Chicago in the Spring | The Best Open-Air Markets and Restaurants with Outdoor Dining

Wrigley building and tribune buildingWith top-notch Chicago real estate brokerage firms like Related Realty offering stunning residences with sprawling state-of-the-art kitchens, dining in is often a great option. For the last few months, a night out has meant huddling in a warm, cozy enclave and avoiding the outside whenever possible, and dining in often involved comfort foods such as soups and stews simmering on the stove. But those days are over now.

Spring is here, and as the breeze off the lake turns from harsh to mellow, the allure of the outdoors beckons. The Windy City is primed to bloom once more, and that can mean only one thing: the return of Chicago’s beloved farmers markets and the opening of restaurant patios and gardens. Here are a few of our favorite outdoor markets and eateries:

Green City Market Over the last decade or so, Lincoln Square’s Green City Market has grown considerably to become the most popular farmers market in Chicago. Running on Wednesdays and Saturdays from May through October in Lincoln Park, the open-air venue attracts around 13,000 visitors each week. A big emphasis is placed on local farming and education with regular cooking demonstrations by top chefs highlighting the robust and remarkably fresh selection of produce. More than 50 vendors sell not only produce but dairy products, baked goods, maple syrup, honey, sandwiches, desserts, potted plants, and much more. Whether you take home everything you need to serve up a meal for family and friends in your own kitchen or just enjoy chatting with neighbors while you shop, this is one of the best farmers markets for connecting with your community.

Daley Plaza Farmers Market Every Thursday from May through October, Daley Plaza is the site of one of the oldest and most well-known farmers markets in the city. Featuring vendors from all over the region, this centrally located market is perpetually buzzing with activity, making it a great place to wander around for a while, try a few things, snack a bit, and leave with some choice selections. Beyond the fresh produce, look out for flowers, homemade jams and honey, and an assortment of baked goods.

90 Miles Cuban Cafe Two of the 90 Miles outposts feature outdoor patios that provide the ideal venue for enjoying both the spring weather and the Cuban food this popular restaurant is known to serve. While the original 90 Miles Cuban Cafe in Roscoe Village serves up tasty take-out that patrons usually enjoy on the large patio, the location in Logan Square (also with a patio as well as weekly flamenco dancing) and the newest operation in Lincolnwood are full-service restaurants. All locations offer expertly prepared Cuban food and coffees.

Jack & Ginger’s At Bucktown pub Jack & Ginger’s, the drinks are nearly overshadowed by the food, which, in turn, is nearly overshadowed by the large outdoor dining area. The interior’s warm and inviting atmosphere spills out onto the patio, where tables and chairs are flanked by televisions on one side and shade trees on the other. Incredible wings and tacos and high-quality pizza and burgers help the menu rise above those found at other pubs in the area, and the al fresco dining experience seals the deal.

Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits The famous Bang Bang Pie shop in Logan Square began as a food truck and eventually laid down roots in its current location. The sprawling outdoor space is filled with rows of picnic tables, so even on a busy day or night you can usually find a spot to enjoy a slice in the open air. Hungry for more than just dessert? Bang Bang serves up comfort foods such as chicken pot pie and biscuits with gravy plus other delicious options, most with a biscuit on the side. And then there are the pies, which range from coconut cream, chocolate, triple-berry jam, and key lime to maple bourbon pecan and brown butter chess. There is no wrong decision here—just close your eyes, point, and chow down.