While many Chicagoans are enjoying the mild summer drinking “al fresco, ” you can have your booze, throw in a rooftop view and gourmet Greek appetizers and spend the evening drinking “al Greco.”
The best known of the Grecian rooftop vistas is brought to you by the Pegasus Restaurant, at 130 South Halsted. While sipping your favorite beverage, you are afforded the type of urban view that brings to mind the storied vistas of a luxury Manhattan veranda. But instead of the East River and towers of Gotham, the black sheen of the Sears Tower and the West Loop developments either glow in the setting sun or sparkle with white lights. As you shift your view to the street below, you can spy on the hustle and bustle of late-night Greektown. The late-night crowd usually includes interesting combinations of gals in low-cut dresses and guys trying their best to bring back the days of Miami Vice. The wine list includes more than fifty selections from Greece, Australia, France and the United States, but they can be pricey. House wines or Greek favorites like retsina, however, can be sipped for $5 a glass. Though logistical problems have eliminated Pegasus’ full dinner menu from the third-story patio, you can still munch on appetizers like Mezedakia (baby lamb chops), Kavourokeftedes (oven-baked crab cakes), Saganaki (flaming cheese) and Kalamarako Yemisto (stuffed squid with spinach, feta cheese, herbs in a tomato wine sauce), as well as standbys like gyros, taramasalata and baklava. All of these dishes are less than ten dollars and they beat the hell out of wings, frozen pizza, chili and mini-burgers.
For a tastier, full menu of food, cheaper drinks, but a less-spectacular view you can head northwest to the Veranda Char House at 5700 West Irving Park. The third-story rooftop affords a laid-back view of Portage Park bungalows and Irving Park traffic. Still, there is nothing better than gazing at the sky and watching the city lights while the cool evening breeze wafts gently past. The alcohol only makes the experience more relaxing and vivid.
Catering to the Portage Park crowd, the Veranda features Polish (Zywiec and Okocim) beers as well as Heineken, Becks and the usual Buds and Millers. The wine list includes American and Greek selections, but the price list, at $4.25 a glass, affords less sipping and more drinking. For the summer-drink lovers and those who are still trying to relive spring break, the Veranda serves an assortment of “fu fu” drinks including frozen daiquiris, margaritas, mudslides and pina coladas. Most importantly, the rooftop area offers a full menu. The owner is a former Greektown cook, so items like saganaki, grilled calamari, tzatziki and souvlaki have Greektown taste at neighborhood prices. If you are really hungry, they offer steaks, chops and seafood, but why fill yourself up on the roof? Instead, sip, drink, nibble, look at the lights, try to find a star or two and come home feeling that you have experienced yet another outdoor joy of summer. Before you know it, you’ll be waiting for a bus in a snowstorm. (David Witter)
Pegasus Restaurant, 130 South Halsted, (312)226-3377; Veranda Char House, 5700 West Irving Park