Food & Drink

Chicago's 19 Best Oyster Bars

Published On 05/08/2015 Published On 05/08/2015
Anjali Pinto
The Bedford
Chop Shop
Tortoise Club
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1. Shaw’s Crab House 21 E Hubbard St, Chicago, IL 60611

This upscale seafood restaurant with locations in River North and Schaumburg, IL is split between a sophisticated dining room and a more laid-back oyster bar. Shaw's overall speciality is American seafood, and it's got killer crab cakes, lobster rolls, and seasonal fish entrees, plus surf and turf dinners. It also serves sushi and sashimi. The oyster selection changes daily, but all the oyster-producing regions of the country are represented on the menu (Virginia, Washington, Massachusetts, etc). The interior is classic and old-school -- it's like a steakhouse but fishier.

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2. Paramount Room 415 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60654

This dual-level space dishes out a number of internationally inspired dishes, and it also features a full liquor bar, craft beers, and a number of domestics as well.

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3. Frontier 1072 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60642

It may not be the final frontier, but with ice-taps pouring 16 traditional and seasonal brews, a meat heavy menu featuring specialty sausages, steaks, and "Animal Service", flat screen TVs, and a beer garden, you won't need to explore any further. Allied: Ready yourself for Animal Service with some Smith & Forge, the hard cider that's built strong -- built from Apples and built to Refresh.

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4. Trellis 2426 N Racine Ave, Chicago, IL 60614

What was once sports bar Gaslight is now a completely revamped wine bar with some seriously next-level bar food, like share plates of Prosecco-cheese fondue with pretzel bites, or goat cheese & duck confit ravioli.

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5. Sink | Swim 3213 W Armitage Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

From the good people that brought you the gin-focused Scofflaw and the dance-ready Slippery Slope, nautical-themed Sink|Swim proves its seafood game is on point with affordable yet refreshingly inspired offerings like a shrimp toast tea sandwich and monkfish liver torchon. As for the digs? Charming, with whitewashed walls, teal tufted seats, and framed ocean-themed paintings hung along the perimeter.

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6. Calumet Fisheries 3259 E 95th St, Chicago, IL 60617

It's no wonder Calumet Fisheries, on the far south side of Chicago, was featured on Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations. Open since the 1940s, the family-owned seafood shack is one of the only smokehouses left in Chicago that smokes fish naturally over a wood fire. It offers an endless variety of smoked fish -- from salmon, sturgeon, and white fish to trout, catfish, and shrimp. Not to mention, its fried stuff is pretty good too.

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7. Pops for Champagne 601 N State St, Chicago, IL 60654

If you can’t decide which you prefer -- poppin’ bottles or poppin’ $1 oysters -- why not decide on BOTH at this happy hour favorite? Hit them up on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3-7pm. Throw in some live music and you experience some Gatsby-style decadence.

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8. The Bedford 1612 W Division St, Chicago, IL 60622

Named for the Bedford, IN limestone that continues to comprise the exterior of the historic Home Bank & Trust building, TB's an 8000sqft den of dining and drinks that includes the bank's original vault room, which's lined with wall-to-wall lockboxes and other trinkets.

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9. RM Champagne Salon 116 N Green St, Chicago, IL 60607

This secluded alleyway bar/restaurant in West Loop is a prime spot for sipping bubbly, slurping oysters, and devouring luxurious cheeses. The French-inspired menu is filled with sharable plates and classic brasserie mains like croque monsieur and steak frites. If sparkling wine isn't your thing, don't worry, the bar serves its fair share of craft beers and cocktails. RM's picture-perfect interior features chandeliers, a cozy fireplace, and white tablecloths, and the secluded outdoor patio is a prime spot during the warmer months.

