Navy Pier isn't exactly known as a culinary hot bed. The Chicago attraction is synonymous with tourists, crowds and souvenir shops, but if you know where to look, Navy Pier restaurants might just surprise you. The lakeside pier is home to some of the city’s most iconic dishes, like Chicago deep dish pizza, caramel and cheddar popcorn, and loaded Chicago hot dogs. Scattered among the best Navy Pier restaurants are also delicious delicacies from far-flung neighborhoods. Come summertime, beloved Beverly ice cream shop the Original Rainbow Cone opens a small stall on the pier, offering cones piled high with five different flavors. Visitors can also stop by South Side favorite Brown Sugar Bakery for caramel cake, cobbler and cookies. Whether you’ve got family in town or you’re playing tourist for the day, these are the Navy Pier restaurants to check out.
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Navy Pier restaurants
When fried chicken cravings hit at Navy Pier, there's only one place to go: Big City Chicken. The shop keeps it simple with two-, three- and eight-piece meals, which can be ordered original or spicy (we're fans of the latter). There's also stacked sandos, tenders, fries, hand-squeezed lemonade and a curated beer list—the makings of a perfect picnic on the pier.
Come summertime, this iconic Beverly shop opens a small ice cream stand at Navy Pier. The signature five-flavor Rainbow Cone features scoops of chocolate, strawberry, Palmer House (vanilla with cherries and walnuts), pistachio and orange sherbet stacked one on top of the other for an unbeatable classic.
Long before Chicago got all fancy with its pizza, Giordano’s was here. Serving hefty deep-dish goodness to Chicagoans since the ’70s, this chain is still pleasing masses with no-frills gut-busters topped with sausage, spinach and other classics. You could be adventurous and order a salad or a basket of calamari, but why bother? You're here for the beloved stuffed deep dish.
With king crab legs and filet mignon on the menu, this seafood restaurant is the most upscale option at Navy Pier. From the dining room, guests can enjoy views of Lake Michigan, the city skyline and—if it's the right night—fireworks. The lunch crowd can choose from steam pots of mussels and snow crab, hearty sandwiches and salads. For dinner, there's plenty of surf and turf to go around, with lobster, crab cakes, pork chops and filets.
This beloved South Side bakery has a second location at Navy Pier, peddling Stephanie Hart's "down-home delights." Peach cobbler, pineapple upside-down cake and sweet-potato pie, as well as by-the-slice or whole cakes such as caramel, German chocolate and red velvet are just a sample of Hart’s cavity-producing creations.
You're here for the Cheezborger (made famous by Saturday Night Live), which is layered with melty American cheese, pickles and onions—no lettuce or tomato. Prepared on a sizzling-hot griddle, the breakfast plates are perfectly greasy and designed to cure the roughest of hangovers. Come summer, the Goat's Navy Pier location also offers plenty of outdoor seating for guests who want to look out at the Lake as they indulge.
Inspired by watching his mother prepare paletas in El Carmen, Mexico, Ozzie Ocegueda teamed up with restaurant group Lettuce Entertain You to bring his culinary dreams to life. At this Navy Pier shop, Ocegueda slings whimsical popsicles in flavors like mango, dulce de leche, chocolate banana and blueberry basil. There's also a selection of hand-crafted pretzels in sweet (cinnamon and sugar) and savory (pepperoni pizza) varieties.
Befitting of its name, Tiny Tavern is a small but mighty cocktail bar serving classics (think dark and stormy, Moscow mule and whiskey sour). The food offerings are surprisingly robust, with plenty of bar nibbles to pair with your booze. Order a Chicago dog, roasted sweet potato empanadas or the street corn nachos, which are piled high with cheese, pickled jalapeños and cilantro.
There's no shortage of whimsical desserts at Snow Dragon Shavery, where guests can order shaved snow, bubble tea topped with cotton candy, doughnut ice cream sandwiches and cookie dough cones. Like its counterpart in Lincoln Park, the Navy Pier outpost also offers a display case full of colorful macarons, making it easy to snag a sweet treat on the go.