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Three food containers filled with fish, shrimp and a lobster roll.
Photograph: Neil Burger

The best seafood restaurants in Chicago

Whether it's smoked shrimp and salmon or sweet, succulent crab legs, Chicago's top seafood specialists have it all.

Written by
Morgan Olsen
,
Samantha Nelson
&
Jeffy Mai
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Although Lake Michigan supplies Chicagoans with plenty of pleasures, a varied selection of seafood is not one of them. However, that slight disadvantage hasn’t stopped local restaurants and chefs from offering pristine shellfish and other aquatic treasures. There’s no need to hop on a plane to enjoy fresh catch—many of the products at the following spots are flown in from the coasts. A couple of places even smoke their own seafood on site. Money is no object? Then visit RPM Seafood or Bar Mar to splurge on caviar and Alaskan king crab legs. If you’d rather get your hands dirty, put on a bib and get to cracking at the Angry Crab or Lowcountry. You can also indulge in raw fish over rice with the best sushi in Chicago or have it fried in the best tacos in Chicago. No matter how you like it served, the city’s best seafood restaurants will reel you in.

RECOMMENDED: The all-time best Chicago restaurants

Best seafood restaurants in Chicago

  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • River North
  • price 3 of 4

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.

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Rush & Division
  • price 3 of 4

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 Alaskan 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 lemon butter.

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  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • South Deering
  • price 1 of 4

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.

  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Lake View
  • price 2 of 4

An intimate, basement spot that provides a throwback to a time of unfussy cooking, mfk. allows great ingredients to shine through a less-is-more approach. Here, boquerones come with piperade and fennel slaw on a grilled baguette, and a seafood "fideos" features toasted capellini noodles and shellfish in a saffron cream. At mfk., you can take a trip to the Catalan coast without ever leaving Chicago. And it doesn't hurt that the restaurant has earned the Michelin Guide’s Bib Gourmand designation annually since it opened in Lakeview East in 2014.

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  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • River North
  • price 2 of 4

Chef Giuseppe Tentori's menu is both traditional and modern, with crab cakes and clam chowder served alongside oyster po’ boy sliders. For a hungry group, the loaded seafood tower is an absolute must. From there, tack on entrees like the fish tacos with pork chicharron or sea bream with artichoke, pommes puree and Manila clams.

  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • River North
  • price 3 of 4

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.

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  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Loop
  • price 2 of 4

José Andrés and Gibsons Restaurant Group joined forces to open a two-pronged concept in the Bank of America Tower late last year. On the building’s ground floor sits Bar Mar, an upscale, seafood-centric restaurant that catches your attention with an octopus sculpture hanging over the main bar. The luxe food lineup features a selection of small snacks, such as caviar cones and mini bagels topped with smoked salmon, and hearty items like a buttery lobster roll and a fried red snapper.

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Jeffy Mai
Assistant Editor
  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Lake View
  • price 2 of 4

“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.

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  • Shopping
  • Grocery stores
  • Portage Park
  • price 1 of 4

Northwest Side residents cherish this longstanding fish market that’s been around since 1946. Hagen’s is notable for being one of the last remaining hardwood smokehouses in Chicago and you’ll see choices like salmon, shrimp, sable and trout in the display case. There’s also a menu of deep fried specialties, including a killer crispy pollock sandwich, and the shop even offers a smoking service for customers who want their own seafood smoked.

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Jeffy Mai
Assistant Editor
  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Lincoln Park
  • price 3 of 4

Don't let the goofy name fool you. Quality Crab & Oyster Bah offers several varieties of East and West Coast oysters daily for $3.50 a pop until 6pm, Monday through Friday. If oysters aren't your jam, the menu is packed with alternatives, including sizzling garlic shrimp, miso-glazed salmon, hearty clam chowder and lobster pappardelle. Don't forget to check out Crab Cellar in the basement, where you can feast on all-you-can-eat crab legs and sides.

