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A view of a river with boats and a bridge flowing between two rows of tall buildings.
The lakefront gets most of the attention, but the views from the Chicago River have their charms, too.
Marc Much/Eater Chicago

Where to Eat and Drink Along the Chicago River

Chicago’s other waterfront also has plenty of dining options

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The lakefront gets most of the attention, but the views from the Chicago River have their charms, too.
| Marc Much/Eater Chicago

Chicago’s lakefront gets all the attention, and there’s no denying that the skyline and endless water views are pretty spectacular (not to mention the beaches). But the Chicago River has its charms, too. Downtown, it’s a perfect spot to admire the city’s architecture. Further north or south, it’s a quiet, green refuge. Either way, it’s a joy to explore by boat or kayak. And then, afterward, here are some spots along the shoreline to eat and drink and watch the world float by.

For updated information on coronavirus cases, please visit the city of Chicago’s COVID-19 dashboard. Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission. The latest CDC guidance is here; find a COVID-19 vaccination site here.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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Metropolitan Brewing

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A lazy journey on the river wouldn’t be complete without a cold beer or two. Metropolitan Brewing, highly regarded for German-style lagers, keeps folks refreshed with pints of Krankshaft Kölsch and more at its Avondale taproom. The space is popular for wedding, and the floor-to-ceiling windows provide a view of the waterfront. There’s outdoor seating, too, just above the kayak rental dock.

A brewery along the river
Settle in for drinks and views at Metropolitan Brewing.
Dave Thompson

A rare riverside restaurant that’s not downtown, Azul specializes in the cuisine of Nayarit, Mexico, mostly seafood, and decadent brunches with towers of margaritas served in Patrón bottles. A partially covered deck and heated rooftop cabanas insure that diners can admire the river in all kinds of weather.

Gibsons Italia

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This lavish tri-level steakhouse features Gibsons’ USDA Prime Angus beef along with a host of hearty Italian dishes, such as gold-extruded pasta and seven-year-aged risotto. Scenic views from a breezy patio and a third-floor bar with a retractable roof are the cherries on top.

A dining area overlooking the Chicago River.
Gibsons Italia offers a luxurious vantage point.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Lawrence's Fish and Shrimp

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With a dock conveniently located behind the building, Lawrence’s is an ideal pit stop when boating or kayaking down the river. The 24-hour fried seafood specialist has been in operation since 1971, selling an array of crispy shrimp, fish, frog legs, oysters, chicken, and more. The signature crustaceans are sourced from the Gulf and boast a thick breading, though diners can opt for lighter batter. Either way, make sure to give it a dunk in the hot sauce.

Porter Kitchen & Deck

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The owners of Porter Kitchen & Deck have thoughtfully arranged heat lamps around the riverside patio in case of unpredictable Chicago spring weather. Lunch and dinner menus include familiar bar fare such as lobster rolls and truffle fries, and there’s a robust cocktail list, including happy hour specials.

Café By The River

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Sure there’s Bar Mar and Bazaar Meat, a magnificent two-level restaurant in the Bank of America tower with floor-to-ceiling river views, but to get the José Andrés experience outdoors, head downstairs to Café By The River, a casual soup and sandwich spot with a cozy partially-covered outdoor deck with the same river views.

Beatnik on the River

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Bonhomme Hospitality Group’s boho-chic restaurant and bar also operates a riverfront location. Beatnik on the River’s 50-seat terrace delivers creative cocktails and Mediterranean-influenced plates, and captures the essence of the original with lush plants, cozy couches, and prime views. In addition, the space houses an all-day café, dubbed Café Bonhomme, that serves coffees, juices, pastries, and sandwiches.

Chicago Cut Steakhouse

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Chicagoans’ lust for meat and potatoes knows no bounds and there are a seemingly endless number of excellent steakhouses all over town. Few, however, offer the type of idyllic view that comes with a meal at Chicago Cut. Situated along the Chicago River, this sleek and modern spot is popular among celebrities, executives, and just about anyone who enjoys a mouth-watering cut of beef. The steaks are dry-aged on site for 35 days and the bone-in rib eye is a particular favorite, praised for its tenderness and concentrated flavor.

