Home of luxe shops, eateries, posh nightclubs, and cocktail bars, River North, Chicago has become one of the liveliest neighborhoods in the city.
The district officially opened in 1930 in a former industrial area and has now blossomed into the go-to location for art and design lovers.
It is bursting with energy with an array of fabulous art galleries and history-defining buildings such as the twin corncobs at Marina City, the Holy Name Cathedral, and the Richard H. Driehaus Museum.
If you’re in the neighborhood and feel like sinking your teeth into some of River North’s delicacies, the city is chock full of beautiful spots serving a variety of cuisines and snacks from all over the world.
- Bavette’s Bar & Boeuf
- RPM Italian
- Tanta Chicago
- Gene & Georgetti
- Ciccio Mio
- Gilt Bar
- Chicago Cut Steakhouse
- GT Fish & Oyster
- Frontera Grill
- Sunda Chicago
- Portillo’s Hot Dogs
- Jaleo by José Andrés
- Lil’ Ba-Ba-Reeba!
- Roka Akor – Chicago
- Kinzie Chophouse
- Ema Chicago
I visited the district recently, and here is my list of the best restaurants in River North.
218 W Kinzie St, Chicago, IL 60654
From its sultry jazz soundtrack to its swanky speakeasy ambiance, all I can say of Bavette’s Bar and Boeuf is that it is simply marvelous.
Stepping in Bavette’s is akin to stepping into a steakhouse in France itself. After a warm welcome by the hostess, the ornate, dimly lit wood and the brick sets are sure to catch your eye.
A magical blend of fine dining and unabashed fun, I was more than ready to try their signature dry-aged bone-in rib-eye steak for my lunch and was not disappointed.
The meat was tender and flavorful. Bavette’s opens its doors to large parties, so be sure to bring your friends and family along.
52 W Illinois St, Chicago, IL 60654
Having visited their other branches, RPM Seafood and RPM Steak, I could not wait to try out RPM Italian.
Owned by celebrity couple Bill and Giuliana Rancic, the joint is very modern and, as you would expect, has all the markings of an Italian spirit.
RPM has multiple bars inside, from which I grabbed a Paloma Swizzle during their 4 pm to 6 pm Happy Hour.
In addition to the drink, I ordered their featured special, Lobster Fra Diavolo served with Roasted Tomato, Calabrian Chili, and washed it down with a Brandy.
The restaurant is strictly for fine dining and is the perfect place to bring your date to an intimate dinner.
118 W Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60654
Tanta Chicago will mentally transport you to the foreign lands of Peru because it features gorgeous art pieces reflecting the Peruvian culture and Peruvian food.
Another key selling point is the picturesque rooftop view, which has made the joint a local Chicago favorite.
Try to visit Tanta during their weekday brunch to taste their authentic Peruvian cuisine. I couldn’t resist one of their famous pisco sour cocktails during their weekday happy hour, which runs from 5 pm to 7 pm! I mean, how can you come to Tanta and not get one?
As for food, I had their Pollo a la Brasa, which is the Peruvian-style rotisserie Amish chicken.
500 N Franklin St, Chicago, IL 60654
As the oldest steakhouse in Chicago, Gene and Georgetti opened in 1941 and hasn’t changed over time.
With loyal and dedicated staff, owners Tony Durpetti and Marion (Gene’s daughter) have proudly maintained the tradition that defined Gene and Georgetti for more than seven decades.
My mission was to try their award-winning steak and chops, more specifically, their Domestic Colorado Double-Cut Lamb chops. If you’re ever in Chi-town, do pass by, don’t miss out!
226 W Kinzie St, Chicago, IL 60654
Located in the well-known Doughnut Vault, Cicco Mio serves authentic Italian cuisine and cocktails.
Restaurateur Brendan Sodikoff created an elegant dining space, incorporating a low-lit setting lined with beautifully crafted art pieces.
I shared Mushroom Carbonara with a friend and washed it down with their exquisite Black Manhattan whiskey cocktail.
The 20% Happy Hour discounts on all orders placed from opening to 5 pm were quite generous, so plan your visit during this time.
230 W Kinzie St, Chicago, IL 60654
Gilt Bar feels more like a treasure hunting house than a restaurant due to its re-imagined marble floors to a hidden library in the basement.
Additionally, it has a beautiful lounge with vintage library décor and re-built timber ceilings, making it one of the most stunning bars in the city!
Shortly after stepping into this restaurant, the waiter guided us into a velvet booth under a fringed chandelier.
I kicked it off with their “pigs in a blanket,” then swiftly moved along to their beef cheek pot pie and topped it with their house light beer.
It felt like the perfect blend, and I would encourage you to visit with a friend so that you try out as much food as possible.
300 N LaSalle Dr, Chicago, IL 60654
The views from Chicago Cut Steakhouse are breathtaking! I mean, who wouldn’t want to have lunch on a patio overlooking the river?
The restaurant is a prestigious place to dine because it has several accolades under its belt, including US Today’s Top 10 US Steakhouses.
You might spot a celebrity in the vicinity as well because the likes of White Sox’s Tim Anderson have enjoyed their meals there.
However, the joint tends to fill up quite fast, and they even have a one-and-a-half-hour limit for lunch and two for dinner.
