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Rooftop Revelry

We've rounded up Chicago's rooftop decks, where you can imbibe up high.
Thursday May 27, 2010.     By Centerstage Chicago Staff
Centerstage Chicago Nightlife City Guide Arts

courtesy of Bridget Cicenia, pictured: <A HREF=/bars/citizen-bar.html>Citizen Bar</a>courtesy of Bridget Montomery; Citizen Bar

When the weather gets nice in this city, you'd better enjoy it. What better way than to get one of Chicago's rooftop bars. Check out these watering holes where the breeze is free and the brew comes with a view.

The Wit Hotel features a number of restaurants, bars and attractions, but none of them garners the attention nor the crowds that this 27th-floor indoor/outdoor lounge does. You'll pay for the views (of both the city and the good-looking crowd), as drinks cost $8-$12 and food is more than at your average pub, but you can't top the scene.

As if the killer view from the top of the Affinia Chicago hotel weren't enough, this 29th-floor lounge has upped the ante with a brand-new list of luxury cocktails, including the Shake Rattle and Hum (featuring master mixologist Adam Seger's Hum botanical spirit along with Bacardi rum, lime juice and simple syrup) and Back Porch Punch (Southern Comfort, Grand Marnier, lemon juice, sweet tea). When hunger hits, head downstairs to the C-House restaurant, owned by famed chef Marcus Samuelsson.

The newly opened rooftop at the already massive (14,000 square feet) River North spot, dubbed Epic Sky, offers lounge seating, two private cabanas and a 28-foot long bar serving up signature cocktails, wine and beer. Expect a food menu coming soon.

This sky-high, indoor/outdoor watering hole atop the Dana Hotel and Spa offers strong cocktails, breathtaking views of the city and waitresses in skin-tight catsuits. Combine that with the ultra-chic décor and a DJ spinning everything hip in rock, funk, pop and electronic, and you’ve got the perfect meeting place for young business professionals (the co-ed bathroom could be a good place to break the ice. Don't miss out on the gourmet food options from the downstairs restaurant, aja, and be prepared to spend: drinks cost $9-$12.

Market Bar and Restaurant
Professional hockey and baseball players may not all be beautiful, but they and their paychecks can certainly hang with a sultry crowd. This snazzy restaurant and lounge is partly owned by White Sox General Manager Kenny Williams, and the place is popular with Chicago sports stars (some live down the street) — as well as sexy clientele sporting mascara, pearl necklaces, silicone cleavage and pressed suits. The newly remodeled rooftop deck, open daily from 2 p.m.-midnight, features eight private cabanas, a walk-up bar, flat-screen TVs and a small-plates menu including spring rolls, a cheese plate and a tuna tartare trio (available 5-10 p.m.; dishes range from $10-$13).

Plymouth Restaurant and Bar
This three-story establishment has dining and drinking options on all levels, but the rooftop deck is the real draw. The view isn't as spectacular as the loftier spaces (unless, of course, you're looking at the mural of Chicago celebrities on one wall), but it'll get the job done. Tip: On an extra-hot day, make sure to grab a spot near the edge of the rooftop; every once in a while, the bar will turn on the misters and give you a nice, refreshing shot of cool moisture.

Citizen Bar
Don't bother bringing your passport; everyone can claim citizenship at this River North bar, though the outdoor patios will make you want to take up residency. Enjoy the company of the city and take your glass of wine and Cowboy burger out onto the 2,000 square-foot patio or rooftop deck. Weekday specials, like half-price bottles of wine on Tuesdays, sweeten the sight. .

Less intense than the main space, an upscale French restaurant at the Park Hyatt Chicago hotel, NoMI's rooftop lounge serves lighter, seasonal fare and a variety of NoMI's signature cocktails made with freshly squeezed juices. The 2,000-square-foot garden, with lush landscaping and sweeping city views, sits on the hotel's seventh floor.

Rock Bottom Brewery
Sure it's a chain, but this River North microbrewery's in-the-thick-of-it view of the Chicago skyline solidifies its status as a killer rooftop hangout. The vista's no well-kept secret, though; show up early as it gets crowded quickly. The rooftop has its own bar, making it easy to grab a cold Chicago Gold (pale ale) to cool down on hot days. As expected, the atmosphere and decor feel corporate, but to score refreshing brews and reasonably priced pub grub, you could do worse than hitting Rock Bottom.

