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Photography by Jasmine Pulley

A Local’s Guide to Chicago Summer Dining and Drinking

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Let the rest of the country believe we have six-month winters and sweltering summers. That just means precious Chicago summers remain our secret. Fine with us. After all, sunny days, vibrant street festivals, bustling patios, green parks, and glistening Lake Michigan are the reasons we put up with gray days, icy sidewalks, and that whole dibs tradition. With limited time to savor every last minute of sunshine, it’s time to explore, and there’s no better place to start than our city’s vast restaurant and bar scene. Here are a few places to put on your summer agenda, so grab a group and get going — just don’t forget the sunscreen.

Goose Island

Today, you can’t throw a hop seed without hitting a craft brewery. But back in 1988 — when Goose Island first started — the beer industry was dominated by big, mass-produced brands. Forging their own path, founder John Hall and his team built a brewery that focused on the process as much as the product, creating a line of complex, flavorful beers unlike anything in the market — and paving the way for a legion of craft brewers to join their movement.

These industry pioneers have hardly rested on their laurels. Goose Island has remained a leader of the now-crowded pack by continuing to push brewing boundaries, adding seasonal and limited-release beers, vintage brews, and coveted barrel-aged creations to favorites like Green Line Pale Ale, 312 Urban Wheat Ale, and Four Star Pils. Belly up at the newly renovated Lincoln Park brewhouse and pair Goose Island taps with gourmet beer-friendly foods, like burgers, sandwiches, and hearty entrees. Get into the Chicago summer mindset with their line of Chicago-centric beers, like the Next Coast IPA or 1060 Wit, named for the iconic North Side home of our recent World Series champs.

Goose Island Brewhouse, 1800 North Clybourn Avenue, Lincoln Park, Chicago

Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits

This quaint bake shop specializes in precisely made biscuits and pies that are rich, flaky, and packed with nostalgia — just like grandma used to make, only better (sorry, Gram). While the charming, antique-decked indoor space provides a refuge from Chicago winters, the outdoor patios are perfect for taking in the summer sun. Post up with a slice of key lime or blueberry buttermilk pie, or a bacon biscuit, topped with candied bacon, collard greens, a poached egg, and hot sauce. Working on that beach bod? Go for a bowl of house-made granola or some deliciously topped grits. Just like summer days, these dishes are best when shared with friends, so order a few things and pass ‘em around.

Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits, 2051 North California Avenue, Logan Square, Chicago

Pub Royale

The phrase “Anglo-Indian style pub” isn’t often heard in the restaurant lexicon. But one visit to Pub Royale and you’ll quickly realize that, like cold beer and a 16-inch softball, it’s a combination that works. Modern British and Northern Indian fare — think samosas, eggplant curry, dal, and a Royale with cheese — are perfect for sharing. Drinks include cocktails created by locally based Letherbee Distillers and a beer list that spans the globe while paying homage to our hometown with selections like Goose Island Next Coast. And remember that just because it’s summer doesn’t mean you have to eat every meal outdoors. Sometimes it’s just as refreshing to enjoy dinner or brunch inside, especially when it’s a cozy, eclectic, boho-inspired space — with air conditioning.

Pub Royale, 2049 West Division Street, Wicker Park, Chicago

SmallBar

Ah, the unmistakable glow of a corner tavern. Has there ever been a sweeter sight? Located off the beaten path on a residential Avondale street, SmallBar is what every neighborhood bar strives to be: warm, welcoming, comfortable, unpretentious, and stocked with a range of brews — only in this case, that range includes more than 100 different beer options, from favorite local ales to obscure European imports. A menu of classic, well-made bar food includes fried cheese curds, burgers, wings, and poutine — perfect sustenance for craft brews. And the plant-decked outdoor patio, nestled between two-flats, is a bona fide urban oasis.

SmallBar, 2956 North Albany Avenue, Avondale, Chicago

urbanbelly

Award-winning chef and Charlie Trotter protegé Bill Kim puts a creative spin on traditional Asian dishes, serving up dumplings, broth-based options like pho and ramen, and rice and veggie bowls. Go with Kim’s bowl creations, or create the rice bowl of your dreams with a DIY-style option. (Whatever you get, add a side of togarashi fries. Just do it.) Inventive cocktails, like the Kill Bill, made of shochu, mezcal, and passion fruit, provide extra refreshment in the summer months, and the restaurant’s no-frills counter service means you can get in, get fed, and get to the beach a little faster.

urbanbelly, 1542 North Damen Avenue, Wicker Park, Chicago

The Budlong Hot Chicken

They say revenge is a dish best served cold, but in the case of Nashville hot chicken, it was a dish served extra spicy. What began as an act of revenge — a woman added cayenne pepper to her husband’s fried chicken to punish him for cheating — is now a deliciously addictive fried chicken craze. And in Chicago, it’s best served at The Budlong. Using antibiotic- and hormone-free chickens, the birds are spiced up with cayenne and sauces and served three ways — atop Texas toast, sandwich-style on a brioche bun, or as chicken tenders — and spice levels cater to a wide range of heat tolerances, with naked, classic, hot, and x-hot options. A jam-packed farmhouse salad and house-made sides like mac and cheese, potato salad, collard greens, and fresh-made biscuits round out the menu. Word of advice: Don’t leave without ordering the from-scratch banana pudding, one of the top desserts in the city.

The Budlong Hot Chicken, 1008 West Armitage Avenue, Lincoln Park, Chicago

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