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River Roast
Photograph: Matt Reeves Photography

The best waterfront dining spots in Chicago

Chicago’s best waterfront restaurants offer epic sights and great eats

By Morgan Olsen and Emma Krupp
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Though it's more than a thousand miles away from the nearest ocean, Chicago still manages to boast top-notch waterfront views—from the glimmering expanses of Lake Michigan to the winding, skyscraper-lined path of the Chicago River. And lucky for us, some of Chicago's best rooftop bars and restaurants take advantage of all that waterfront property, offering both indoor and patio dining with beachy views to boot. These lake- and river-adjacent restaurants and bars are currently open for business with new safety guidelines in place (mask policies, limited indoor capacity and the like). Be sure to check each location's website or social media pages for specifics before you visit.

RECOMMENDED: The 18 best outdoor restaurants in Chicago 

Great waterfront dining in Chicago

pizzeria portofino, patio, river, pizza
Photograph: Melissa Hom

1. Pizzeria Portofino

Restaurants River North

It might not be the Cinque Terre, but Pizzeria Portofino's airy patio, decked out with white wicker couches and plenty of sunlight, does its best to bring the Italian coast to the riverfront. Order one of the restaurant's hand-stretched pizzas and an Aperol-spiked cocktail to complete the effect.

RPM seafood, patio
Photograph: Courtesy RPM Seafood

2. RPM Seafood

Restaurants Seafood River North

Head directly above Pizzeria Portofino to check out RPM Seafood, a luxe double-decker seafood eatery that debuted in January as the latest concept in the RPM restaurant family. The restaurant's elegant terraces are the perfect spot to devour seafood towers and platters of oysters while looking out at the river.

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Gibsons Italia, waterfront dining
Photograph: Kailley Lindman

3. Gibsons Italia

Restaurants West Loop

Soak in riverfront and skyline views from three different levels at this West Loop steakhouse, which serves house-made pastas, high-quality cuts of meat and other Italian delicacies. The second and third floors of the restaurant feature tables spread across on spacious patios but if you can snag a reservation for Friday or Saturday night, you'll be treated to dinner on the fourth floor rooftop (a space formerly reserved for private events).

ChicagoCut.venue.jpg
Photograph: Martha Williams

4. Chicago Cut Steakhouse

Restaurants Steakhouse River North

Bone-in ribeye and marinated skirt steak taste better when served on an open patio next to the Chicago River (having a dry-aging room on site helps, too). Take your alfresco experience to the next level with the help of the restaurant's expansive wine list, where you're sure to find the perfect Mendoza or Pinot Noir to accompany your steak.

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River Roast, waterfront dining, outdoor patio
Photograph: Matt Reeves Photography

5. River Roast

Restaurants Contemporary American River North

True to its name, you can expect a bevy of roasted meat and veggie options on the menu of this riverside American restaurant, which offers pork loin, whole fish, poblano pepper and more, all carved up tableside. Snag a reservation on its scenic patio area and enjoy dinner or a weekend brunch.

Smithwollensky1.Venue.jpg
Photograph: Chris Lake

6. Smith & Wollensky

Restaurants Steakhouse River North

This steakhouse chain's Marina City digs—a Chicago River fixture since 1998—sports all the classics, from prime-aged meat cuts to creamed spinach and truffled mac and cheese. Head to the restaurant's covered patio area for peak river views, or grab a table near the interior's floor-to-ceiling windows.

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7. Rivers

Restaurants American Loop

Trying to keep out of the sun when you dine riverside? The contemporary American restaurant Rivers, located on the lobby level of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange building facing the Chicago River, features a large patio with a hanging roof ideal for those aiming to avoid freckling while they munch on grilled salmon salads and burgers.

Chicago Riverwalk, City Winery
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

8. City Winery Chicago Riverwalk

Restaurants Mediterranean Loop

A micro version of the chain's outpost on Randolph Street, City Winery's Riverwalk location presents a short but smooth-sipping wine list and summery bites to match—plus, you can't beat the Riverwalk views.