As Chicago's biggest and most popular gay bar, Sidetrack has become a mainstay of the Halsted scene. Indulge in some fun, frozen drinks like the highly popular Ketel One Crush, a grape-flavored tart concoction, on its sleek rooftop deck, which has its own bar and seats 350. If you're looking for a place to meet that special someone or just hang out with friends, add this one to your summer roster.

Get the best view in Greektown on the rooftop patio (open Memorial Day to Labor Day), which accommodates 160 people and boasts a full bar, live music and a spectacular view of the skyline. The al-fresco menu features an extensive selection of tapas-style appetizers and desserts.

SushiSamba Rio
A haven for chic Chicagoans, this clubby sushi bar offers a rooftop lounge perfect for people watching. Enjoy a mojito or one of SushiSamba's many signature drinks like the Lemon Samurai (Svedka Citron vodka, apple liqueur, peach, guava), but make sure your 'do can stand the elements — you're sure to be the recipient of gratuitous ogling.

Twisted Spoke
It may not feel quite like cruising on a Harley, but visitors to the Twisted Spoke's rooftop patio can catch some rays while their hair blows in the breeze. With picnic tables and umbrellas to accommodate about 60, the casual second-floor patio at this biker-themed hangout is the perfect spot to waste away a beautiful day. The Fat Boy, a big honkin' half-pound burger topped with your choice of cheddar, swiss, grilled onions, bacon and barbecue sauce, holds court as the restaurant's most popular menu item. Bonus: It serves Jim Beam on-tap.

Vines on Clark
Round up the troops post-Cubs game and head on over to this outdoor anomaly: Vines rules as Wrigleyville's only rooftop-dining venue (if you don't count the lucky fans grilling out on their squint-and-you-can-see-the-field roof decks). The patio can also be rented for private parties on non-game days, when Lakeview locals capitalize on the quiet time to enjoy a Honey Weiss or specialty martini.

Zed 451
With a sweeping 2,300-square-foot rooftop, this carnivore's paradise has already become a popular hang. With non-stop visits from chefs wielding large skewers of steaks, chicken and fish (for a fixed price), patrons are sure to get their fill while they bask in the sun and sip a seasonal cocktail. A large fireplace, grass, foliage and a copper-roofed clerestory add to roof deck's ambiance.

Bottom Lounge
You're probably here for the music, but don't forget to scope out the rooftop deck before you leave. Located on the second-level, the outdoor locale is an extension of Bottom Lounge's tiki-themed bar, the Volcano Room. Sip a freshly muddled mojito while taking in the cityscape view.

Terrace at Conrad
Perched five stories above Rush Street on the top floor of the Conrad Chicago hotel, this seasonal spot provides a retreat reminiscent of 1950s South Beach. A stunning bar sits out of the way from plush over-sized lounge chairs, sofas and daybeds, while umbrellas offer a little cover from the sun during afternoon outings. Tack on something from the restaurant's globally inspired tapas menu and a pitcher of vodka lemonade or mojitos, and you'll feel far from the street below.

NV Penthouse Lounge
Some will be impressed with the escort to the elevator and the attendant who takes you up to the 8th floor of this River North building, but the real selling point of NV is its outdoor terrace, which offers amazing views of the city. Of course, such serenity comes at a price – on prime nights, you'll have a tough time accessing the space without renting a cabana or being part of a private party.

Avenue Ale House
This Oak Park pub is known for heaping portions and hearty food, so make sure your stomach is empty when you cross its threshold. After all, you'll want to enjoy every second of your time on the cool rooftop patio, a definite hot spot during the summer months. You'll find everyone from families dining with small children to groups of friends sharing beer buckets and enjoying the occasional acoustic performance.

Shanghai Terrace
Located within the celebrity-frequented confines of the Peninsula Hotel, this fourth-floor restaurant offers upscale Chinese fare in a sleek environment filled with artwork and hand-carved wood. When the weather permits, you can head outside to the terrace for cocktails and Asian-inspired iced teas alongside a top-shelf view of the city skyline.

Like to drink outside, but afraid of heights? Check out our roundup of Chicago beer gardens and sidewalk patios.


Explore More

Bars & Clubs

Brand-New Bars

Brand-New Bars

Get divey on Grace; go downstairs at River North's Curio.

Food & Dining

New Restaurants

New Restaurants

Go Dutch at Vincent and satisfy a familiar sweet tooth at BomBon.

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