As the birthplace of the skyscraper, Chicago lays claim to an architecturally renowned skyline, with icons like the Wrigley Building, John Hancock Center and Marina City, famous as the setting of a Steve McQueen chase scene in the movie The Hunter.
One of the greatest ways for attendees to savor the skyline—and some of the city’s hippest food and drink—is on the many rooftops overlooking the magnificent setting.
Following are five deliciously cool havens for “elevated” events in Chicago.
One of Chicago’s most spectacular hotel restorations, completed in 2016, has resulted in one of the city’s most dramatic “sky-high” event experiences. The venue, the only tri-level rooftop in Chicago, is set atop LondonHouse Chicago Hotel, housed in a 1923 commercial skyscraper.
“The LH Rooftop serves as the ‘crown’ to the landmark London Guarantee Building and former home of the infamous London House Jazz Club,” said John Belter, director of food and beverage at LondonHouse Chicago. “It has unprecedented views of the Chicago River and its historic bridges looking west and views of the Chicago skyline unmatched by any other rooftop in the city.”
An added treat for groups is the ornate copula on the rooftop, according to Belter, which has been a one-of-a-kind backdrop for everything from marriage proposals to private wine dinners.
Meanwhile, the stellar rooftop menu has food and drink to match.
“Chef Jacob Verstegen, recently named a ‘Top 30 under 30 Rising Star’ by Hotel Management Magazine, leads our culinary team, and his menu reflects his twist on reimagined American cuisine while staying true to his passion of only using sustainable seafood,” Belter said, adding that Verstegen changes his menu several times a year to present guests with seasonal creations. “The LH Rooftop also features several large-format cocktails that are great for table sharing.”
LH on 22 opens for the season May 1 and accommodates up to 300 people for a private reception.
Another gorgeous perspective of Chicago—views and ambience included—awaits attendees gathering at Cindy’s, the rooftop restaurant and open-air terrace of the hip Chicago Athletic Association Hotel. How about a setting straight out of a Great Lakes Beach House (including the string lights and picnic tables), an awesome panorama of Millennium Park, Lake Michigan and the Art Institute of Chicago, and seasonally inspired comfort food, bio-dynamic wines and craft cocktails, including large-format apothecary creations?
“For a rooftop restaurant with an exemplary food program that complements the breathtaking views of Millennium Park and Lake Michigan, Cindy’s is unlike so many restaurants in Chicago, let alone Michigan Avenue, for its versatility and adaptability with events,” said Vicki Poplin, director of sales and marketing for the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel. “We’re considered a summer destination, but with an enclosed-glass roof that is reminiscent of being in a snow globe, the winter wonderland aspect continues through the colder months.”
The venue’s beverage program is a true standout, according to Poplin.
“Spirit Guide Nandini Khaund leads the bar program, serving guests a list of Potions + Elixirs, inventive takes on cocktails that are inspired by travel, science and classic apothecary,” she said. “Khaund’s cocktails are whimsical and thought-provoking, with ingredients such as activated charcoal in the Reanimator.”
The cuisine is another high point, she added.
“Executive Chef Christian Ragano and Chef de Cuisine Keith Potter create an elevated menu of shareable plates that are driven by seasonally inspired ingredients from Chicago’s Green City Market and even from Cindy’s very own rooftop garden,” Poplin said. “Particularly special, Ragano introduces groups of all sizes to his adaptation of traditionally shore-inspired starters, such as Cindy’s Shellfish Platter and Skuna Bay salmon.”
Cindy’s has several spaces for private and semi-private events, and can accommodate up to 125 seated and 150 for a reception.
Conrad Chicago Hotel sets the stage for the city’s only Japanese-style rooftop venue, boasting a panoramic skyline and Michigan Avenue views, as well as a distinctive dining experience in partnership with world-renowned chef Richard Sandoval.
“Noyane, which means hidden roof in Japanese, offers contemporary Japanese cuisine, craft cocktails and stunning Chicago skyline views,” said Lynda Simonetti, restaurant event manager at Conrad Chicago. “We offer a selection of artfully prepared maki rolls and shareable snacks, barbecue bites and hot stone Wagyu options. The beverage program draws inspiration from Japanese pop music, which is reflected through the vibrant concoctions and usage of playful glassware and garnishes, with a wide selection of Japanese sakes, beers and whiskies.”
Complemented by Japanese decor, Noyane is anchored by a large central bar and a sculptural fire fixture, and a bar-height fire pit table and various seating options make the layout flexible for events, Simonetti added.
Noyane, open seasonally, can accommodate groups of up to 115 for seated meals and up to 202 for receptions.
Chicago in the golden era of Art Deco is reflected in The Gwen, an iconic downtown property whose facade was created by sculptor Gwen Lux in 1928. Set along the Magnificent Mile, Upstairs at The Gwen, the hotel’s rooftop venue, crafts artistically inspired cocktails along with signature cuisine and dishes out unique skyline views.
“While there are many open-air rooftops in Chicago, there are very few that are as centrally located as The Gwen,” said Marcus Cornelious, the property’s director of sales and marketing. “Upstairs at The Gwen carries over the lobby’s elegant Art Deco-inspired design to the outdoors, with pops of color against a cool, neutral color scheme. Guests can enjoy the rooftop year-round, thanks to color-changing heat lamps and fire pit accents.”
Cornelious said the food and drink program at The Gwen makes for memorable events infused with character and flair.
“The Gwen’s menu of signature cocktails draws inspiration from artistic works and styles, from the Renaissance movement to contemporary pop and street art,” he said. “In addition, the menu pays homage to pioneer Chicago sculptor Gwen Lux with a namesake cocktail.”
Upstairs at The Gwen can accommodate groups of up to 200 people.
With a retractable glass roof and walls, I|O Godfrey, the sprawling rooftop lounge at The Godfrey Hotel Chicago, is one of the city’s hottest year-round spots for private events.
“What makes I|O Godfrey so different is our intimate positioning within the city,” said Sandi Robinson, director of sales at the The Godfrey. “We are mid-level on the hotel’s fourth floor, so you feel like you are in the heart of the city versus on top of it. Everyone is used to seeing the city from up above or down below, but when you are in the middle, you have a different appreciation for Chicago.”
The cocktail program at I|O Godfrey also sets the venue apart, according to Robinson.
“We have been fortunate enough to have a phenomenal executive chef who understands the science of food and spirits,” she said, pointing to Nathaniel Cayer, who leads the food and beverage team at the rooftop restaurant. “This science allows for consistency every time you are here. Our cocktails are crafted from recipes created by our chefs in the kitchen.”
The venue designs cocktails that have up to 16 ingredients and serves a supper club-esque menu of upscale American fare.
“Pretty much everything is made in-house, from the pastas down to the mayo,” Robinson said.
With 8,500 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space, I|O Godfrey can accommodate groups of up to 750.