Chicago is called the Windy City due to a destructive tornado that blew through the city in the 1870s. However, many think the Windy City got its nickname due to the heavy winds whipping off Lake Michigan during Chicago’s infamously brutal winters.
Chicago’s many waterways generate significant wind. Lake Michigan and the Chicago River offer beautiful views, swimming, boating and boardwalks for locals and visitors to enjoy alongside urban attractions.
The best way to combine waterfront views and urban culture is through dining at the many excellent waterfront restaurants in Chicago.
Read on to explore my favorite waterfront restaurants in Chicago, from Italian bistros to fast-paced brewpubs.
300 N. LaSalle Drive, Chicago, IL, 60654
Located right on the riverwalk in River North, Chicago Cut Steakhouse is a fine-dining American steakhouse from seasoned restaurateur duo David Flom and Mathew Moore.
They have a dry-aging room onsite, serving the highest quality aged USDA beef. Their wine list is one of the best in the city, making this establishment great for a private party.
Their classic steakhouse menu gives you a customizable steak, cooked and prepared to your liking. I recommend the bone-in ribeye cooked medium-rare with bleu cheese fondue and lobster mac n’ cheese.
1000 E. Grand Ave., Chicago, IL, 60611
Offshore Rooftop offers the best views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline because it’s located on Lake Michigan’s Navy Pier.
The romantic rooftop hosts events like yoga classes and DJ brunches during the day. It’s also a charming and cozy dinner destination with fire pits and hanging tea lights.
The large menu at Offshore Rooftop is upscale New American, with pizza, appetizers, salads, and rich entrees. My favorite dish was the Faroe Island salmon with sweet onion and parsnip puree.
315 N. LaSalle St., Chicago, IL, 60654
River Roast is a classy and lively New American tavern located right along the Chicago River in River North.
They specialize in whole roasted fish, chicken, and roast beef served family-style on rustic-chic wood boards and cast-iron skillets to be shared family-style with farm-fresh sides.
They have a rotating roast of the month offering, with everything from roast beef to pork shank. I recommend the whole Branzino with tomatoes and capers accompanied by their beautifully colorful beet salad with strawberries, fennel, pistachio and sliced radish. The large rooms and upscale feel make River Roast perfect for wedding dinners.
180 N. Upper Wacker Drive, Chicago, IL, 60606
Perhaps the most stunning and free-spirited culinary destination in Chicago, Beatnik On the River is a globally-inspired bistro, fashioned off the beatnik generation’s style and cultural artisanry of Morocco, Italy and France.
Located a few blocks from City Hall overlooking the Chicago River, Beatnik on the River will be a memorable experience, transporting guests in space and time.
There’s a delicious dish from every corner of the world on Beatnik’s exquisite menu, with a cocktail to match. I went for brunch and had the patatas bravas with caviar. Consider this place if you want to plan a private dinner with friends.
11 W. Riverwalk South, Chicago, IL, 60601
Located along the Chicago River, City Winery is a wine and cocktail bar, New American bistro, and nightclub.
Their location offers gorgeous views of the Loop skyline, the Chicago Riverwalk, Millennium Park, Grant Park, and Lake Michigan.
They have a full weekly lineup of music and comedy shows for the dinner hour and a lovely outdoor dining patio for lunch and weekend brunch.
I went to see live jazz while dining on a delicious Mussels dish using City winery white wine, jalapeno, garlic, shallot and cilantro butter sauce over spaghetti. It’s an excellent place for bridal showers and birthdays.
233 N. Canal St., Chicago, IL, 60606
From the famed fine-dining Gibson’s steakhouse group, Gibsons Italia is an Italian-inspired steakhouse and restaurant in the Fulton River District.
Thrillist voted their rooftop patio as one of the best in Chicago. Gibson’s Italia offers a chef-driven menu that puts a gourmet and creative twist on classic Italian food.
I recommend starting with a traditional dish of spicy rigatoni with vodka sauce and ricotta for a comforting beginning to an extravagant steak or seafood entrée.
Their filet mignon is the most tender I’ve tried. Their exceptional food makes them perfect for wedding dinners.
317 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL, 60654
Located a block from River Roast in River North, Pizzeria Portofino is an authentic Neapolitan pizzeria with a casual, family-friendly atmosphere modeled off a summery Mediterranean Italia coastal eatery.
The Italian coastal wines, wood-fired pizzas, and Mediterranean décor might trick you into thinking you’re overlooking the Amalfi coast instead of the Chicago River.
Their perfectly bubbly and charred crusts are classic Neapolitan-style, topped with high-quality imported ingredients.
I loved the Pugliese pizza with house-made spicy fennel sausage, Calabrian chili flake, rapini, parmesan and green fennel seeds. Consider booking them for a private dinner with friends.
317 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL, 60654
Another stylish River North destination, RPM Seafood is a fashionable and lively seafood restaurant in a multi-story dining space with a giant outdoor patio right on the Chicago River.
