One of my favorite things about summer in the Chicagoland area is dining al fresco! My kids beg to eat outdoors daily as soon as the temperature hits 50 degrees; therefore, we have explored many different outdoor dining options in McHenry County. Here is a list of a few favorites for the whole family that combine tasty food (that somebody else is cooking!), a kid-friendly atmosphere, and a pretty outdoor space to revel in the summer months.
Benedict’s La Strata
40 N. Williams Street, Crystal Lake | 815-459-6500
My family’s proclaimed favorite, Benedict’s La Strata offers an extensive menu for adults and kids, friendly service, and a large outdoor seating area overlooking Williams Street in historic Crystal Lake. I have truly never had a meal at Benedict’s that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy, and even the pickiest eater will be happy here. Sunday brunch does get busy, so be prepared to call ahead or wait in the plaza outside for a few minutes before being seated. Please note that Benedict’s is open daily for breakfast and lunch, and dinner is only offered on Friday and Saturday evenings (and is just as delicious as brunch!)
The Broken Oar
614 Rawson Bridge Road, Port Barrington | 847-639-9468
When I first visited the Broken Oar, I couldn’t believe that we were in McHenry County, Ilinois. With views of the Fox River located in a secluded space, this restaurant felt like we had traveled to Northern Wisconsin but with more Bears fans. The eclectic mix of bikers, boaters, and families give off a true vacation vibe…the bands, friendly service, and people/boat watching ensure that your family will be entertained while enjoying an outdoor meal with your toes in the cool sand.
6 East Crystal Lake Avenue, Crystal Lake | 815-459-7520
The “Cheers” of Crystal Lake, The Cottage is a restaurant and pub with a fun and warm vibe and a sizable outdoor seating area. Popcorn and peanuts are immediately available to tame the hunger temper-tantrum beast, plus crayons and a yummy kids menu make this an obvious family-friendly choice. Pizza and sandwiches are great here, and the reasonable prices help keep this an economical night out. Go there often enough, and everybody will know your name.
Duke’s Alehouse and Kitchen
110 N. Main Street, Crystal Lake | 815-356-9980
Dubbed an “eco-conscious gastropub”, Duke’s is a flavorful restaurant with local and organic American food, and over 150 beers offered. The outdoor patio is great for families. Sundays at noon, bring your kids to the free Fruits and Veggies class (ages 4-8) to learn and have fun while you and your spouse enjoy a date lunch without paying a sitter! (Pre-registration is recommended, as this does sell out.) Weekends here are busy, so get there early to avoid a wait. After dinner, check out the Crystal Lake Brewing Company, which is just steps away, and is in the final stages of completing their outdoor patio as well.
Port Edward Restaurant
20 W. Algonquin Road, Algonquin | 847-658-5441
Another riverfront favorite since 1964, Port Edward is a unique nautical-themed seafood restaurant that even has an indoor floating boat table; this place oozes character! The Sunday champagne brunch will give you your fill of all-you-can-eat seafood, and sitting outside on the recently enlarged patio keeps the kids happy as well. Port Edward has been voted the best seafood restaurant in McHenry County for more than six years running and is the perfect spot to relax over a family meal.
Tracks Bar and Grill
108 W. Main Street, Cary | 847-639-6064
With over 25 burgers offered, as well as other sandwiches and salads, this is a place the whole family will love. The burgers are outstanding (and locally famous), and the outdoor patio seating allows you to enjoy dinner as you look out onto quaint downtown Cary. On Wednesday evenings during the summer months, Tracks sponsors “Cary Cruise Night” from 6:00 – 8:30 p.m., where different car type/themes are featured for the night to check out right outside of the restaurant. Fun for the whole family, especially your car aficionados.
Vickie’s Place Restaurant and Tropical Bar
1211 N. River Road, McHenry | 815-385-2014
Vickie’s is a fun stop on the river that truly makes you feel like you are on vacation right here in our very own McHenry. A laid-back, tropical vibe with daily drink specials and a considerable menu, this is a summer stop that you shouldn’t miss! (Perhaps on your way to the McHenry Outdoor Theater?) Warning – after watching the boats pass for hours, you may get a bug in your bonnet about buying one for your family, which could make this a VERY expensive meal!
Well, what are you waiting for? Before you know it, the kids will be back in school and the weather will be getting cooler. Make the most of these gorgeous summer nights. and get outside to dine and take advantage of what McHenry County has to offer!