River Roast

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A succulent piece of chicken is right up there with life’s finest pleasures and this riverside restaurant serves up one of the best versions. Whether it’s the signature whole chicken (carved tableside), tender roast beef, or fire-roasted fish, diners have many delicious choices to sink their teeth into. On weekends, brunch service is accompanied by live blues.

RPM Seafood

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RPM Seafood is another joint venture from Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises and celebrity couple Bill and Giuliana Rancic that, like its siblings tends to attract celebrity visitors. The trendy two-floor space with lovely river views features a menu stacked with seafood towers, top-notch fishes, and cocktails. There’s also the more causal Pizzeria Portofino on the river level, all part of the RPM on the Water complex.

A large restaurant on the Chicago River.
RPM Seafood lovely gorgeous river views.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

City Winery

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The Chicago Riverwalk is rife with watering holes, including the second local outpost of City Winery. If you’re arriving by boat, reserve a spot at the dock and then climb up to the patio to sip rosé all day long. The drinking is best paired with light bites of meats and cheeses or a panini. Dogs are also welcome.

Smith & Wollensky

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Sure, it’s a chain, but the views are just dynamite. Perched just above the Chicago River, this popular steakhouse is about as close as one can get to the water without getting splashed. Patrons can expect indulgences like USDA prime beef and seafood towers that pair well with an exceptional vantage point.

A steakhouse above the Chicago River
Riverside steakhouse Smith & Wollensky beside the famous Marina City Towers
Smith & Wollensky

RAISED | An Urban Rooftop Bar

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This roofdeck bar on the Renaissance Chicago Hotel’s third floor offers hard-to-beat views of the Chicago River, along with plenty of drinks, snacks, and shared plates (for sustenance between drinks).

An open rooftop bar on the Chicago River.
Raised offers a menu of party fuel and fantastic views.
Raised

Beat Kitchen on the Riverwalk

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The Roscoe Village restaurant and music venue has opened up a second location on the Riverwalk for the summer. There won’t be any performances and the menu has been truncated, but it’s still a nice place to enjoy a taco or pizza and a beer while you watch the river traffic float by.

The Northman Beer & Cider Garden

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The city’s first cider bar closed in 2020, but the Chicago Riverwalk outpost of the Northman remains, sporting a dog-friendly beer garden with seating for more than 500. The drink list features dozens of ciders and beers, available on draft or by the bottle or can. It’s accompanied by an assortment of snacks, sandwiches, and a salad.

Metropolitan Brewing

A brewery along the river
Settle in for drinks and views at Metropolitan Brewing.
Dave Thompson

A lazy journey on the river wouldn’t be complete without a cold beer or two. Metropolitan Brewing, highly regarded for German-style lagers, keeps folks refreshed with pints of Krankshaft Kölsch and more at its Avondale taproom. The space is popular for wedding, and the floor-to-ceiling windows provide a view of the waterfront. There’s outdoor seating, too, just above the kayak rental dock.

A brewery along the river
Settle in for drinks and views at Metropolitan Brewing.
Dave Thompson

Azul

A rare riverside restaurant that’s not downtown, Azul specializes in the cuisine of Nayarit, Mexico, mostly seafood, and decadent brunches with towers of margaritas served in Patrón bottles. A partially covered deck and heated rooftop cabanas insure that diners can admire the river in all kinds of weather.

Gibsons Italia

A dining area overlooking the Chicago River.
Gibsons Italia offers a luxurious vantage point.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

This lavish tri-level steakhouse features Gibsons’ USDA Prime Angus beef along with a host of hearty Italian dishes, such as gold-extruded pasta and seven-year-aged risotto. Scenic views from a breezy patio and a third-floor bar with a retractable roof are the cherries on top.

A dining area overlooking the Chicago River.
Gibsons Italia offers a luxurious vantage point.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Lawrence's Fish and Shrimp

With a dock conveniently located behind the building, Lawrence’s is an ideal pit stop when boating or kayaking down the river. The 24-hour fried seafood specialist has been in operation since 1971, selling an array of crispy shrimp, fish, frog legs, oysters, chicken, and more. The signature crustaceans are sourced from the Gulf and boast a thick breading, though diners can opt for lighter batter. Either way, make sure to give it a dunk in the hot sauce.

