The Midwest wasn't always such a great spot for seafood, but these days, it's plenty easy to ship fresh oceanic treasures straight from the coasts. Add in some of the best chefs in the country, and it's not hard to see why Chicago is rife with excellent seafood restaurants that serve slurpable oysters, pristine tuna tartare, buttery lobster rolls and crab legs by the pound. Better yet, there's something for every budget—from quick-service lunch in the Loop to splurge-worthy steakhouses. Check out the 16 best seafood restaurants in Chicago.
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Best seafood restaurants in Chicago
Our go-to spot for seafood, Shaw's Crab House is a Chicago classic.Choose from two seating experiences: the traditional white-tablecloth–equipped dining room or the lively oyster bar, where you'll find us sucking down bivalves, cracking open crab claws and dunking lobster tails in butter. The menu also includes a terrific lobster roll, bound up with the barest hint of mayo, and sushi and sashimi. Pair your seafood feast with a local beer or a classic martini, which goes perfectly with oysters.
With a curated menu of simple but elegant seafood dishes, 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, boquerones come piled with pickled peppers on a grilled baguette, smoked trout roe is served with verdant olive chimichurri, and crunchy prawn heads arrive bathed in lemon and paprika. At mfk., the kitchen proves that less is more.
Situated on the ground floor of the Dana Hotel in River North, Portsmith is open for brunch, lunch and dinner, but we prefer to visit at the end of the day, when the Maine lobster pot pie and yellowtail snapper are available. The sleek restaurant offers upscale, fish-filled takes on just about every classic comfort food, like the decadent mac 'n' cheese, which can be stuffed with hunks of king crab for an additional cost, or the squid ink spaghetti tossed with saffron cream and studded with mussels, squid and scallops.
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 ribeye, 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 the fried chicken is the best secret in town.
Though its name may be goofy, Oyster Bah is serious about seafood. The Lincoln Park restaurant offers eight to 12 varieties of East and West Coast oysters daily at $3.50 a pop (enjoy select half-priced bivalves from 5 to 6pm daily). If oysters aren't your jam, the menu is packed with alternatives, including sizzling garlic shrimp, grilled Spanish octopus, hearty clam chowder and grilled trout with poblano salsa verde. You'll need to book a repeat visit to check out Crab Cellar, the basement concept that serves endless Alaskan king crab legs and prime burgers for $69.95 per person.
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.
This seafood fave not only shares the kitchen of Gibson’s Steakhouse but also the slick tie-and-blazer crowd that loves them both. The boardroom-meets-Rat-Pack decor is full of dark wood, leather booths and career servers hoisting huge trays spilling over with succulent and sweet Alaska king crab legs, giant Australian lobster tails and massive porterhouses. Old-school classics are prepared well; a few even qualify as addictive. We like the frog legs with garlic butter.
Before going to the Angry Crab, some advice: Wear clothes you don’t mind getting messy and bring lots of booze. You’ll probably have 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 don't be afraid to get messy.
Chef Giuseppe Tentori's menu is both traditional and modern, with crab cakes and clam chowder served alongside shrimp-studded green tea soba noodles and Thai coconut soup. For a hungry bunch, the loaded seafood tower is an absolute must. From there, tack on entrees like the fish tacos with pork chicharron or the GT linguini with clams and white wine. Want to learn how to shuck like a chef at home? The restaurant offers fun oyster classes every month for $65 per person.
The cozy oyster bar within Swift & Sons is a fun spot to fill up on lots of fresh seafood. Order a draft beer or glass of wine, then toss in rounds of oysters, brimming with brine, and nuggets of sweet crab, carefully extracted from the shell or get it all in a seafood tower. An order of sardines, accented with salsa verde and served with saltines, is a simple, yet completely satisfying dish.
Seafood and fast food don't typically go hand in hand, but the folks at Brown Bag are trying to change that. The quick-service restaurant has five locations throughout Chicago—from the Loop to Roscoe Village. Simply pick your protein (salmon, crispy cod, curry fish cakes, seared tuna, etc.) and a base (veggies, grains, salad, tacos, etc.), and you'll be on your way in no time. The fish here is deliciously fresh, whether you go with the daily catch or the grilled shrimp. And you can't beat the price: Most meals come out well under $15.
This quick-service fish shack shows some gourmet leanings: The standout cod in the fish and chips is breaded and fried to order, burgers are made from Angus beef and the French fries are larded with hunks of foie gras. The expansive chain has locations in River North, Lakeview, Wicker Park and Logan Square, so there are plenty of ways to get your poke crunch wrap fix.
New York-based Luke's opened its first Chicago location in spring 2015, and they serve a solid lobster roll for $17. The meat is lightly dressed with both butter and mayonnaise, sprinkled with spices, including thyme and celery salt, then tucked into a well-buttered bun. For a real deal, order the Luke's trio, which includes half rolls of crab, lobster and shrimp plus a drink and side for $22.50.
“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 more than 50-year-old subterranean spot. Stake out a table in the tiny Christmas light–strewn room, and start with the half-shell Mulligan and an order of deep-fried oysters. For more crispy 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.
For years, Bill Dugan has run an "occasional" restaurant out of his seafood shop, the Fish Guy. Now he's given the clean and bright space a renovation, converting one fish case into a dining bar and adding a few permanent tables in front. The food has also taken a step up, with a lobster roll that does the quality of the product justice and a clam sandwich packed with big, meaty fried clams and ramp pesto.
This isn't your hoity-toity seafood restaurant—prepare to get your hands dirty at Lowcountry, with outposts in Lakeview and the South Loop. Steam-filled bags are stuffed with shrimp, snow crab legs, mussels other sea treasures and tossed with sauce and veggies. Thow in an order of honey butter jalapeno cornbread and fried green tomatoes with pimento cheese, and you've got yourself a proper feast.