Chicago may be Midwestern to its core, but its swath of Lake Michigan shoreline and winding river mean that it’s easy to cop a coastal vibe at times in an otherwise land-locked state. From a secluded retreat at the edge of a pond to a bustling steakhouse on the bank of the Chicago River, here are nine of the best places to dine by the water in Chicago.
With its picturesque surroundings and seasonally driven tasting menu, this waterfront hideaway nestled within Lincoln Park is easily among the most romantic restaurants in Chicago. The summer menu spans from fresh artichoke pasta shells tossed with English peas, herbed goat cheese, basil rye crumb, candied violets, and calendula petals, to red wine ribeye lozenge with Chanteduc potato pave, smoked piquillo pepper, charred knob onion, and raisin chimichurri; every dish reflects that natural beauty within which the fine dining spot is set.
Whether you’re out for a midweek power lunch or an alfresco date night, the expansive riverside patio at chefs Tony Mantuano and John Hogan’s meat-centric tavern is a must-try outdoor dining experience during the summer months. Small bites like country-fried rabbit, harissa-infused blistered shishitos, and shucked-to-order oysters set the stage for the main event: one of the restaurant’s shareable roasts, carved table-side.
Stop by this stylish steakhouse for breathtaking Chicago River views and perfectly cooked USDA Prime steaks to match. The restaurant is also a favorite among both local and international celebrities; if you’re lucky, that juicy, dry-aged Delmonico will come with a star sighting or two ("look, it's that guy from that thing!").
Though this hotspot may not be located directly along the water’s edge, its 18th-floor vantage point offers magnificent lake and skyline views best enjoyed out on the wraparound terrace. Enjoy a selection of breakfast pastries and cheddar biscuits drenched in sausage gravy for weekend brunch, and Elysian Fields lamb leg with spiced carrot, caraway yogurt, and harissa jus at dinnertime.
This summer-ready outpost of the West Loop favorite is positioned right along Chicago's riverwalk, and comes outfitted with plentiful umbrella-shaded seating for comfortable outdoor dining and imbibing. Score wine through the concept's unique tap system, a curated lineup of gourmet sandwiches and salads, a rotating selection of sorbets and gelatos to help you stay cool.
This cozy gastro-pub promises well-executed American fare all year long, but it’s the sweeping patio along the river that makes Bridge House a highly coveted dining destination when the weather’s nice. Treat yourself to a little extra vitamin D as you throw back crab cakes, tavern fries dunked in bacon aioli, and the pub’s signature 10oz burger.
This Denver-born bistro made a big splash on Chicago’s riverfront when it opened back in 2014, and has remained a bustling waterside mainstay ever since. Hearty offerings like cheese and charcuterie boards, seared gnocchi, and Slagel Family Farm's grilled pork tenderloin pair well with a soft breeze off the water and any and all of the signature cocktails.
While undeniably still tourist-y, Navy Pier has managed to step up its dining game recently, thanks in part to the arrival of this twofer from lauded chef Michael Kornick. Sip boozy milkshakes and tackle all things surf and turf here before you take a ride on the $26.5 million Ferris wheel we don't really need.
This casually elegant spot has rightfully earned bragging rights as Chicago’s only seafood restaurant on the waterfront. The Navy Pier gem boasts a mouthwatering array of seafaring entrees, as well as massive seafood platters flush with oysters, shrimp, King crab bites, and more. There’s also a small selection of steaks and chops for those who are red meat-inclined.
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1. North Pond2610 N Cannon Dr, Chicago
2. River Roast315 N LaSalle St, Chicago
3. Chicago Cut Steakhouse300 N LaSalle, Chicago
4. GreenRiver259 E Erie St Fl 18, Chicago
5. City Winery1200 W Randolph St, Chicago
6. Bridge House Tavern321 N Clark St, Chicago
7. The Kitchen Chicago316 N Clark St, Chicago
8. DMK Burger Bar and Fish Bar600 E Grand Ave, Chicago
9. Riva700 E Grand Ave, Chicago
When it comes to romantic restaurants in Chicago, few top North Pond, a waterfront hideaway within Lincoln Park. Chef Bruce Sherman sources seasonal ingredients from local markets and farmers to craft his menu, which is split between a tasting dinner with optional wine pairings and à la carte items. The Arts and Crafts-style building, originally built in 1912 for ice skaters, is as picturesque as the park surroundings.
On the north bank of the Chicago River is River Roast, an upscale tavern that combines traditional British roasts with new American ingredients. The menu revolves around roasted proteins -- fish, beef, chicken, pork -- that are carved table-side for two. There are also a variety of small plates and vegetables to share. The large space includes two bars and an expansive riverside patio.
A steakhouse hit among the power meal set, Chicago Cut attributes its quality cuts to the Colorado cattle it raises 1,300ft above sea level. The beef is dry-aged for 35 days then butchered on-site, and no matter what you order (the bone-in prime rib is knockout good), expect dense muscle and an intense flavor. The 225-seat space, outfitted with red velvet booths, overlooks the river.
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.
You'd better believe City Winery's got you covered when it comes to vino. This 30,000sqft West Loop barstaurant and music venue serves more than 20 wines produced in-house and an additional 400-plus varieties from producers across the world. The tasting room restaurant serves a Mediterranean-accented menu heavy on small plates and salad, and sommeliers are on hand to help guide you choose one of the fresh tap wines. Tours of the winery are available, and the space hosts live music almost nightly.
Set in the former Flatwater Grill space, BHT is a modern gastropub that features a two-tiered, riverside terrace. Though you invariably come to Bridge House Tavern for the waterfront ambience, the food is on par with similar upscale American comfort spots that serve a variety of land and sea offerings.
Hailing from the Rocky Mountain state, The Kitchen takes sustainable, farm-to-table food very seriously. Located in the riverfront Reid Murdoch building in River North, the restaurant is meant to feel like someone's own kitchen, albeit an upscale one with industrial supplies. The menu includes cheese and charcuterie small plates, seafood platters, and pasta, meat, and vegetable mains. The restaurant has its own non-profit, The Kitchen Community, that builds gardens in local schools.
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.
This Navy Pier gem serves excellent seafood complemented by great views of Lake Michigan and downtown Chicago. The menu dedicates an entire section to crab and lobster plates, like a house lobster and linguine entree. There are house seafood specialities and appetizers, and if you don't like fish, fear not because there are plenty of steaks and chops.