Food & Drink

12 Restaurants Near Navy Pier That Don't Suck

Published On 04/17/2016 Published On 04/17/2016
burger in navy pier
Kailley Lindman/Thrillist (edited)

Best burger: DMK Burger Bar

600 E Grand Ave

When a Navy Pier outpost of this beloved Lakeview-based burger joint opened last year, we knew the area’s burger landscape would be forever changed for the better. Stop in for grass-fed beef patties laden with toppings like roasted hatch green chile and charred balsamic red onions, and plentiful hand-spun boozy shakes to boot.

Best steakhouse: Rural Society

455 N Park Dr

If you’re expecting a classic Chicago steakhouse, guess again; this Argentinean meat palace backed by celebrity chef Jose Garces ditches wedge salads and steak frites for braised octopus carpaccio, charred asparagus with Bagna Cauda, and wood-grilled skirt steak sourced from Uruguay.

Best BBQ: Porkchop

600 E Grand Ave

Go for the eponymous grilled bone-in Berkshire pork chop; stay for the slow-smoked pork ribs, brisket, and mac & cheese, because this Chicago-based powerhouse doesn’t mess around when it comes to mouthwatering Southern comfort fare.

Sean Cooley/Thrillist

Best donuts: Do-Rite Donuts & Chicken

233 E Erie St

From a Valrhona chocolate glazed cake donut for chocoholics and candied maple bacon French crullers for those that need a hint of savory with their sweet, to an assortment of gluten free donuts, there’s something for everyone type of donut fiend at this bustling Streeterville shop.

Best date spot: Les Nomades

222 E Ontario St

The greater Navy Pier vicinity may bear little resemblance to a quaint Parisian neighborhood, but that doesn’t stop this French restaurant from making a big impact with its extensive wine program, sautéed dover sole, and romantic atmosphere.

Best breakfast: Kanela Breakfast Club

502 E Illinois St

Thanks to a menu that spans from red velvet French toast and biscuits & gravy to chia seed pudding and an egg white omelet, breakfast at Kanela can be as naughty or nice as you want it to be. Added bonus: most ingredients are organic and sourced locally, so even when you do err on the naughty side, you won’t have to feel that guilty.

Kailley Lindman/Thrillist

Best café: Beatrix

671 N St Clair St

Whether you’re fueling up for work with La Colombe nitro coffee or lingering over a lazy weekend feast of Belgian waffles, shakshouka, and a side of brown sugared bacon, this neighborhood-y café has you covered.

Best fancy restaurant when you’re not paying: Tru

676 N St Clair St

If “champagne taste on a beer budget” is a phrase you often use to describe your current financial situation, do yourself a favor and add this time-tested fine dining spot to your bucket list and save it for the next time the ‘rents are in town and looking to spoil you; the caviar service and artsy tasting menu are worth the wait (and the cash).

Courtesy of Joni Kat Anderson Photographics

Best sweet treats: Goddess & the Baker

600 E Grand Ave

Show your sweet tooth some love with cheerful cut-out sugar cookies, hulking Rice Krispies Treats, assorted breakfast pastries, and a scoop (or five) of malted milk ball gelato at this all-day dessert destination on the Pier.

Best meal with a view: GreenRiver

259 E Erie St

There are many rooftops in Chicago, but precious few as impressive as GreenRiver’s, which wraps around the interior dining space and boasts both panoramic skyline and lake views. Take in the urban beauty while treating yourself to whole roasted duck, trout rillette, and some of the finest cocktails in the city.

Courtesy of Big City Chicken

Best fried chicken: Big City Chicken

900 E Grand Ave

When you’re in the neighborhood and desperate for a fried chicken fix, look no further than Lettuce Entertain You’s all-things-chicken concept. The quick-service eatery slings strips, sandwiches, and punishingly delicious green chili cheese fries stacked with pickled jalapeños, as well as an on-point root beer float prime for balancing out the heat.

Best Italian: Volare

201 E Grand Ave

This lively resto has been serving Old World Italian food for nearly two decades, and shows no sign of slowing. Don’t miss the soulful house-made pastas, including spinach fettuccine tossed with Bolognese, ricotta-stuffed ravioli, and lasagna al forno.

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1. DMK Burger Bar and Fish Bar 600 E Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

This Navy Pier duo from five-time James Beard-winning chef Michael Kornick serves up the usual surf and turf suspects, like bacon cheeseburgers, fish tacos, and po boys. As if the fried sandwich options weren't enough, there are five kinds of French fries (parmesan truffle cream, blue cheese and smoked bacon) and milkshakes (boozy or regular, take your pick). In addition to comfortable outdoor seating on the pier, there's also a walk-up window so you can have that spiked milkshake to go.

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2. Rural Society 455 N. Park Dr, Chicago, IL 60611 (Streeterville)

Rural Society in Streeterville's Loews Hotel is not a classic, all-American steakhouse but an innovative Argentinian one from former 'Iron Chef' Jose Garces. The Chicago restaurant, which opened following the success of the DC original, is a bonafide meat emporium where South American-sourced cuts of beef (ribeye, bone-in short rib) are cooked on a wood-and-charcoal burning parilla grill. Aside from the stunning steaks, Rural Society serves tapas-like small plates and house-made sausages.

