Whether traveling by boat or kayak, the Chicago River — an intricate system that runs from northwest to southwest — offers a fun way to explore the city’s various neighborhoods. Such adventure is sure to work up an appetite, so here are 15 great pit stops along the way to refuel with food and drinks. From pizza to craft beer, some of Chicago’s best bites can be conveniently reached by land or sea. New additions to the list for 2020 include luxurious hotspot RPM Seafood, breakfast and brunch spot Batter & Berries, and tea experts Chiya Chai.Read More
Where to Eat and Drink Along the Chicago River
Chicago’s other waterfront has plenty of dining options
1. Metropolitan Brewing
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 trendy for weddings and there’s outdoor seating. The floor-to-ceiling windows and a view of the waterfront.
2. Batter & Berries
This essential breakfast cafe in Lincoln Park debuted a Riverwalk outpost last summer in the Michigan Avenue Marketplace between Michigan and Wabash avenues. Snag French toast flights, biscuits and gravy, and more from this counter-service wing of a burgeoning brunch empire.
3. Chiya Chai
Chicago, IL 60601
Acclaimed Logan Square Nepalese restaurant and tea spot Chiya Chai also operates a satellite location in the Michigan Avenue Marketplace. On the Riverwalk, patrons can find seven chai flavors along with lassis, coffee, and South Asian food including samosas and masala chicken savory pies.
4. The Northman Beer & Cider Garden
The city’s first cider bar closed in February, 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/can, and is accompanied by European-inspired gastropub fare, such as doner kebab sausages, pretzels, and baked Camembert cheese.
5. Chicago Cut Steakhouse
Chicago’s 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. This is a favorite of ex-professional athletes.
6. 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.
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7. 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.
8. RPM Seafood
Chicago, IL 60654
Hotly anticipated riverfront restaurant RPM Seafood, another joint venture from Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises and celebrity couple Bill and Giuliana Rancic, debuted in January to much glitzy fanfare. 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..
9. City Winery
The Chicago Riverwalk is rife with watering holes, including the second local outpost of City Winery. Those on a boat can pull right up to the bar and restaurant and sip rosé all day long. The drinking is best paired with light bites of meats and cheeses or a panini. It’s not just a summertime destination — guests can keep the good times rolling when temperatures dip by reserving a climate-controlled bubble dome.
10. Gibsons Italia
Gibsons Restaurant Group’s first new restaurant in 12 years is a triumphant success. The 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.
11. RAISED | An Urban Rooftop Bar
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).
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12. 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.
13. Porter Kitchen & Deck
Situated in a newly-built skyscraper, Porter Kitchen & Deck is well-suited for soaking in the scenery. Lunch and dinner menus include familiar bar fare such as lobster rolls and truffle fries, and there’s a robust cocktail list.
14. Lawrence's Fish and Shrimp
With a dock conveniently located behind the building, Lawrence’s is an ideal pit stop when sailing 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.