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10. Roka Akor 456 N. Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60654

Roka Akor is a contemporary Japanese steak, seafood, and sushi restaurant featuring Robatayaki cuisine. The principle Robata Japanese dishes -- primarily steaks and pork -- are prepared atop 1,900 degree mesquite coals on the centrally located 12ft robata grill, providing an engaging and authentic atmosphere for guests. The meticulously grilled meats are accompanied by other classic Japanese menu items like signature sushi rolls, sashimi and nigiri, crispy tempura, and two omakase menus. And the extensive beverage list is leans heavily on Japanese culture as well, featuring sake, Japanese whiskey and beer, and sochu -- the latter offered in traditional form and in house-infused flavors. An evening at Roka Akor is an all-encapsulating, sensory experience in Robata Japanese dining.

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11. Chop Shop 2033 W North Avenue, Chicago, IL 60647

Wicker Park's hybrid butcher shop/eatery/salumeria serves up stand-out, meat-oriented American fare such as the deli's Porchetta sandwich, a housemade pork loin wrapped in pork belly with asiago, arugula, apricot marmalade, and tomato on your choice of 7" or 12" French, white, or wheat bread. CS is a spacious joint -- a whopping 6,000 square foot event space -- so it's also great for hosting parties or business meetings.

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12. Webster Wine Bar 2601 North Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

Here's the scoop: The original was in Lincoln Park, but then the owners decided to close it, re-concept their Logan Square spot Telegraph, and reopen it as the current iteration of Webster Wine Bar (which, subsequently, is no longer on Webster St.). But with a wine list 500 deep, it's an institution wherever it's located.

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13. Devon Seafood Grill 39 E Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

This upscale Gold Coast spot serves award-winning crab cakes, Maine lobster bisque, and a host of other delicious options from the ocean.

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14. Dusek's 1227 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608

Helmed by Longman & Eagle's Jared Wentworth, this Michelin-starred restaurant in Pilsen serves upscale American pub food. Dusek's takes everything you love and makes it better, whether that's cooking French fries in beef fat or topping a juicy hamburger with bacon marmalade and serving it on a house-baked pretzel bun. There are more than two dozen beers on tap -- some are from Chicago, others are from abroad -- and daily beer specials. The late-night menu serves the aforementioned burger and fries until 1am every night.

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15. Hubbard Inn 110 W Hubbard St, Chicago, IL 60654

Inspired by Papa Hemingway himself, this upscale Chicago eatery is decked with heavy wooden communal tables, eclectic oil paintings, and endless rows of second-hand books. The paintings, set against vintage wallpaper, are backlit by a series of dramatic candelabras, dripping with wax. The menu boasts classic cocktail-favorites, hand-crafted with top-shelf spirits -- Aviation Cocktails, Old Fashioneds, and of course, the famous Hemingway Daquiri -- in addition to a full selection of house specialties. The Inn turns out snacks and small plates like bacon-wrapped dates and tuna tartare tacos, along with full brunch and dinner menus. The real reason to keep coming back, however, is the "reading room," tucked behind the noisy bar, built of brown leather couches, arranged around a beautiful brick fireplace.

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16. Vera 1023 W Lake St, Chicago, IL 60607

This Spanish-leaning wine bar offers seasonally rotating vinos alongside shareable plates like bacon-wrapped dates, ceviche, paella, and charcuterie.

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17. La Sardine 111 N Carpenter St, Chicago, IL 60607

This date-night approved French bistro is just the place to take a special someone out for wine and $1 oysters. The catch? They’re only available on Fridays at the bar. Lucky for you, the bouillabaisse is a menu staple and will have you booking the next flight to Paris.

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18. Union Sushi & Barbeque Bar 230 W Erie St, Chicago, IL 60654

A towering two-level sushi bar with graffiti-covered concrete walls and a custom-made Robata grill, Union's Sushi-Wabi-vet chef's using said flame to work up prosciutto-wrapped scallops and garlic-soy lamb, while also kicking out noodle creations.

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19. Tortoise Club 350 N State St, Chicago, IL 60654

If the Tortoise Club sounds like a speakeasy where Humphrey Bogart might have charmed a classic bombshell with one sideways glance, it's not a coincidence. This upscale American restaurant and lounge, decked out with bourbon, scotch, wine and an amazing-sounding wild pheasant pie, abounds with class.