Traveling to Chicago 9/15-9/19 - Or should we?

Hello all - my sister and i have tix to go to Chicago 9/15 - 9/19. I’m still on the fence about canceling for obvious reasons. We’re both vaccinated. Mostly afraid to be on a plane/in the airport. We plan to ONLY eat outdoors, not go to any music venues (sob!), no crowded areas, double-masking on plane/at airport, etc. We hope to visit the Art Institute as I feel that because it’s so spacious with tall ceilings, we’d be ok(?), and an architectural river tour because it’s outside, but hoping they’re not letting as many people on those to socially distance. I’d love to visit art galleries too, but that will depend on how crowded they get.

So, all that said, I’d love some recs for restaurants with outdoor seating. On my last trip with the BF, we did Sable, Topolobampo, Lou Malnati’s, Bavette and Boeuf, Al’s Beef, Purple Pig (which I loved, BF and I went twice), Yusho’s (terrible) and a couple other places I’m not remembering now.

We don’t need Mexican as we’re in California (San Francisco Bay Area). Anything else is good, high to low end (though I’m not sure what high end places are serving outdoors. No Alinea for us.) We only have probably about 9-10 meals total (we don’t usually eat bfast AND lunch, but we could.) I read that Blackbird closed (sad!) which is a bummer because i wanted to try that… Is The Publican still recommended? Hermosa? Porto? Soulé? Tzuco? (yeah i know it’s Mexican…) Smythe? Can you tell i’m looking at Eater 38? and yeah, I know that’s not always the best reference for a city’s must-eats, but i thought i’d ask. Gaijin? S.K.Y? Ming Hin? We love sushi, but how many sushi bars are doing outdoor seating?

we plan to walk around in different neighborhoods as our main entertainment since we want to be mostly outdoors. We’re staying at the Allerton, downtown.

If anyone thinks we should not even do this, please say so! i’m open to hearing both sides.


Here’s this if you guys go.
Great folks there.
My friend visited Chicago just a couple of weeks ago to attend the Jon Anderson concert and had a fantastic time, no problems.


This is an old thread but it includes some notes from a trip I took in 2019.

Remember 2019 ? :disappointed: Good times.

I loved the architect tour and don’t remember it feeling crowed outside. Couldn’t figure out why so many people were crammed *inside. * I guess it was cold.


thank you!

i loved the architectural tour too! My sister has never been to Chicago, which is why i’d do it again.


Greater Boston HOs probably know that we skew towards liberal in terms of travel, as we have made several trips during the pandemic, mostly road trips to Maine. If your greatest fear is the airport/plane, I think you should be ok if you and seester stay masked the entire time and don’t eat or drink during the flight. Here’s B’s take on it (he is a healthcare professional at Man’s Greatest Hospital) - get N95 masks rather than double-masking. Consider all the healthcare professionals who are treating COVID patients - the N95 is probably their most important safeguard against getting sick.

We are in Iceland now, for the second time this year. We chose Iceland for both trips because of their restrictive policies towards foreign visitors (proof of vaccination and a COVID test within 72 hours of traveling) and for the ability to do nearly everything outdoors. Flying out of Logan, we haven’t witnessed any of the passenger hijinks that makes the nightly news. Here in the Iceland, it’s a mixed bag who is wearing masks (seems like it’s mostly other Europeans who are more lax than North Americans/Asians).

As a former Chicagoan, I am thrilled you are considering Chicago as your first trip. I haven’t been back to Chicago since 2018, so I have no idea what the lay of the land is right now in terms of restaurants (one of my closest friends lives there and she’s been ultra-conservative - she’s a new mom and very protective of her little one so I can’t get advice from her). One music venue you might consider is the Hideout. I am a big fan of theirs and they have been extremely conservative, closing down completely during the pandemic and cautiously re-opening. And you just missed the outdoor Wilco/Sleater-Kinney show.

I look forward to hearing what you decide (and a trip report if you decide to go).


Completely agree - had recently a virologist at work who gave some recommendations. He mentioned that he wouldn’t fly at this point but if you really need to he recommends using a N95 mask and don’t eat or drink during the flight at all.


We have N95s for the plane/airport, so all good there. Not going to music venues at all. Which is a shame because live music is one of our favorite things. But we don’t want to be stupid about this.

I loved Chicago the first time, 5 yrs ago, and I wanted my sister to enjoy it too. Too bad it’ll be under these circumstances, but we’ll make the best of it!


Yep, we planned on eating a full meal before we get on the plane, at home.


thanks so much for the list - we’ll track a bunch of those down to see if they are serving outdoors. i was happy to see Purple Pig was on the list of locals’ favorites! sadly, the lists all seem to be at least 3 years old…

I am not from Chicago but I used to go all the time for business in the before days. Purple Pig was one of my favorites. Girl & the Goat is another amazing casual spot. The West Loop has become one of the most interesting neighborhoods for me to explore.


They were one of the first CH spinoffs, always in trouble for being too chatty and having meetups, so they created their own space.

1 Like

I have never had a bad meal at Publican, though it has been a couple of years. I also have to plug my brother’s bar/restaurant, Pops for Champagne, although I don’t think they have any outdoor seating. They are doing upscale bar snacks only at the moment, so it’s a great place to pop in for a glass of something and a nibble if you are in the area.


thanks for that re Publican!

your brother’s bar sounds like the kind of place we would LOVE… in different times. :cry:

1 Like

yeah, i like the vibe, too bad it isn’t more up-to-date.

Three venerable names in our Chicago rut are walkable from your hotel: Billy Goat Tavern Lower Michigan, Gene and Georgetti, Giordano’s on North Rush.

1 Like

The Publican was the last meal we had in Chicago and it was CROWDED and punishingly loud. So loud that it was difficult to focus on the food and I know we enjoyed it but can’t even remember what we had.

I can’t believe your brother owns Pops for Champagne! What a Chicago institution (one that is well-esteemed, not resting on its laurels). Not a place that I could afford when I was but a Scallion in her 20’s and just scraping by but a place that I would to visit as a grown-up.


The last time I was in Chicago I got to Au Cheval at opening at 11:00 and had their famous burger and a Bloody Mary. Excellent start to the day, but it’s small, so if you are wary of close quarters might not be the place currently.


Well, he doesn’t, exactly. Two of his friends from culinary school bought it a few years back, and brought him on as executive chef and minority partner. It’s just easier to say “my brother’s restaurant,” LOL. I agree that they are not resting on their laurels, though - baby bro has done a great job with menu development (or at least he had done, pre-COVID), and their beverage director is terrific. I have had a lot of really interesting bubblies there. They were also in the middle of a big refurbishment project to update the overall look of the space before COVID got in the way, although when I was there earlier this year it looked like they had made some good progress despite all of the obstacles.


thanks! do you know if any of them are doing outdoor seating?

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold

Market stall in Lima
Credit: TXMX 2