DOWNTOWN — It might not look like it outside, but some of last year's most popular Chicago Riverwalk spots are ready for summer.
Island Party Hut, a pop-up tiki bar, is now open just east of Columbus Drive on the south riverfront. City Winery, a popular Riverwalk spot last year between State and Dearborn streets, could open as early as Monday, according to its general manager.
The quiet openings mark the beginning of a second season of the Riverwalk, a $100-million project city officials hope will turn Chicago's south riverfront into a destination rivaling the beaches of Lake Michigan. The first leg of the new Riverwalk, a multi-year development, opened last summer between roughly Lake Shore Drive and LaSalle Street.
Wendella Boats and bike rental company Wheel Fun are also expected to open on the Riverwalk as soon as Friday. The full list of 2016 Riverwalk vendors should be announced in the next week or two, according to Eve Rodriguez, a spokeswoman in Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office. The new Riverwalk season should officially begin late next month.
A spinoff of the Island Party Boats that set sail from Monroe Harbor, Island Party Hut served tropical rum-based cocktails and sandwiches last year. City Winery, a restaurant and music venue at 1200 W. Randolph St., found success serving sandwiches, salads, and wine on its riverfront patio last summer.
"The Marina area is such a unique space for local boaters and visitors to tie up along the river's edge and enjoy a taste of City Winery Chicago," Nathan Holgate, City Winery's general manager, said in a statement. "We can't wait to bring what we do in the West Loop with food, wine and music back to the Loop."
City Winery's Riverwalk restaurant will be open from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. daily, with live music from 3-6 p.m. Thursdays-Sundays.
Steve Majerus of Island Party Hut said the tiki bar is doubling in size this year and adding to its menu. The bar will also add games including giant Jenga and Connect Four, Bocce ball, bags and tetherball.
Island Party Hut will also host more live music and allow patrons with boats to pull up and dock right in front of the bar's patio.
David Matthews talks about new developments on the Riverwalk.
Last year "was a huge success and we’re looking forward to an even bigger and better year," Majerus said.
Once complete, the Riverwalk project will fill the south bank of the Chicago River with new retailers from Lake Shore Drive to Lake Street. The project is being financed by a $100 million loan from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Work is expected to be finished by the end of the year.
Here's City Winery's Riverwalk menu for this year:
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