Owned by celebrity couple Bill and Giuliana Rancic and famed Chicago restaurateur company Lettuce Entertain You, RPM Seafood is a popular destination for fancy cocktails and seafood dinners.
In my opinion, the best way to sample RPM’s various seafood offerings is with their extravagant seafood towers, featuring prawns, Maine lobster, Alaska King crab and raw oysters. You might book RPM for a private birthday dinner.
3057 N. Rockwell St., Chicago, IL, 60618
Teetering between Lincoln Square and Roscoe Village, Metropolitan Brewing is a casual, family- and pet-friendly brewery and taproom, with onsite food vendors.
Their giant patio and indoor-outdoor seating replete with large ranch-style wooden tables are home to wholesome events like Bingo! Night and yoga on Sunday morning.
They offer house-brewed beers and small-batch imports on tap for adults, along with gluten-free beers and non-alcoholic beverages.
When I went, they had a local food truck called Arigato Market with a fusion of Mexican and Japanese dishes to accompany an ice-cold German lager.
2610 N. Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL, 60614
A James Beard Award finalist and AAA Four Diamond winner, North Pond is a picturesque and intimate farm-to-table bistro in a historic turn-of-the-century stone building overlooking a pond in Lincoln Park.
Thrillist, Time Out, and Eater all praise North Pond as the best restaurant for romantic dinners, weddings and date nights.
The fine-dining, multicourse menu features creative New American dishes that are as stunning as the restaurant’s surroundings.
I recommend the Duck Mole with confit leg, mole negro, pumpkin puree, smoked pearl onions and Marcona almonds.
443 E. Illinois St., Chicago, IL, 60611
Although it’s located in the heart of Chicago’s touristed Streeterville District across the river from Navy Pier, Pinched on the River offers a serene and secluded setting to enjoy Mediterranean food and fine wine.
The lovely Bennett Park shrouds the restaurant in lush greenery while the patio overlooks the river and Lake Michigan a few blocks east.
The Mediterranean dishes at Pinched encompass a wide range of European and Middle Eastern dishes.
I recommend heading there for an evening cocktail over a delicious traditional mezze platter with hummus, falafel, marinated veggies, tahini, and mixed greens. Pinched is a great choice for a private dinner with friends.
150 N. Riverside Plaza, Chicago, IL, 60606
Located right across the river from Beatnik in the Fulton River District, Porter Kitchen and Deck is a classy-yet-cozy American grill and cocktail bar with a lovely outdoor patio on the Chicago River.
Porter Kitchen and Deck is a wonderful place for business lunches, romantic cocktail hours and date-night dinners.
I like salads for lunch, and they make a delicious chicken cobb salad with egg, tomato, bacon, onion, avocado, sweet corn, bleu cheese, dill, and ranch dressing.
1 W. Wacker Drive, Chicago, IL, 60601
Raised is a trendy, urban cocktail bar overlooking the busy Chicago Riverwalk in The Loop. Raised has fashionable industrial-chic décor and a lively atmosphere that’s perfect for happy hour and late-night get-togethers over high-end cocktails and elevated bar fare.
The small plates and cocktails use local ingredients and change seasonally. I couldn’t get enough of their signature thick-cut fries with various spicy and savory dipping sauces.
30 S. Wacker Drive, Chicago, IL 60606
Located in The Loop a few blocks from the University of Illinois-Chicago, Rivers Restaurant is a large, fine-dining New American restaurant with a minimalist industrial interior and a large romantic riverside deck.
They offer cocktails, wine, craft beers, a formal lunch and dinner menu and a fast market menu. If you’re there on a cold day, I recommend a bowl of their hearty chili with cheddar cheese and diced yellow onion. The gorgeous brick interior makes the restaurant a nice option for company dinners.
1603 N. Lake Shore Dr., Chicago, IL, 60610
A quintessential summertime experience, Shore Club is a multi-themed beachside restaurant, bar and beach club on the sands of North Avenue Beach.
Whether you want a refined restaurant, a casual picnic lunch at a beach bed, or a tropical cocktail on their deck, Shore Club has something for everyone.
I loved their light and summery dishes, especially the colorful Shore Club Nicoise, with sesame-crusted tuna and lemon dill vinaigrette. They’re an excellent choice for a private dinner with friends.
Chicago’s diverse culinary and cultural scene has a myriad of dining options to enjoy a meal with a waterfront view.
My list of the best waterfront restaurants in Chicago has something for every taste and budget. Did we leave a restaurant out of this list? Make sure you leave us a comment, and we’ll check it out.
- Chicago Cut Steakhouse
- Offshore Rooftop
- River Roast
- Beatnik On The River
- City Winery at the Chicago Riverwalk
- Gibsons Italia
- Pizzeria Portofino
- RPM Seafood
- Metropolitan Brewing
- North Pond
- Pinched on the River
- Porter Kitchen & Deck
- RAISED | An Urban Rooftop Bar
- Rivers Restaurant
- Shore Club at North Avenue Beach
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