It’s summertime in Chicago, which means it’s prime time for everyone’s favorite patio-friendly food and drinks. From ice cream and New Orleans–style Sno-Balls to picnic-ready burgers and spritzy cocktails, this is what you should be sampling this season.
Somer Socials at Somerset
With an acclaimed pastry chef like Meg Galus manning the ice cream cart, it’s a safe bet that Somerset’s new Somer Socials will indeed be scream-worthy. They’re happening every Sunday, 5–7 p.m., all season long, and Galus is slinging special confections from her cart on the restaurant’s patio—perfect for passersby in need of a refreshing dessert or diners looking to linger. Offerings change weekly, but rest assured they’ll always be as delicious as they are unique. For example: brown sugar cookie dough, toasted marshmallow, peaches and cream, and mint chocolate fudge. She will also have sorbet, frozen Greek yogurt, custard bars, ice cream sandwiches, and push pops.
If you haven’t yet tried the burger at Mini Mott, now is a good time to do so. The Logan Square restaurant, a casual offshoot of Mott Street, has rolled out its summer-long Farmers’ Market Burger, which changes weekly based on what fresh ingredients are available at the market right outside. Additionally, Mini Mott has introduced a quaint Picnic on the Square promo, allowing customers to order their meal and borrow a blanket from the restaurant to enjoy on the adjacent greenway. All supplies will be provided, and all you need to do is bring the blanket back when you’re done!
Pat’s Pizza at Pizza City
Pizza City continues to shake up the Loop lunch scene with its ever-changing lineup of pizzeria pop-ups from some of Chicago’s most revered restaurants. Inspired by Steve Dolinsky, a seasoned pizza pro and author of Pizza City, USA, the rotating roster is home to Pat’s Pizza, June 17–September 15. The Lincoln Park–based restaurant is legendary for its thin-crust, tavern-style pie, something sorely lacking in downtown Chicago, where deep-dish dominates the tourist traps. Look for pizzas like the Pat’s Special, with sausage, mushrooms, onions, and green peppers.
Sno-Balls at Ina Mae Tavern & Packaged Goods
Just in time for the sickening summer humidity, Ina Mae Tavern & Packaged Goods is here to save the sweltering day! As a native of New Orleans, chef Brian Jupiter knows a thing or two about keeping cool in the heat, so he’s serving up a taste of his hometown with a lineup of refreshing Sno-Balls, a fluffy shaved ice treat drizzled with flavored syrups and fruit. Available from the sidewalk walk-up window for on-the-go snacking or for diners inside the bar, Sno-Balls come in such flavors as Bywater Boho (fresh pineapple, cilantro, lime) and Zulu Ball (coconut milk, blueberry), as well as decadent “stuffed” variations like the Ultimate Peach Cobbler, with fresh peaches and shaved ice topped with soft-serve, flambéed peaches, whipped cream, cookie crumble, and caramel drizzle. Customizable Sno-Balls are also available, so feel free to pick whatever house-made syrup, fruit, ice cream, and topping you’d like.
Brunch at JoJo’s Milk Bar
If its mile-high, lavishly garnished, boozy milkshakes are any indication, JoJo’s Milk Bar is all about excess. This holds true for the restaurant’s newly launched brunch menu, which eschews your run-of-the-mill breakfast fare in favor of over-the-top options like a challah bread bowl filled with tomato sauce and eggs—basically, it’s shakshuka-meets-Panera. Other options include fried chicken “fries” atop waffle fries; orange cream mimosas; Wonder Bowl parfaits with Greek yogurt, granola, and bee pollen; and even brunch shots like Pancake House and Sundae Funday. Brunch is served Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m.–2 p.m.
Spritzes at the Allis
Year after year, the almighty Aperol Spritz gains more momentum and further cements itself as summer’s quintessential libation. Want more proof? The Allis has rolled out an entire drink list dedicated to the cocktail. There are five options on hand, from the classic rosy-hued Aperol variation to fruit-centric choices, like the peachy Peche Mode.
Sanguches at Cabra
In case you’re having trouble snagging a table at the West Loop’s red-hot Cabra, the rooftop restaurant just added lunch hours, which should assuage the daily wait times—maybe. Of course, this being a Stephanie Izard restaurant, it won’t be your standard lunch outing. Rather, the Peruvian-inspired effort features dishes like salmon huancaina dip with duck fat crackers and sweet potato chips, and Swiss chard empanadas with chimichurri. Then there are the sanguches, aka Peruvian-style sandwiches, available in hearty options like skirt steak with huancina and pickled aji, or chicken with aji-strawberry jam, asadero cheese, and amarillo mayo.
Burgers at Publican Quality Meats
One of my favorite summer pastimes is the weekly PQM Burger Night series at Publican Quality Meats, wherein two chefs/restaurants compete against each other for beefy glory. Each Tuesday through August 20, the chefs whip up their most creative burgers, to be offered on the menu from 6 to 9 p.m. At the end of the night, whichever burger sells the most is the winner. But with a culinary lineup like this one, there’s really no losing. Some examples of Burger Nights coming up: All Together Now vs. Ludlow Liquors on June 18, Quiote vs. Birrieria Zaragoza on July 2, Bayan Ko vs. Kimski/Marz Community Brewing Co. on July 23, Spinning J vs. Lost Larson on August 6, and Cafe Marie-Jeanne vs. Leña Brava on August 13.
Lunch at Margeaux Brasserie
It’s easy to pretend like you’re lunching along the Seine thanks to Margeaux Brasserie, as the Gold Coast restaurant just introduced weekday lunch service with a whole range of elegant French options. Parisian turkey clubs, blue crab and endive salad, grilled chicken paillard, spice-seared tuna, croque monsieurs, and Valrhona chocolate macarons are just a sampling of Margeaux’s midday offerings.
Summer Cocktails at Kaisho
With ingredients like chrysanthemum vodka, yuzu juice, coconut milk, ginger shochu, and kumquats, it’s safe to say that the new cocktails at Kaisho, the casual izakaya inside Yugen, are some of the most quenching libations in town this season. The handiwork of head bartender Stella Miller, the summery newcomers include Kanso, which mixes rum and kabosu juice with vanilla syrup; Datsuzoku, with pisco, melons, suze, and Hitachino yuzu lager foam; Kawaii, with aged rum, coconut milk, ginger shochu, and matcha; and Fukinsei, a fruity blend of Japanese whiskey, peated pineapple, Dolin Rouge vermouth, and Cherry Heering.
All the Barbecue at Windy City Smokeout
There are many food festivals to hit up this summer, but if there’s one to put on your calendar, make it the Windy City Smokeout. Between the country music and the boatloads of barbecue, it doesn’t get more summery than this. Hosted by Bub City and Joe’s Bar, the wildly popular event features big-name country performers across three days (this year: July 12–14), with dishes from restaurants both local and country-wide. Plus: so much beer! New this year, the Smokeout will take place outside the United Center, which should free up more space for more meat.