Porter Kitchen & Deck

The owners of Porter Kitchen & Deck have thoughtfully arranged heat lamps around the riverside patio in case of unpredictable Chicago spring weather. Lunch and dinner menus include familiar bar fare such as lobster rolls and truffle fries, and there’s a robust cocktail list, including happy hour specials.

Café By The River

Sure there’s Bar Mar and Bazaar Meat, a magnificent two-level restaurant in the Bank of America tower with floor-to-ceiling river views, but to get the José Andrés experience outdoors, head downstairs to Café By The River, a casual soup and sandwich spot with a cozy partially-covered outdoor deck with the same river views.

Beatnik on the River

Bonhomme Hospitality Group’s boho-chic restaurant and bar also operates a riverfront location. Beatnik on the River’s 50-seat terrace delivers creative cocktails and Mediterranean-influenced plates, and captures the essence of the original with lush plants, cozy couches, and prime views. In addition, the space houses an all-day café, dubbed Café Bonhomme, that serves coffees, juices, pastries, and sandwiches.

Chicago Cut Steakhouse

Chicagoans’ lust for meat and potatoes knows no bounds and there are a seemingly endless number of excellent steakhouses all over town. Few, however, offer the type of idyllic view that comes with a meal at Chicago Cut. Situated along the Chicago River, this sleek and modern spot is popular among celebrities, executives, and just about anyone who enjoys a mouth-watering cut of beef. The steaks are dry-aged on site for 35 days and the bone-in rib eye is a particular favorite, praised for its tenderness and concentrated flavor.

River Roast

A succulent piece of chicken is right up there with life’s finest pleasures and this riverside restaurant serves up one of the best versions. Whether it’s the signature whole chicken (carved tableside), tender roast beef, or fire-roasted fish, diners have many delicious choices to sink their teeth into. On weekends, brunch service is accompanied by live blues.

RPM Seafood

A large restaurant on the Chicago River.
RPM Seafood lovely gorgeous river views.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

RPM Seafood is another joint venture from Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises and celebrity couple Bill and Giuliana Rancic that, like its siblings tends to attract celebrity visitors. The trendy two-floor space with lovely river views features a menu stacked with seafood towers, top-notch fishes, and cocktails. There’s also the more causal Pizzeria Portofino on the river level, all part of the RPM on the Water complex.

A large restaurant on the Chicago River.
RPM Seafood lovely gorgeous river views.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

City Winery

The Chicago Riverwalk is rife with watering holes, including the second local outpost of City Winery. If you’re arriving by boat, reserve a spot at the dock and then climb up to the patio to sip rosé all day long. The drinking is best paired with light bites of meats and cheeses or a panini. Dogs are also welcome.

Smith & Wollensky

A steakhouse above the Chicago River
Riverside steakhouse Smith & Wollensky beside the famous Marina City Towers
Smith & Wollensky

Sure, it’s a chain, but the views are just dynamite. Perched just above the Chicago River, this popular steakhouse is about as close as one can get to the water without getting splashed. Patrons can expect indulgences like USDA prime beef and seafood towers that pair well with an exceptional vantage point.

A steakhouse above the Chicago River
Riverside steakhouse Smith & Wollensky beside the famous Marina City Towers
Smith & Wollensky

RAISED | An Urban Rooftop Bar

An open rooftop bar on the Chicago River.
Raised offers a menu of party fuel and fantastic views.
Raised

This roofdeck bar on the Renaissance Chicago Hotel’s third floor offers hard-to-beat views of the Chicago River, along with plenty of drinks, snacks, and shared plates (for sustenance between drinks).

An open rooftop bar on the Chicago River.
Raised offers a menu of party fuel and fantastic views.
Raised

Beat Kitchen on the Riverwalk

The Roscoe Village restaurant and music venue has opened up a second location on the Riverwalk for the summer. There won’t be any performances and the menu has been truncated, but it’s still a nice place to enjoy a taco or pizza and a beer while you watch the river traffic float by.

The Northman Beer & Cider Garden

The city’s first cider bar closed in 2020, but the Chicago Riverwalk outpost of the Northman remains, sporting a dog-friendly beer garden with seating for more than 500. The drink list features dozens of ciders and beers, available on draft or by the bottle or can. It’s accompanied by an assortment of snacks, sandwiches, and a salad.

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