Patio season is upon us. The month of May sees the most dramatic temperature spike during the year in Chicago, which translates to rapid changes in wardrobe and weather appropriate attire, as well as an increase in outdoor dining.
Logan Square is home to great dining options that spill outdoors to accommodate Chicagoans’ need to be outside as soon as it’s comfortable enough and for as long as humanly possible. While there are more than seven patios in Logan Square to dine, brunch or lunch at, these seven represent the best of a diverse array of options in our hood.
And presenting, in no particular order:
1. Reno (2607 N. Milwaukee Ave.)
Chicago pizza purists might argue that because it’s not deep-dish, it can’t be the best pizza in the city, but fans of Reno Chicago will counter by citing evidence from its wood-fired pizza selections including the Butternut, Spanish Monster and the weekend-brunch-only egg-crowned breakfast pizza. Deals can also be had if mid-week dining excursions are your thing; two pizzas for $20 on Tuesdays, or the $5 pasta and $5 per glass of wine on Wednesdays helps save a few bucks when going out.
The patio faces southwest, which picks up all of the late morning through late afternoon sunlight. Neighbors looking to get some work done in the sun can come during the day—the Wi-Fi extends outdoors and Reno’s baristas serve Stumptown Coffee, but you have to bring your own sunscreen. The only other thing you have to bring is paper: Reno is a cash-only establishment.
2. Bang Bang Pie Shop (2051 N. California Ave.)
Bang Bang’s pies are so popular that they can be found on the pastry racks of food joints like Antique Taco (Wicker Park), Honey Butter Fried Chicken (Avondale) and Parson’s Chicken & Fish. Most weekends a line extends out of the front door and down California Avenue.
The restaurant’s patio is a spacious area split by several rows of picnic tables and a large patch of grass, all of which resembles a homey backyard. But the sunny space is nothing without a slice of transcendent pie (or a whole pie), like the current key lime, coconut cream or Mexican chocolate.
The food is also excellent, most of it revolving around homemade biscuits—a recipe for which you’d expect to come out of the mind and oven of a grandmother raised in the deep South—that can be topped with several farm-fresh selections like gravy (vegetarian gravy with an option to add an egg and sausage), huevos (black beans, chorizo, sunny-side up eggs, salsa verde and queso fresco) or bacon (bacon, collard greens, hot sauce and a sunny-side up egg).
3. Parson’s Chicken & Fish (2952 W. Armitage Ave.)
Parson’s boasts some of the best fried chicken in Logan Square. The restaurant’s crispy and juicy chicken comes whole, in half, in pieces, spicy, paired with a waffle (during brunch) or in sandwich form. Parson’s also does grilled chicken, fried fish, brunch and their famous Negroni Slushy all on a lively and bustling patio. It gets so busy on warm evenings and the weekends that alcoholic slushies (they also have a Dark and Stormy) help numb the impatience to eat food that is worth waiting for.
The patio also features a shaded bar the snakes around part of the building, where you can wait for a table or eat. This is the place to bring a large and loud group that’s hungry for comfort food—don’t forget about the fritters—and refreshing adult beverages in a relaxed and fun environment. Dog owners don’t need to worry; Parson’s patio is about as pet friendly as it gets.
4. Boiler Room (2210 N. California Ave.)
Standing in the morning shadow of the California Blue Line station, the Boiler Room is another loud and boisterous establishment with a large patio area to eat, drink and be merry—or nurse a hangover. This rowdy spot slings greasy (and delicious) New York style foldable slices of pizza until 2 am six days a week and until 3 am on Saturday nights. Fellow LoganSquarist writer Nick Biscardi characterizes the Boiler Room as “The Crassy Night Out” in his Logan Square Pizza Round-up.
The interior is dimly lit, movies play from a projector that is pointed above the bar and when it’s time for food and a drink, the PB&J special—slice of pizza, PBR tall-boy and a shot of Jameson—comes in at a wallet-friendly $8.50 from open to close. In contrast, the patio area is bright, open and airy, and always filled with a hungry crowd.
5. El Cid (2645 N. Kedzie Ave.)
On those humid summer days in Logan Square, sitting out on El Cid’s back patio—if you squint hard enough—might seem like you’re visiting the southern tip of Baja once a margarita is in front of you. The same style of taco you’d find at taquerias throughout Mexico are featured on the menu, and diners are given 12 different choices; go “Mexi” to garnish your taco with onions and cilantro or “Gringo” with a lettuce, tomato, onion and cilantro garnish. Deciding between chorizo and al pastor is a tough choice whether you’re going for tacos, quesadillas or a burrito, but vegetarians can also enjoy a filling meal with choices like potatoes, veggies, guacamole or “black bean delight.”
And whether you’re sitting on the large back or the front sidewalk patio, it’s hard not to order a margarita or two (or a pitcher) when the sun is beating down and tacos are on the way. El Cid calls the margaritas “famous” and for good reason. They are delicious—my favorite being the mango margarita—and while the house tequila might be sufficient, El Cid has no less than 20 other tequilas to choose from.
6. 90 Miles Cuban Cafe (2540 W. Armitage Ave.)
Apparently the shortest water passage between the USA and Cuba is 90 miles. And Logan Square residents can thank the Lord that they don’t have to travel outside the neighborhood for some island eating. Even during the winter time the interior space feels like you’re sitting on a patio, but as it warms up the patio that comes to a point at the corner of Armitage and Staves is a sun-worshipping meat-eater’s dream.
This is a BYOB restaurant, but servers will bring house-made mojito or sangria mixes to the table. If you’re not in the mood to day-drink (weird, but OK), one of the tropical shakes or passion ice teas will cool and quench thirst. In the evenings and for brunch it’s wise to make reservations, or else you’ll be waiting on the other side of the patio wishing the plates of steaming food were in front of you.
For breakfast try the morning burger: a beef and chorizo hybrid patty topped with a fried egg. For lunch go for the simple and succulent pollo sandwich. For dinner, get some help and split plates like the ropa vieja and the lechon that feature meat so soft and tender that it dissolves as soon as it hits your mouth.
7. New Wave Coffee (2557 N. Milwaukee Ave.)
New Wave has two entrances: one on Milwaukee and one on Logan. Luckily both get you to the counter where top-notch espresso drinks, pastries and sandwiches are ordered and made. It’s the Logan entrance, however, with the patio unequaled by any other coffee shop in Logan Square.
The patio is a perfect place to people-watch, as New Wave attracts interesting characters that can come and go quickly or stay for hours on end talking about art projects, obscure music or all the ironies found in our silly little lives.
Before taking a seat outside, remember that the baristas make a solid mocha, the sandwich makers stack killer ingredients and if you’re there early enough (open at 7 am on weekdays, 8 am on weekends) you can try some hearty oatmeal too.
As much as we like these patios, we know Logan Square residents have their own favorites. Which ones do you love around the neighborhood? Let us know in the comments below.