The ritual of Chicago summers: Every bar, restaurant and deli with a half-inch of sidewalk space puts out some tables and chairs to try to capitalize on the brief but beloved warm weather months. Look! It's nature, right here on the street corner! Bask! Enjoy! Commune!
No matter what the atmosphere they provide...busy streets, alleys, the stank of the river...it seems all eateries try to be summer-friendly. But when it comes to outdoor areas, Chicago's Park Grill on the Plaza is rumored to have the largest, along with some pretty impressive views of the city in front and Millennium Park in the back. But rather than rest on its laurels, offering little more than urban eye candy, Park Grill wants to draw us to its outdoor area by offering to get us drunk. (Finally! A place that knows that as your eyes drift upward, so should your blood alcohol level!)
To help you play parrothead for a day, they've kicked off Margaritaville Wednesdays, during which the Park Grill's outdoor section serves up 'ritas made with Margaritaville tequila from 4 to 11 p.m. The bar also will feature live music (think a guy, a guitar and some Buffet tunes). And, because you can never really have enough Buffet, Park Grill on the Plaza is also starting a Jimmy Buffet giveaway on Aug. 10 that will continue through Aug. 31.
The special tiki-themed bar just arrived from Margaritaville (the liquor company, not necessarily the place, but you know, I'm sure that's a fine line) last Wednesday morning. You saucy Chicagoans had already almost drained the giant mango margarita decanter by the time I rolled up to it around 6 p.m. Inspired, my friend Emily and I dove into the other flavors (the things I do for a columnů), which included regular and lime. All are stored in giant containers atop the bar and served frozen or on the rocks in special Park Grill glasses you can take home (although where is "home," really, after several margaritas?) for $7.50.
The bar is also happy to mix Margaritaville tequila with other stuff, like soda. And should you not want to also journey that night to barfaritaville, Park Grill offers a number of tasty, casual treats outdoors, like duck tacos ($8.95) and a Texas-style BBQ beef sandwich with chipotle seasoning ($10.95), and more upscale dining inside, with a number of summer salads, pizzas and entrees.
And of course, the whole while we drank, we were oohing and aahing at the big buildings that seemed so majestic, even though we walk by them every day. But that's what summer outdoor dining is for: the ambience. So enjoy those outdoor chairs. After all, in a few months you'll still be seeing them, but it'll be curbside where they are passively marking people's dug-out parking spaces.
Want to call and ask for a reservation? Call (312) 521-PARK or visit Parkgrillchicago.com for more details.
Erin Brereton is our resident urban cowgirl on a bi-weekly search for life on the cheap.