Open-Air Eats

June 2018 View more

The value of travel goes beyond simply “getting away” for a short time—it can also be a great opportunity to discover how other people live. Any Midwesterner fortunate enough to have journeyed to Florida or the desert southwest for a brief respite from our ridiculous winter this year was treated to not only a few glorious days without a parka, but a glimpse of the enviable lifestyle option that we experience far too rarely: the outdoor meal.

By June here in northern Illinois, of course, most of the maddening sleet and biting wind of the winter (and the spring, if we’re being honest) is forgiven, and diners once again recognize the newfound warmth of the season for exactly what it is—our fleeting chance to relish that which those Floridians and desert denizens take for granted.

Lunch on the patio. Brunch in the garden. Dinner under the stars.

Truth be told, the details (the location, the company, even the meal) don’t matter nearly as much as the act itself—taking that plate from the inside to the outside and reveling in the surroundings of the natural world. In Naperville, of course, that means joining the convivial community on the crowded front patio of Jimmy’s Grill in the heart of downtown, enjoying tapas and sangria in the garden-like setting of Mesón Sabika and hitting the roof for drinks and river views at Empire.

Wherever you choose to partake, just remember: It’s alfresco season, and it won’t stick around for long. Don’t miss it.

Everybody has a favorite alfresco spot, but it never hurts to try something a little off the beaten path. Here are a few great suburban patios to ponder.

Barbakoa Tacos and Tequila
As fun and fanciful as Barbakoa’s interior is, the tacos and margaritas just seem that much more at home when they’re being enjoyed in the sunshine of a summer afternoon or the glow of the outdoor fireplace on a evening.
1341 Butterfield Road, Downers Grove

The Cube at Standard Market
Forget sample day at Costco—this is how to do wine and cheese at the grocery store, with bottles sold off the shelf, a wide array of cheese boards and shared plates and, best of all, a lovely back patio upon which to enjoy it all. Sunday bonus: 50 percent off draft beer and wines by the glass.
1508 Aurora Avenue, Naperville

With its large windows looking out onto historic Geneva, the sunroom may be the most popular of the various themed dining spaces at this American gem during most of the year, but summer crowds favor the real thing—fresh air (and live music) beneath the umbrellas on the lively patio.
317 South Third Street, Geneva

Old Town Pour House
Whereas the alfresco areas at many restaurants are often little more than a few tables randomly placed outside, the trellised and brilliantly lit patio
at Old Town Pour House seems as though it was specifically built to be the most comfortable and inviting place in the restaurant to enjoy a meal and a few beers—and on warm summer nights, that’s exactly what it is. With 90 craft beers to try, multiple visits may be required.
1703 Freedom Drive, Naperville

Redstone American Grill
With its waterfront setting, plush furnishings and multiple fire features, the patio here—with seating for 140—does pretty convincing work in making diners forget they’re actually smack dab in the middle of Oak Brook Center’s massive retail and commercial landscape.
13 Lincoln Center, Oakbrook Terrace