Memorial Day weekend marked the unofficial opening for the restaurants, bars, and cafes along the Chicago Riverwalk. This year’s lineup includes holdovers from year’s past including Frost Gelato, City Winery, Tiny Tapp & Cafe, and O’Briens. It’s business as usual for these old favorites. However, the Riverwalk’s two new additions for the 2018 season, a riverwalk version of Chicago’s first cider bar, Northman Beer & Cider Garden; and a new project from the owners of Corcoran’s Grill and Pub in Old Town — Chicago Brewhouse — will debut later this summer.
The Northman has big plans for the space. They’re shooting for a July 1 opening, but that’s just the first phase of their project, wrote Northman co-owner Aaron Zacharias. The Northman is from the same team behind North Side beer bars Fountainhead and Bar on Buena. They’ll serve drinks this summer, but the real fun comes in 2019. Next year they’ll debut a roof deck and full kitchen. They’re located at the river in between Stetson Avenue and Columbus Drive.
The second addition, Chicago Brewhouse, did a quick preview over the weekend of May 18 to showcase its space to holiday tourists at the river between Wabash and State streets. Management hasn’t revealed an opening date. They’ll also serve food, coffee, and local beers, as well as food and drinks on the street level next to the Heald Square Monument.
There’s a competition to one of the lucky restaurant operators along the 1.25-mle stretch. The Tribune reported that last year, customers spent $11.6 million at Riverwalk businesses. Zacharias told the paper that he expects customers to spend more. His group has sunk $600,000 into the Northman, converting the space that formerly held Cyrano’s Cafe & Wine Bar. They’ve signed a 10-year lease. The Tribune reported that City Winery earned the most with $4.1 million in sales. Three other bars followed with about $1.5 million each.
The Trib also reported that city officials see potential to add more restaurants on both sides of the river. Right now, development is focused on the South Side. But the potential for more revenue is too much for the city to ignore. The city’s share of revenue last year was $3.8 million, up from $3.36 million in 2016.
To keep track of all the options, here’s the 2018 Chicago Riverwalk dining and drinking lineup:
- Frost Gelato (Wells and the river)
- Tiny Tapp & Cafe (Between Wells and LaSale)
- City Winery (Between State and Dearborn)
- Chicago Brewhouse (Could TBD, west of Wabash and the river)
- O’Brien’s Riverwalk Cafe (Between Wabash and State)
- The Northman (Could open in July, between Stetson and Columbus)
- Island Party Hut (east of Columbus Drive)