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20 Things to Eat and Drink This Summer in Chicago

Granita, fried chicken and tequila cocktails
May 29, 2017
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by Matt Kirouac

With summer's official start just around the corner, cravings shift toward seasonal sensations — gelato, fried chicken and frozen cocktails, to name a few. So, of course, new dishes and drinks abound all over town. Here’s what you'll want to be eating and sipping this summer in Chicago. 

Passport-themed cocktails at Drumbar
On the heels of its recent Netflix-inspired menu, Streeterville's Drumbar unveils another batch of innovative cocktails spearheaded by beverage director Whitney Morrow — passport-themed drinks. They include the Bolivia, made with the country's native spirit Singani. Derived from the Muscat of Alexandria grape, it's a vibrant, smooth liquor, and Drumbar uses Singani 63, a brand owned by filmmaker Steven Soderbergh. Morrow pairs it with cumin liquor, pineapple, olive oil and egg whites. Other drinks include Thailand, a smoky-sweet mash-up of scotch, coconut milk, fresh mango purée, lime juice and a sticky rice cordial; and Maine, an homage to Morrow's home state with Templeton rye, lemon, rosemary vermouth, rum and Lapsang den tea with Allagash beer foam and a spray of Laphroaig scotch malt whiskey. 

201 E. Delaware Pl.; 312-933-4805

Spanish octopus at The Winchester
With Tom Van Lente newly helming the kitchen at this East Village gem, The Winchester is well equipped to put a unique spin on seasonal, fresh fare. One dish that’s sure to be a highlight this summer is his seared Spanish octopus, a hearty plate with radicchio, oranges, celery, parsley, spiced almonds and sherry-Dijon vinaigrette. 

1001 N. Winchester Ave.; 773-698-8703

Revolution "Gagelicious" Golden Ale at The Gage
In honor of The Gage's 10th anniversary, the Downtown restaurant partnered with local Revolution Brewery to create a commemorative beer to be poured all summer long at The Gage and its sister spots. The aptly dubbed "Gagelicious" Golden Ale is quintessential summer sipping in a pint glass: crisp, refreshing and luscious. 

24 S. Michigan Ave.; 312-372-4243
 

Granita at Eataly
From hot chocolate in the winter to Italian Easter cakes in spring, Eataly has a talent for showcasing the seasons. For summer, this means granitas, smooth slushielike concoctions in flavors both traditional and contemporary. Options include lemon, mint and wild cherry, along with novel versions like Negroni and peach Bellini. 

43 E. Ohio St.; 312-521-8700

Fried chicken and sno-cones at Eight Bar and Patio
Eight Bar and Patio may be the best destination in town for summery snacks. The highlight of the seasonal menu is chef Danny Grant’s “secret recipe” fried chicken, which he tested all winter in preparation for the patio months. Most of the recipe is a secret, but the chicken is fried in beef fat and served with a fresno chile hot sauce. For something sweet, Eight Bar has Fernet daiquiris, along with 40-oz. bottles of rosé.

8 W. Maple St.; 312-944-8888

Picnic-ready delivery at Seaside's
The new carryout- and delivery-only restaurant from the folks behind Oyster Bah have got your fried chicken, lobster roll and ribs cravings covered this year. The new addition makes it easy to bring food to picnics or outdoor concerts, be it Ravinia, Millennium Park or anything in-between. Don’t forget to punctuate your order with a whopping slice of coconut cake. 

1962 N. Halsted St.; 773-248-1749

Rosé gelato at MAD Social
There's only one way summer’s staple drink, rosé, could get any better — gelato. MAD Social is dishing out 2017’s ultimate dessert with its rosé gelato, made with wine and strawberries, then topped with more fresh berries, Italian pistachio icing and fresh mint. Each bowl also comes with a little glass of bubbly Brut rosé, because why not?

1140 W. Madison St.; 312-243-2097

Matcha and Okinawa black sugar ice cream sandwiches at Izakaya at Momotaro
It's not summer until ice cream sandwiches make an appearance. Using house-ground matcha and Okinawa black sugar (separately), the West Loop restaurant Izakaya at Momotaro gives a distinct Japanese accent to this all-American staple. The ice cream is sandwiched between fudgy dark chocolate brownies, which provides a nice contrast to the herbal, aromatic fillings. 

820 W. Lake St.; 312-733-4818

Shrimp and cucumber salad at Joy District
Summer's not all about ice cream and tropical cocktails. Refreshing nourishment can be had in the form of inventive salads. One of the best this season is the Asian-accented version at Joy District. Outfitted with poached tiger shrimp, toasted cashews, lotus root, Thai basil, red onion and cucumber, this is one salad with more than enough texture and flavor to distract you from the fact that it's a salad.

112 W. Hubbard St.; 312-955-0339

Cocktails at DryHop Brewers 
The Lakeview brewpub DryHop, already beloved for its beer, is trying its hand at crafty cocktails. Two highlights that have “summer sipping” written all over them include Doctor’s Orders, a quenching tequila drink with mezcal, pineapple syrup, fresh carrot juice, lemon juice, chocolate walnut bitters and ancho chile cocoa salt. There’s a lot going on there, with toasty qualities from the chile and chocolate, and smart contrast from the carrot and pineapple. Then there’s the You’re My Boy Blue!, which doubles down with two kinds of tequila, plus blueberry-infused agave syrup, lemon juice and orange bitters. This one’s refreshing, slightly sweet and punchlike. 

