Life's A Beach

Thu. June 28, 2012 12:00 AM
by Rick Karlin

With the Fourth of July falling mid-week this year, most of us won't be enjoying a three-day weekend, so it's important to make the very best use of the time. If the weather's great, head to the beach and soak in some rays (remember the sunscreen) and stare at some nice looking folks wearing little in the way of clothing.

In the past few years, the city has revamped its ban on outdoor dining which has lead to the rise in number and quality of lakefront cafes. It used to be everything had to be prepackaged. Now you can enjoy haute cuisine along the lake, not only as Navy Pier but also all along the lakefront. Check out some of these options, whether on the fourth or later.

Oak St. Beach Food & Drink is over-priced and over-rated. I've yet to have good food or service. It does have killer views and seems to have the best-looking folks of all the places listed. Call (312) 988-4650 or go to oakstreetbeach.com for more info.

Castaways Bar & Grill located at North Avenue Beach is a landmark. It's that building that looks like a boat. The food is mostly sandwiches and fried stuff, but the drinks are strong and the view from the top deck is unbeatable. Parking is a scarce and expensive, it's best to use public trans. Call (773) 281-1200 or check out castawayschicago.com.

The Clock Tower Café , opened this year is the latest incarnation in this space, adjoining the Marovitz golf course at 3600 N Recreation Dr. near Addison east of Lake Shore Drive). It is secluded and thus, usually a relaxing space. A light menu features sandwiches, salads and appetizers all priced less than $10. Metered parking is available nearby. Information is available at cpdgolf.com/Clocktower-Cafe.html or
(312) 742-7930.

The Dock at Montrose Beach is one of my favorite places to dine with a view of the lake. The food is pretty good, the service efficient and the location can't be beat. Located midway between Lakeview and Edgewater it's the perfect place to meet. On top of that, parking is plentiful (there's a HUGE lot) and the dog beach is nearby. The menu features perfect summer fare, snacks, sandwiches and salads. My favorite is the fish taco. For information call (773) 704-8435 or go to thedockatmontrosebeach.com.

Osterman Beach , 5800 N. Sheridan, was formerly known as Hollywood Beach, a much more fitting moniker since it is THE gay beach. It has recently added a new 2,750 square foot building inspired by historic, turn of the century Park District buildings. Parking is non-existent, but you can park at Foster Beach and hike a half mile north. The food's not much to talk about, but the views, panoramic or human are fantastic. Call (312) 742-3224 for more information.

The Waterfront Café , at 6219 N Sheridan in Rogers Park, is little more than a patio with a few picnic tables and a small walk up order station dishing out lackluster sandwiches, salads and desserts along with a little attitude. The one redeeming feature, aside from how quiet it is, is the fact that there are a number of options for vegetarians. Call (773) 761-3294 or go to waterfrontcafechicago.com.

Hyde Park Lake Shore Café , 4900 S Lake Shore Dr., is technically not on the beach, but the view is great and given the lack of lake front dining options on the south side, a must try. Located in a Ramada Inn, the menu is a bit pricier than you'll pay on the beach, but you'll also get to enjoy the outstanding seafood buffet on Friday evening. Call (773 288-5815 or go to hydeparklakeshorecafe.com.

Parrot Cage Restaurant , located on the grounds of the South Shore Country Club, 7059 S South Shore Dr., is operated by the Washburne Culinary Institute, and serves as a training facility for its students. Not exactly on the beach, but there's a great view of the lake and skyline from the outdoor patio. Dinner is served Wednesday and Thursday (entrees average $20), brunch on Sunday (buffet $25). Call (773) 602-5333 or go to