2411 SE Belmont, 232-4458
The early afternoon is one of the best times to enjoy a leisurely outdoor meal, and Wild Abandon provides it, plus a delicious weekend brunch. Decorated with oxygen-producing trees found often in nature, the patio here is cozy and intimate, and nothing like sitting on the Belmont curb. Order up a couple of the restaurant's fabulous Bloody Marys and a plate of creamy, hollandaise smothered eggs benedict--or, don't forget to look at their breakfast specials board because it always has something perfect (like goat cheese, roasted red peppers, etc.). --Also, they have a fabulous vegan French toast, and Gimme Lean vegan sausage available for the earth and body conscious. I recommend brunch only because it's one to remember, but also try Wild Abandon for an excellent garden dinner that should not be eaten without their amazing warm baked Brie.
Bernie's Southern Bistro
2904 NE Alberta, 282-9864
Bernie's is a restaurant that takes risks, and that's why I love them so damn much. During summer they serve dinner pretty much exclusively on their beautiful back deck, and they pack 'em in and treat 'em right. Their pan-fried Georgia snapper or blackened catfish are both amazing, full of a complex medley of flavors (the catfish is rich, salty, spicy, and a little sweet) and their peach bourbon BBQ ribs are a tangy wonder to behold. And if you can't foot the bill, once again, I will proclaim that theirs is the best happy hour in town, although you may have to wait for a spot (Tues-Sat 4-6 & 10-midnight, only at the bar).
2301 NW Savier, 228-2619
Eating at Besaw's always makes me feel very Sex and the City, very New York, and very much more rich and successful than I am. Brunching, lunching, or dinnering on their covered street-side patio is a see and be seen experience that should be enjoyed with a fresh-squeezed OJ mimosa or a Tanqueray and tonic. For breakfast try their earthy forest mushroom omelet with shitake, portabella, and button mushrooms, or biscuits with Andouille sausage gravy. For dinner, the bacon-wrapped filet mignon with blue cheese crumbles is decadent, as are any of Besaw's signature fish dishes and specials. Everything's good though, so decide for yourself.
3135 NE Broadway, 281-8337
Sweet Basil isn't my favorite Thai place for standards like pad Thai or green curry, but rather for their more creative dishes. Order the Look Chin lobster as an appetizer, and savor the golden fried balls of succulent lobster tail. The garlic prawns are as artistic as they are delicious, as is the crispy trout served on a bed of red onions, green apples, mango, carrots, cashews, and lemongrass married together in a delicious, explosively fresh salad. Even if you are going to go for the Pad Kee Mao, though, they do notably include a ton of fresh vegetables, and their patio is so secluded and serene that on a nice day I'd choose Sweet Basil over any other Thai spot. (Also of note: they serve food Thurs-Sat until 1 am in the Basil Bar).
John Street Cafe
8338 N Lombard, 247-1066
The John Street serves simple food, but they do it well. Try a blackened snapper sandwich, a heavenly Rueben, or if you're up and in St. Johns early enough, anything off the breakfast menu is smashing. On a nice day, refuse to enjoy any of this quality staple restaurant food anyplace but in the stone path-decorated back garden. Sitting out there is something like being in a little park, except friendly people bring you coffee and cook up a burger twice as juicy as the one your uncle Bill made at the last family reunion.