3155 N. Broadway St.; 773-857-3155

Ice cream treats at Cocoa + Co.
From ice cream sandwiches to affogato, there’s plenty to pour over (pun intended) at Old Town’s dessert wonderland. New seasonal sensations at Cocoa + Co. include ice cream sandwiches made with local Homers ice cream in flavors like peppermint, coffee toffee and chocolate chocolate chip. There are also elderflower matcha lattes, morning glory breakfast bars studded with cherries, nuts and dark chocolate, and affogato, basically an Italian float of vanilla ice cream and espresso. 

1651 N. Wells St.; 312-624-8540

Turmeric tonic at Werewolf Coffee Bar
One of summer's more unusual drinks is the turmeric tonic at newly opened Werewolf Coffee Bar. Served on tap, the brightly colored beverage is ice cold, refreshing and nourishing thanks to turmeric’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities. The spice itself lends a hint of warm, currylike flavor, which goes down smooth in fizzy tonic form. 

1765 N. Elston Ave.; 773-977-7673

Goi ga xoai at Le Colonial
The perfect way to beat the heat is with a giant bowl of goi ga xoai at Le Colonial. The Gold Coast staple fills the dish to the brim with grilled chicken, mango, tomatoes, cucumber and pineapple, tossed with red wine vinegar–soy dressing. It’s the summer salad to end all summer salads. 

937 N. Rush St.; 312-255-0088

Frozen drinks at Bunny Slope
When this ski lodge–themed hot tub bar emerged over the winter, the bill of fare featured primarily warming sippers like mulled wine and hot chocolate cocktails. Now Bunny Slope is cooling off with frozen drinks, like the Riesling-based Freeze-Ling and the Aprés Ski, featuring rum, creme de cacao, Averna and cream. 

15 E. Ohio St.; 312-894-0800

Salmon at Chop Shop
Just in time to maximize its clandestine rooftop patio, Chop Shop's added vibrant new menu items. From boozy orange soda slushies to balsamic-splashed burrata, there's lots to sample at this butcher shop–restaurant hybrid. A highlight is the Scottish salmon, enlivened with orange, pickled fennel, red wine gastrique and toasted pine nuts. With notes of sour, fruit, nuts and acidity, you've never tasted salmon quite like this. 

2033 W. North Ave.; 773-537-4440

Freeze pops at Primehouse
As part of its candy shop pop-up June 30–July 2, Primehouse is cooling things down with freeze pops. The chilly treats will be served on the restaurant's bustling patio, with flavors for adults (strawberry-rosé), available during happy hour from 4–6 PM, and for everyone (lemon-lime and blackberry creamsicle), on deck from 12–2 PM. Retro candies like lemon drops and color dots will also be available, with a portion of proceeds going toward Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation. 

616 N. Rush St.; 312-660-6000

Greek yogurt cocktail at Ēma
​There's a lot to get excited about on Ēma's new cocktail menu, courtesy of the always inventive Julian Cox. The list is the perfect counterpart to chef CJ Jacobson's Mediterranean and Middle Eastern fare. The Balm.com is a riff on breakfast — a vodka and cachaça creation splashed with housemade blueberry syrup, coconut syrup, lemon balm and the kicker: Greek yogurt made in-house. The yogurt lends a silky body and a puckery tartness to balance out the sweetness of the syrups. 

74 W. Illinois St.; 312-527-5586

Summer drinks at Argo Tea
Iced tea is a summer classic, and Argo Tea has some of the best. New for the season, cold-brew tea is an innovative method that results in a silky-smooth tea with no bitterness that can result from overbrewing. The shops use premium loose-leaf teas from India and Japan, with a dose of pure cane sugar. The chain also has a few special offerings and signatures, like the jasmine TeaMosa, which mixes naturally steeped loose-leaf jasmine tea with fresh-squeezed juice — sort of like a mimosa, but energizing. Then there's hibiscus tea sangria, the ultimate summer quencher packed with apples and citrus. 

Multiple locations

Key lime panna cotta at South Water Kitchen
For those craving a dessert that tastes like a beach vacation, South Water Kitchen has just the thing. Courtesy of chef Roger Waysok, the Key lime panna cotta accents the tart, sugary custard with blackberry compote and toasted coconut. 

225 N. Wabash Ave.; 312-236-9300

Banana leaf sundae at Dos Urban Cantina
Pastry chef Jennifer Jones Enyart showcases her penchant for ingenuity in this latest confection, the banana leaf sundae. Inspired by Yucatan sweet corn tamales, wrapped in fragrant banana leaves, Enyart makes her own banana leaf ice cream and serves it atop a bed of shortbreadlike masa-harina cookie crumble. A drizzle of charred corn cream lends a savory, smoky note to counter the tropical sweetness. 

2829 W. Armitage Ave.; 773-661-6452

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