5 places to dine and drink outdoors
By LINDSAY WEBER - firstname.lastname@example.org
As the weather gets warmer, people are emerging from their winter hibernation to enjoy all things outdoors. In a county with an abundance of waterfront, dining outdoors is nearly a standard.
Not just any table outside will do, however. Some food and libations always make great company.
Where will you be eating this summer? We asked, you answered.
Based on social media feedback, the following are just five of the many restaurant patios you’ll be found drinking and dining on this summer in McHenry County.
One thing is for sure, customers will not be short on burger options in this bunch.
The Tracks Bar & Grill
108 W Main St., Cary
Located near the Cary Metra stop at the corner of Main Street and Jandus Cutoff, the Tracks Bar & Grill has been family owned and operated for 32 years.
“We are unique because we offer top-quality food at an affordable price,” owner Leo Florio said. “We are well-known for our freshly prepared, made-to-order burgers. We are a cozy local restaurant with a friendly staff.”
The chefs at The Tracks know how to cook and also can give you something delicious to wash the burgers down with, according to several readers.
“Their burgers are the best around! Their Bloody Mary [cocktails] are too, so good!” one reader wrote.
“Awesome burgers in a good relaxed atmosphere,” another wrote.
“Their broasted chicken is amazing!” a third wrote.
With a diversified menu, The Tracks also offers wraps, salads, Italian beef, a fish fry and a plethora of tasty appetizers.
Manager’s Pick: Our burgers, any of them.
1211 N. River Road, McHenry
Looking for a little piece of tropical paradise along the Fox? By land or by water, head over to Vickie’s Place in McHenry.
“When you’re here, you feel like you’re on vacation,” owner Vickie Clawson said. “It’s a really relaxed, casual atmosphere. Bring your family, bring your friends, bring whoever.”
Vickie’s offers a long list of umbrella drinks, along with staple beers and mixed drinks. The restaurant’s unique burger menu offers specialty burgers and toppings, some not so ordinary.
The Shipwreck combines peanut butter, bacon and American cheese, and the Buried Treasure houses its contents between two grilled cheese sandwiches instead of bun.
Not in the mood for burgers? An array of sandwiches, salads, entrees and pizzas are there for the choosing. Get a margarita to accompany any delicious dish.
Besides the food and atmosphere, Vickie’s offers an extra level of entertainment parents find appealing.
“They serve popcorn that my kids throw to the fish and ducks. It keeps them entertained the whole time!” a reader wrote.
Managers Pick: burgers, Reuben, margaritas
Duke’s Alehouse and Kitchen
110 N. Main St., Crystal Lake
Featuring more than 75 beers, cuisine made from local organic ingredients and live entertainment, Duke’s Alehouse and Kitchen offers all the stops that one would expect a great restaurant to have. And they have an intimate outdoor eating area to boot.
General manager Zak Dolezal believes the success of Duke’s lies in the extra effort put in to everything.
“We’re unique in the sourcing of our ingredients,” he said. “We support the local farmers. We hand-pack our burgers using local, grass-fed beef. We do the extra work and use really fresh ingredients.”
Readers agree that great ingredients and tasty brews make for a fine dining experience, indoors and out.
“A lot of their food is local or organic, not to mention tastes AMAZING! Cool environment, as well as outdoor dining, it’s got it all,” a reader wrote.
The menu is comfortably sophisticated and has something for everyone, from sandwiches to pan-roasted salmon to mac and cheese.
“Ate at Dukes this past weekend for the first time and it was GREAT! Definitely will frequent there more often good food, local / organic and tons of gluten-free options,” a reader wrote
Managers Pick: Duck Confit Tacos with grilled pineapple salsa
801 N. River Road, McHenry
At The Snuggery in McHenry, you can have lunch riverside, watch the big game, go on a party boat cruise and dance the night away. From morning until night, The Snuggery has something for everyone.
“People have been cooped up all winter, and this is a great place to come out,” general manager Shawn Drake said.
The Snuggery is somewhat of a hideaway, tucked along the side of River Road, reachable by land or boat. The menu has all the needed attributes for a casual lunch or dinner, as well as for after a long day of boating on the Chain O’ Lakes. Following suit, The Snuggery also receives rave reviews on its burgers.
“We’ve got a great, casual ambience with a beautiful, scenic view of the river,” Drake said. “And it’s getting warmer out, so it’s great to sit outside and enjoy it.”
Readers agree the food and atmosphere are great, and they’ll take any opportunity to dance off their dinner. Thursday through Saturday, The Snuggery has a DJ who starts spinning at 9 p.m., taking patrons through to the wee hours.
“I love the outdoor setting. The food is tasty. And what other place turns into a dance club until 2 a.m.?” a reader wrote.
Readers also said the Snuggery was a great venue for private parties. A private riverside building is separated from the restaurant, and the outdoor seating area is available to host events, equipped with a full bar, deck and patio. The Snuggery also has a party boat for hire that can take your celebration to the water.
Managers Pick: Chicken Romano, burgers
Village Vintner Winery & Brewery
2380 Esplanade Drive, Algonquin
Eating delicious food outside is definitely a summer must, but what could make it even better? How about throwing in the fact that the restaurant is also a brewery and winery?
The Village Vintner is tucked away just off Randall Road in Algonquin. It offers a place of solace away from the busy shopping areas surrounding it, with employees preparing tasty craft brews and wines to complement a succulent menu of woodfire pizzas, fish, ribs, sandwiches and mac and cheese.
“There’s only one other winery and brewery in Illinois, so you can’t really beat it,” manager and co-owner Bob Boyer said. “Our food is really good, and we have the best ribs in town. Everything is fresh.”
Boyer co-owns and runs the restaurant, brewery and winery with his brother, Steve.
With a rustic atmosphere of exposed brick walls and visible stills, readers agree that it’s not only pretty to look at, but the menu options also are top-notch.
As one reader described it, the Village Vintner has “great food, delish drinks with a huge selection, and it’s a really nice place.”
Manager’s Pick: Ribs and Western Mac & Cheese
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