If you’re planning to stop by, do let them know in advance and have the NY strip with the Jim Barry Australian Red Wine while you’re at it.
531 N Wells St, Chicago, IL 60654
Brought to you by Boka Restaurant Group, GT Fish and Oyster is a must-visit location for “seafood-centric” folk.
The spot is named after its Chef, Giuseppe Tentori, and is just the right blend of the old school, rustic and innovative.
You cannot pass by GT’s and not try their Chef’s daily selection of fresh oysters paired with crisp champagne!
Feel free to stop by with family or friends as they serve shared plates plus well-curated cocktails.
445 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654
Rick Bayless has done it again with this one! He introduces us to Mexican cuisine beyond the burritos and tacos that we’re all typically fond of and expands our palates.
Located half a mile from the Magnificent Mile, the restaurant offers Mexican, Latin, and Vegan-Friendly options to the city.
Their signature 24-hour smoked beef brisket with Oaxacan black mole and local seasonal vegetables was sensational. I tried the pecan pie for dessert, and it was delicious.
Above and beyond the call of duty, the staff was friendly enough to order an Uber for us and walk us out to the car. Excellent customer service.
110 W Illinois St, Chicago, IL 60654
As an Asian-inspired restaurant, Sunda New Asian celebrates the cross-cultural influences of East and Southern Asia.
If you’re looking for fresh, exotic, and yet still delicious tastes, then this might be the perfect restaurant for you.
The award-winning restaurant is popular, so make sure you make your reservations early!
One of my first observations is that the servers knew the menu like the back of their hands.
They recommended trying the miso sea bass and lemongrass beef lollipops, and they were heavenly!
Also, I had a taste of their award-winning sushi, and it was worth it.
100 W Ontario St, Chicago, IL 60654
People say it’s not a real visit to Chicago unless you take a bite at Portillo’s. Founded in 1963 with humble beginnings, Dick Portillo has grown his formerly named “Dog House” spot into an on-demand restaurant with more than 60 locations across several states.
Nevertheless, it’s extra special that they started in Chicago. Fun, festive and unforgettable is how I’d describe their Italian beef sandwiches dipped with sweet peppers.
If you genuinely want to know what all the hype is about, then come on over and take a bite of their Chicago-style hot dogs! I’ll be thinking of those for a while!
500 N Clark St #465, Chicago, IL 60654
If there’s a Chef that genuinely outdoes himself with the quality of the cuisine he offers, it’s José Andrés.
He mentally teleports you from Chicago to Spain with his signature tapas and those savory paellas.
The Award-winning culinary innovator has transformed Jaleo into a Chicago sweet spot, and I recommend Gambas Al Aljillo from their Tour de Espana menu.
It’s a classic Spanish tapa of shrimp sautéed with garlic. Pair it with a pina Borracha, and you’re home and dry!
441 N Clark St #1, Chicago, IL 60654
With a Happy Hour running from Monday to Friday from 3:30 pm to 5:30 pm, this restaurant is famous for its classic Sangria.
It became a personal favorite for small bites, and I never got disappointed with their Spanish octopus a la plancha.
Make sure you stop by for brunch and dine on their authentic Spanish cuisine, or order online and have the delivery right at your doorstep.
456 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654
Roka Akor is open for indoor and outdoor dining, and it infuses the Japanese spirit with a modern classic twist.
With a beautifully designed space, Roka features local artists’ impressions to produce natural, earthy undertones with a comfy, contemporary feel.
The fine-dining establishment is perfect for couples or colleagues, delivering a starry evening and change of pace.
The menu is Chef-driven with shared dishes from various regions of Japan, sushi, and grilled seafood.
I had their yuzu miso-marinated black cod with pickled red onion, and the taste will probably linger with me for a while.
400 N Wells St, Chicago, IL 60654
Located steps away from the Merchandise Mart, Kinzie Chophouse brings the Greek influence to its steaks, seafood, and pasta.
I was pleasantly surprised to see another branch, Kinzie Cuccina Italiana, within the same chophouse.
You should try their torched smoked trout, which brings in a blend of the Mediterranean.
Wine lovers are not left out. The joint provides “wine by the bottle” as part of their menu, and I preferred their Chandon Étolie N.V. to pair with my meals.
74 W Illinois St, Chicago, IL 60654
I found Chef CJ Jacobson’s stamp on Mediterranean cuisine in Ema restaurant refreshing. He embodies a lighter California cooking style but still manages to draw you in with intoxicating flavors and spices.
I loved how they offer both Ema and Rotisserie Ema from the same kitchen but with different culinary experiences.
When at Ema, try their spicy hummus. They serve it with marinated Fresno and sweet roasted chilies. When at Rotisserie Ema, you’re free to customize your meals to your liking!
In conclusion, River North, Chicago is a melting pot for art, design, and culture. The neighborhood is vibrant, and you will best experience this by going around the restaurants and bars to try out the wide variety of dishes.
Planning on leaning towards a healthier diet? Chicago has a lot of incredible vegan restaurants that are worth visiting. Check out the list here.
If you feel like I left any restaurant, be sure to leave us a comment, and I’ll check it out.
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