You step out of the elevator on the 27th floor, and it hits you: a dazzling view of Chicago’s Loop, Lake Michigan, and Millennium Park. You’ve arrived at the Roof at the Wit just in time to snag a table with a built-in fire pit and watch the sun dip slowly behind the city’s architectural landmarks. It’s going to be one memorable dinner.
Better than a room with a view, a roof delivers a prime vantage point for unobstructed panoramas. Savvy restaurant owners know that open-air dining guarantees business, and with outdoor space at a premium in cities, they’re looking skyward. But that doesn’t mean diners have to settle for a mediocre menu. Increasingly, you can find rooftop restaurants where the food rivals the view.
In Brooklyn, four ambitious young guys bought a brownstone with the lofty dream of building a restaurant themselves from scratch—foundation up to roof deck. They enlisted talented chefs to create fresh-from-the-market Mexican dishes like poblano relleno stuffed with braised short ribs and Gouda atop a yellow mole sauce.
When they opened tapas spot Alma on the Columbia waterfront, the area was still under the radar. A decade later it’s one of Brooklyn’s hot spots, and scoring a summertime table facing Manhattan can require a nearly two-hour wait. “We provide more open sky than any restaurant I can think of,” says co-owner Anthony Capone.
Some rooftop restaurants go beyond trendy to become destinations that can rival even the most gleaming skyscraper. Sirocco at the Dome is a 64th-floor space in Bangkok that looks down at a jumble of skyscrapers and Buddhist temples and the Chao Phraya River. Lit up in changing shades of neon, its circular Sky Bar is practically cantilevered onto the city.
Of course, sky-high views beget sky-high boasts. According to Deepak Ohri, CEO of Sirocco’s management company, the place is a “major icon” that “revolutionized the rooftop restaurant.” Regardless, the tasting menu does make a dramatic impression with courses including chilled Alaskan king crab accompanied by osetra caviar, citronelle emulsion, and yuzu.
You can bet that the art of rooftop dining will only continue to climb. After all, there’s nothing quite like drinking in the view from on top. Bottoms up!