EDGEWATER — Chicago abounds with outdoor eating options during the summer, but no amount of rooftop bars or dog-friendly patios can quite capture the magic of the city like the North Side's beachside cantinas.
Along the sands of Edgewater and Rogers Park, both neighborhoods known for their beaches, small cafés await, some hidden from sight — unless you know where to look.
The sound of waves and gulls are served with each meal, while canopy tops, proximity to the lake, endless views, seclusion and cool breezes transport patrons to a place far away from the city.
The Waterfront Café, Berger Park, Edgewater
A sign at the northeast corner of Granville Avenue and Sheridan Road alludes to The Waterfront Café, and after a short jaunt between some of the North Side's last remaining historic mansions, you will find the Waterfront — both the restaurant and the lake, side-by-side. The unique setting is unlike anywhere in the near vicinity: an indoor coach house and an outdoor patio partially covered by tropical-like trees and floral arrangements. Five nights a week, the eatery hosts live entertainment.
The restaurant is open from 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays and until 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays), with the kitchen closing at 9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays. The menu includes shareable appetizers, fresh salads, summer seafood specialties, a kids menu and dessert, as well as house specials like the 48th Ward wrap (crispy chicken, bacon, avocado, tomato, onion, mixed greens and blackened ranch).
Everything from sangria to Prosecco to beloved beers (Founder's All Day IPA, Revolution's Rosa Hibiscus), to cocktails that pay sweet homage to the neighborhood (the Edgewatermelon: Tito's vodka, watermelon and mint, served frozen with crushed ice) can be found at the bar.
The large wraparound dining patio was about one-third filled on a sunny afternoon. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]
Waterfront couldn't be closer to the lake without being in it. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]
The restaurant is open from 11:30 p.m.-10 p.m. throughout the week on the lakeside of one of Berger Park's mansions. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]
Nacho Mama's Beach Bar, Kathy Osterman Beach, Edgewater
If this is not your favorite place to eat yet, it could be soon. Nacho Mama's Beach Bar sits far back on Kathy Osterman Beach and offers astounding views of Hollywood and Thorndale beaches, as well as sprawling Lake Michigan. Most days, diners can watch a sand volleyball game, or five, or turn around to see the stunning pink Edgewater Beach Apartments standing tall above them. Colorful seating and banners, coupled with the turquoise-blue lake evoke feelings of small resort towns in Florida or México rather than Chicago, save for taking a stroll down to the sand to see the John Hancock Tower in the distance. Nacho Mama's is open from noon-7 p.m. daily, according to its website.
Hungry beachgoers can choose from a menu that contains different nacho and taco creations, chips and guacamole, coconut shrimp and a hot dog. For $12, patrons can sip a frozen margarita, or for $9 can choose from sangria, piña colada, paloma and more. Beer and pop are also available.
Nacho Mama's has great views of Thorndale, Kathy Osterman and Hollywood beaches, as well as the pink Edgewater Beach Apartments. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]
Patrons of Nacho Mama's get access to free Wi-Fi, available through the Chicago Park District at Kathy Osterman Beach, where the restaurant is located. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]
Two customers enjoy an afternoon meal. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]
Crepes On The Beach, Loyola Beach, Rogers Park
Back for its second year, Crepes On The Beach, 1230 W. Greenleaf Ave., is the sister store to Crepes In The Park, a staple in Ravenswood's Welles Park. Except in the case of bad weather, Crepes is open from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. every day, and a fresh coat of cool blue paint matches perfectly with the beach just beyond. A walk-up window makes it easy to order, and a small umbrella-covered patio sign reminds you your hot dog is made from Vienna Beef. Beautiful.
Offering up an array of flavors for both sweet and savory crepes, the menu also has lazy beach day favorites like chips, nachos, ice cream and sandwiches. For $2, you can quench a thirst with a strawberry lemonade or iced coffee.
Crepes On The Beach has another location, Crepes In The Park, in Ravenswood's Welles Park. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]
Located at Loyola Beach, 1230 W. Greenleaf Ave., Crepes On The Beach offers both sweet and savory crepes, as well as lunchtime foods, coffee and snacks. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]
Crepes On The Beach replaced Heartland By The Lake, owned by the Heartland Café, after it decided not to open last year, Crepes' manager said. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]