Welcome to the era of seafood boils, Chicago. But before sucking the heads off a few pounds of crawdaddies, make sure to know where to find the freshest catches served as they should be — boiled and covered in Cajun and other assorted spices. The recent popularization of eating shellfish out of a bag makes finding the suckers easier. Here are 12 popular spots specializing in seafood boils. Listed in alphabetical order.Read More
12 Spots for Fresh Seafood Boils in Chicago, 2018 Edition
Get cracking with steamed seafood served up with serious spice
The Angry Crab
The one that started it all. The Angry Crab brought the seafood boil craze to Chicago in 2015 and attracted hoards of hungry fans when it began serving crawfish, clams, lobster, and four different types of crabs by the pound. Get them in lemon pepper, garlic butter, Cajun sauce, or a “maniac” combination of all three. There's a second outpost located in Wicker Park.
The Lincoln Park spot capitalizes on the East-meet-South fusion with spiced crawfish and even snails. Like its competitors, guests have the option of various shellfish seasoned in one of eight spices, ranging from ginger lemon to Thai chili. It also offers takes on pad Thai, loaded with seafood, and crawfish fried rice. There's a second location in the South Loop.
Step aboard this Lincoln Park ship and discover the flavors of the sea. Nosh on fried oysters, soft shell crab, fish po’ boys, and fresh catch like king crab legs and head-on shrimp. To finish, all guests receive a complimentary beignet.
The Crab Pad
Spice is life but sometimes the heat from seafood boils can be a bit overbearing. That’s why this Logan Square eatery has the perfect frozen treats to cap off every meal. Start with garlic noodles, hush puppies, and wings before moving onto the main event — Jonah crab claws, clams, crawfish, and more smothered in Cajun seasonings. Then cool off those taste buds with an assortment of whimsical popsicles.
Dolo Restaurant and Bar
One of Chinatown’s best restaurants doesn’t just specialize in dim sum and Peking duck. Instead, Dolo makes good use of its fresh catch for a signature boil that features five pounds of crab leg, crawfish, shrimp, sausage, corn, and potato tossed in Cajun sauce.
With a five-day-notice, guests and 24 of their friends can dig into just about all the head-on shrimp they can eat (one-and-a-half pounds per person, to be exact). As part of its whole animal service program, New Orleans-native chef Brian Jupiter offers up a traditional shrimp boil with potatoes, corn, and onions. The restaurant also regularly hosts communal crawfish boils with live music and drink specials.
Root for the Cubbies and experience a Gulf Coast boil at this picnic-table-filled Wrigleyville bar. Choose from shrimp, snow crab, mussels, clams, crawfish, or lobster by the pound and cover it with weak (aka Lebron) or hot sauce. The fresh seafood is served directly onto a red-and-white checkered tablecloth with sides of Cajun fries or honey-jalapeño cornbread. Don’t forget the deep fried Oreos for dessert, either. A second location in the South Loop recently opened.
Located just a few blocks away from the Madhouse on Madison is a similarly frenzied operation. Head to Mad Boiler before or after an event at the United Center to recharge on seafood-y treasures. King crab legs, whole lobsters, and Dungeness crabs can be doused in coconut curry or Cajun dry rub, making for an exquisite oceanic spread. They’re accompanied by items such as shrimp po’ boys, fried scallops, and crab fried rice. Save some room at the end, though, as the chocolate chip cookie dough eggroll provides a satisfyingly sweet sendoff.
Mr. Wang Traditional Malatang & Louisiana Seafood Boil
At the western end of Chinatown Square sits this traditional malatang restaurant. The specialty here is a type of Sichuanese hot pot but the kitchen also dabbles in seafood boils. Enjoy lobster, crab — king, blue, or snow — crawfish, shrimp, and more swimming in sauces like garlic butter and lemon garlic. For those seeking spice, they’ll find it in abundance at Mr. Wang.
New Orleans Seafood
The Big Easy comes to Uptown by way of this Argyle Street spot. Its basic menu boasts little aside from seafood and the usual add-ins (corn, potatoes, sausage), but the lineup includes seasonal specialties like Dungeness and blue crabs. Patrons should order a side of white rice to soak up all the extra juices and bring their own booze for a good time.
Seafood on the Tables
Unlike other boils specialists, Seafood on the Tables marries shellfish with Thai flavors. Try lobster, crab, and shrimp served right on the table. They're cooked in sweet basil chili, tom yum, or Thai curry sauces. Other items include fried calamari, scallop skewers, and grilled jumbo prawns.
Two Fish Crab Shack
The South Side isn’t rife with seafood boil purveyors like other parts of the city but Two Fish is a shining example of how to do it well. Order lobster tails, crab legs, shrimp, and crawfish — marinated in jerk or Cajun seasonings — and get ready to feast. There’s a selection of fried items as well, including catfish, tilapia, and oysters. Alcohol is BYO.