Best seafood restaurants in Chicago

Chicago may be far from the ocean, but there are still plenty of great seafood restaurants in town

Photograph: Martha Williams
Lobster roll at New England Seafood Company Fish Market.

Whether you're looking to get messy with lobster dripping with butter or prefer fresh ceviche, there's a great spot to fulfill your needs. From smoked fish to lobster rolls to traditional offerings at steakhouses, these are our favorite seafood restaurants.

RECOMMENDED: Best Chicago restaurants

Best seafood restaurants in Chicago

The Angry Crab

Critics' pick

Before going to the Angry Crab, some advice: Wear clothes you don’t mind getting messy and bring lots of booze. You’ll probably need to wait for 30 minutes to an hour, but once you’ve cracked open a beer, it’s not so bad. Especially because the wait is worth it—huge, spice-encrusted crabs and tender, plump shrimp wallowing in garlic butter are must-orders. Order more than you think you need and get messy.

Read more
West Rogers Park

Calumet Fisheries

This smoke shack was born when the steel industry was thriving and the area was populated by hungry day laborers. Set at the base of the famous Blues Brothers bridge, this little white box brings in customers from all around for smoked shrimp, trout and sable, which are always on offer. You’ll see folks sitting in their cars eating their picks out of paper bags, a quintessential part of the experience.

Read more
South Chicago

Fish Bar

There are some “quirky” touches to David Morton and Michael Kornick’s fish shack (witness the cocktail named Mezcal Me Maybe). But the menu is nothing if not straightforward. The fried items all have great flavor (like the fried onions with lemon and jalapeño), but sometimes they arrive soft instead of crisp. Likewise, the sweet and herby lobster roll can get a little chewy in parts. But the cheap beers, pie slices and items from the plancha (grill)? Simple, perfect and seriously good, respectively.

Read more
Lakeview

GT Fish & Oyster

Critics' pick

Kevin Boehm and Rob Katz—the restaurateurs behind Girl & the Goat—are behind this seafood spot that’s raised the profile of chef Giuseppe Tentori. The food coming out of here would make any cook a star. Sunfish ceviche sparkles with acidity but is never drowned by it, barbecued eel is geniusly paired with a potato-and-octopus salad, and pastas (basil gnocchi; agnolotti with crawfish) are nothing short of masterful. Stop by the bar for oysters and cocktails if nothing else.

Read more
River North

Half Shell

“We close when we feel like closing” and “Nothin’ but cash, no exceptions” are among the oh-so-perfect-for-the-setting sayings we overheard in just one night at this 40-year-old subterranean spot. Grab a table in the tiny Christmas light–strewn room, and start out with the “Mulligan stew” and an order of crispy calamari. For more fried goodness, have the “Thirty-Two Pointer” for an entrée—a crunchy pile of smelts, perch, frog legs, clam strips and fat shrimp. And if you’re looking to crack some crab, splurge on the massive, meaty king legs.

Read more
Lincoln Park

Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab

Critics' pick

You should feel like a king when you’re paying through the nose for a steakhouse experience, and you will here. Start with the sweet, cool stone crabs, the sugar prawns (Madagascar shrimp) and a delicious chopped salad that could easily feed two. Go straight to the top with the bone-in New York strip, perfect when ordered charred medium-rare, or the Alaskan king crab legs served chilled. Key lime pie is puckeringly sweet for those who like a hit-you-over-the-head finish, and brunch-only fried chicken is the best secret in town.

Read more
River North

mfk.

Critics' pick

With its small menu of simple but elegant seafood dishes, a dinner (or Sunday brunch or lunch, if you're lucky to work nearby) at mfk. is a welcome break from fancy plates and elaborate combinations of ingredients. Here, there are boquerones piled with peppers and fennel on a grilled baguette; easy vegetable salads; occasional crab feasts. At mfk., the kitchen proves that less is more.

Read more
Lakeview

New England Seafood Company Fish Market

Critics' pick

Part fish market, part restaurant, New England Seafood Company serves up the best lobster roll in town. It's simply dressed, with a tiny bit of mayo, plus butter on the side. The crab roll and chowders are also worth ordering, and you can take seafood home for later.

Read more
Lakeview

Shaw’s Crab House

Critics' pick

There’s nothing wrong with splurging on lobster or king crab and wanting to enjoy it in this institution’s formal dining room. We just prefer the freedom of getting down and dirty in the adjacent bar, where we can slurp fresh oysters, crack open crab claws and dunk our lobster tail in copious amounts of butter—all without earning a sideways glance from a stiff in a suit. The quality remains just as high (it’s all coming from the same kitchen), and there’s no pressure to splurge on wine.

Read more
River North

Wellfleet

For years, Bill Dugan has run an "occasional" restaurant out of his seafood shop, the Fish Guy. Now he's given the antiseptically clean and bright space a renovation, converting one fish case into a dining bar and adding a few permanent tables in front. Recently, the food has taken a step up, with a lobster roll that does the quality of the product justice and a clam sandwich that has big, meaty fried clams and ramp pesto.

Read more
Mayfair

Comments

1 comments
Shaina M
Shaina M

Um, it says "Joe's Crab Shack" in the photo captions and I was like "Is this a joke?" Nope, just an error.