alongside chef Fabio Viviani’s pastas, pizzas, salads and Italian entrées. Siena Tavern enhanced its sanitation standards, in addition to other safety measures such as mandatory face masks for staff and single-use menus. Siena Tavern is part of locally based DineAmic Hospitality Group, which also includes Best of Award of Excellence winner Prime & Provisions and Award of Excellence winner Bar Siena.

Keep up with the latest restaurant news from our award winners: Subscribe to our free Private Guide to Dining newsletter, and follow us on Twitter at @WSRestoAwards and Instagram at @WSRestaurantAwards.

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