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3. Porkchop 600 E Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

Porkchop is a Chicago-based chainlet (it has a few locations around the city) that offers up quality Southern comfort food and BBQ alongside a whiskey-centric bar program. The menu includes a helluva lot of smoky, saucy, and deep-fried meat, from brisket sandwiches and po boys to slow-smoked pork ribs and grilled bone-in Berkshire pork chop. Everything is reasonably priced and served on utilitarian trays in a low-key space.

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4. Do-Rite Donuts & Chicken 233 E Erie St, Chicago, IL 60654 (Streeterville)

Do-Rite's Streeterville shop is a wonderful place because it makes two wonderful things: donuts and fried chicken. Donuts range from classics like chocolate glazed and buttermilk old fashioned to savory mash ups and vegan and gluten-free versions. The fried chicken lineup includes sandwiches made with your choice of regular or spicy chicken, brined in hot sauce, pickle juice, and buttermilk, and served on a brioche bun. If you're feeling really indulgent, get the fried chicken sandwich on a glazed donut. Talk about the best of both worlds.

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5. Les Nomades 222 E Ontario St, Chicago, IL 60611

The grid-like streets of Streeterville may bear little resemblance to the grand avenues of Paris, but that doesn’t stop this French restaurant from going all out with high-end Gallic cuisine. Les Nomades serves prix-fixe multi-course dinners that feature the likes of foie gras, pâtés, and escargot. Indulgence has never tasted so good.

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6. Kanela Breakfast Club 502 E. Illinois, Chicago, IL

After opening its first location in Lakeview in 2010, this breakfast-and-lunch spot expanded with a few locations across Chicago. The sort of Greek, mostly American menu splits its breakfast selections into sweet and savory categories -- next-level waffles and French toast make up the former, Benedicts and cheesy scrambles make up the latter. Lunch is all about sandwiches and salads, proving that it's hard to go wrong with a menu that includes a burger, Greek salad, and a reuben. Since most of Kanela's ingredients are organic and locally sourced, no matter how cheesy, meaty, or sugary you go, you'll still feel kind of healthy.

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7. Beatrix 671 N. St. Clair, Chicago, IL 60611

This all-day eatery in Streeterville is the definition of a one-stop shop. It includes a coffee shop/bakery with Intelligentsia and Metropolis coffee and pastries made in-house, and a full-service cafe serving healthy-leaning plates for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There's also a bar featuring cocktails made with fresh juice, wine from American vineyards, and Midwestern craft beers. As if Beatrix weren't enough of a food paradise, the Streeterville location includes a Whole Foods-like market with a salad bar, prepared sandwiches and sushi, and a speciality chocolate selection. When you're hungry, go to Beatrix.

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8. TRU 676 N Saint Clair St, Chicago, IL 60611 (Streeterville)

A restaurant with a dress code, Tru is a destination for elegant dining in Streeterville. Beyond the revolving door is a space reminiscent of a contemporary art gallery -- stark white walls don works from art icons like Andy Warhol, and plush blue banquettes surround tables draped with pressed white tablecloths. The near-silent dining room features Chef Anthony Martin's prix fixe menus, which highlight progressive French cuisine with attention to detail, technique, and lavish presentation. The wine cellar, home to some 1,500 selections, boasts an impressive collection of fine French wine.

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9. Goddess & Baker Navy Pier 600 E Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

This all-day cafe and bakery on Navy Pier offers up freshly-brewed coffee, made-to-order sandwiches and salads, and creamy gelato from Zarlengo. Then of course, there are the baked goods: cut-out sugar cookies, hefty scones, and glazed breakfast buns are just some of Goddess & Baker's specialities. The counter-serve spot has a few seats available, and it's a great spot for a coffee rendez-vous.

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10. GreenRiver 259 E Erie St Fl 18, Chicago, IL 60611

Between its stunning views of the city skyline and Lake Michigan, an Irish American-informed cocktail menu, and inventive dishes like white fish tartine with egg, radish, and celery, and sturgeon with bean ragout, turnip, and kale, there’s much to love about this swanky Streeterville spot. The space is streamlined, airy, and modern, boasting an attached terrace complete with plush seating prime for lounging over whiskey-infused cocktails.

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11. Big City Chicken 900 E Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

This quick-serve near Navy Pier focuses on all things fried chicken. The simple menu serves buttermilk fried chicken (with an option to make it spicy) by the piece, as tenders, or in a sandwich, and includes three kinds of fries: regular, with cheese, or loaded with green chili cheese. Ice cream floats complete Big City Chicken's punishingly delicious fast-food offerings.

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12. Volare Ristorante Italiano 201 E Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

Volare in Streeterville is the kind of Italian restaurant every neighborhood needs. It's casual but elegant, old school but not outdated, and great for large groups or dinner dates. The menu is nothing if not traditional with Neapolitan pizzas, housemade and imported pastas, and all those good meat dishes you know and love.

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