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Porter Kitchen & Deck, waterfront dining, patio
Photograph: Courtesy Porter Kitchen & Deck

9. Porter Kitchen and Deck

Restaurants Steakhouse West Loop

Starting July 22, diners will be able to return to this modern American eatery for lunch and dinner on its riverside patio. For an especially summery vibe, order from the restaurant's Punch Stand menu, which features inventive warm weather cocktails—like a lemon sorbet and peach vodka float—plus small plates fit for a picnic.

South Branch
Photo: Joel Wintermantle

10. South Branch Tavern

Bars Beer bars Loop

Craft beer aficionados will appreciate the serviceable array of brews on tap—featuring local favorites like Half Acre's Daisy Cutter and Revolution Brewing's Anti-Hero—plus the even longer list of cans and bottles available for sipping as you watch water traffic float by on the Chicago River.

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North Pond
Photograph: Martha Williams

11. North Pond

Restaurants Contemporary American Lincoln Park

It's best to get a window seat in this tucked-away fine dining restaurant in Lincoln Park, located a few steps from the water and boasting a stellar view of the city. North Pond offers upscale seafood and has an extensive wine list to sample, too.

Offshore Navy Pier
Photograph: Courtesy ACRON Group

12. Offshore Rooftop & Bar

Restaurants Contemporary American Streeterville

Located at the tail end of Navy Pier, Offshore is the Guiness Book of World Records-certified largest rooftop bar in the world. That's all well and good, but we're most impressed by its panoramic views of Lake Michigan, perfect for watching boats over dinner and a craft cocktail.

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Waterfront Cafe
Photograph: Angela Conners

13. Waterfront Café

Restaurants Cafés Edgewater

The lakefront patio of the Waterfront Cafe, a seasonal favorite in Edgewater, feels like it would be equally at home in a small beach town. Snack on nautically-inclined menu items like lobster, brown butter crab or Cajun shrimp rolls and polish off your meal with a mix-and-match bucket of beer.

Metropolitan Brewing
Photograph: Nick Murway

14. Metropolitan Brewing

Bars Breweries Avondale

You won't find food on the menu at this Avondale brewery's riverside patio and dining room space, but guests are welcome to order from nearby restaurants—Kuma's Corner and Dmen Tap are just a couple options—to accompany Metropolitan's German-style lagers.

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15. The Dock at Montrose Beach

Things to do Uptown

This casual beachside restaurant serves easy, no-fuss food like guacamole, cheese curds, quesadillas, tacos and sandwiches. But you're really here for the sand, sun, live music and cold drinks (which are surprisingly affordable given the lakefront real estate). 

Photograph: Neal O'Bryan

16. Shore Club at North Avenue Beach

Restaurants Lincoln Park

The Shore Club at North Avenue Beach features three hangout spaces: the Patio, an open-air lounge with lunch and dinner service; the Restaurant, which offers an “elevated food menu”; and the Oasis, where guests can grab a daybed or cabana. It's not exactly for beach bums: shoes and shirts are required at all times.

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CaffeOliva.venue.jpg
Photograph: Max Herman

17. Caffè Oliva

Restaurants Mediterranean Streeterville

This Oak Street Beach restaurant’s motto says it all: “Sustenance on the sand.” The seasonal destination has a surprisingly robust menu with options like fried calamari, coconut shrimp, a cheeseburger, fish tacos and chocolate molten lava cake—everything you need to soak up a few margaritas in the sun.

Castaways
Photograph: Alexa Vaicaitis

18. Castaways Bar & Grill

Bars Beer bars Lincoln Park

Modeled after a beached oceanliner, the two-level space at Castaways is decked out with a first floor ice cream cafe and a rooftop perfect for catching summer rays by the water. 

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Reggies on the Beach
Photograph: Don MacEachron

19. Reggies on the Beach

Restaurants Woodlawn

Located just steps from 63rd Street Beach, Reggies on the Beach is a string light-strewn bar and grill with killer views of Lake Michigan. Come for a heaping helping of pub grub and frozen slushies. 

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