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  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • River North
  • price 2 of 4

Can't decide between oysters, sushi, caviar and tuna tacos? At Lure Fishbar, you don't have to, thanks to a menu that presents an ocean of seafood options. If you crave variety, shelfish platters stacked with oysters, shrimp, crab claws and clams offer a way to sample a bit of everything (as do the sushi and sashimi plates). More decisive diners can enjoy entrees such as a lobster roll or a cripsy Asian snapper for two, served with stir fried veggies. And if you're not a fan of seafood, you'll also find steaks, burgers and pork chops on the menu—though we'd be a little confused about why you came to a place called "Lure Fishbar."

  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Loop
  • price 1 of 4

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 eight locations throughout Chicago—from River North 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 seafood here is deliciously fresh, whether you go with the daily catch or the grilled shrimp. And you can't beat the price: Most meals ring up well under $15.

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  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • River North

Take in views of the Chicago River from the terrace or through one of the restaurant’s floor-to-ceiling windows while you dine on bone-in swordfish ribeye or charcoal-grilled black bass at the latest addition to the RPM restaurant empire. Start your meal in spectacular fashion by ordering a seafood tower featuring prawns, Maine lobster, Alaskan king crab legs and East and West Coast oysters—but save some room for the banana cream Napoleon served with sliced bananas covered in warm caramel. The drink menu emphasizes tequila and mezcal cocktails but also offers plenty of bubbly by the glass if it's a festive occasion.

  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • West Ridge
  • price 2 of 4

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.

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  • Restaurants
  • Wicker Park

Louisiana native Brian Jupiter brings a taste of the bayou to Chicago at this corner tavern in Wicker Park. The chef’s frying skills are on full display with oceanic treats like crackly shrimp, catfish and crawfish. Want to sample them all? Get the po man’s seafood tower, which serves two-to-three people. Or for a southern-style surf and turf, try the grilled oysters crowned with beef short rib.

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Jeffy Mai
Assistant Editor
  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Lake View
  • price 1 of 4

Inspired by the casual seaside shacks common on the East Coast, DMK Restaurants' Fish Bar is always a good bet. Though the brief menu changes seasonally to highlight the freshest sustainable products, reliable favorites like the lobster roll and the crabby patty—a crispy blue crab cake sandwich—shouldn’t be missed. The lovely outdoor patio is also a nice amenity when weather permits.

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Jeffy Mai
Assistant Editor
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  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • River West/West Town

Enjoy Latin takes on seafood such as shrimp ceviche, lobster and cheese empanadas or seared ahi tuna tacos at this bright spot along the Chicago River—not far from Goose Island. Share a pitcher of spicy mango margaritas or white peach sangria served in a large clay pot while checking out murals from Mexican artist Senkoe. The full menu is also available in the restaurant's rooftop space, which takes on a lounge-like feel after dark, complete with bottle service and shot trees.

  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Hyde Park
  • price 2 of 4

Taking the mantle from her late father Eddy Cheung, Jade Court owner Carol Cheung delivers some of the finest Cantonese cuisine in the city. You’ll find Chinese staples like Peking duck and egg foo young on offer, but the real treasures lie in the seafood section. Lobster and Dungeness crab can be prepared in a variety of ways; choose the typhoon shelter-style for a Hong Kong classic that consists of shellfish tossed with chilis, dried fish and garlic chips. Piled high on the plate, the dish attracts all eyes in the dining room when servers bring it out.

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Jeffy Mai
Assistant Editor
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  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • East Village
  • price 2 of 4

If you’re looking for the best bang for your buck, it’s hard to beat this Mexican seafood eatery. Diners are given complimentary ceviche tostadas to munch on (careful with the habanero salsa—it’s extremely spicy) as they look through the extensive menu. You’ll definitely want to bring a group because the massive portions are meant to be shared. Options include king and snow crab legs, stuffed lobsters, shrimp, langoustines, whole fried fish and more. There’s also a generous BYOB policy so come prepared.

https://media.timeout.com/images/105925010/image.jpg
Jeffy Mai
Assistant Editor
  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Loop

Popular for both business gatherings and celebratory meals, this Michigan Avenue spot serves a mix of traditional fare like Alaskan crab legs and jumbo shrimp cocktails along with more novel seafood preparations like a "Surf N Turf" featuring scallops and braised short rib in gremolata and blackened snapper accompanied by corn spoon bread and jalapeno corn tartar. Visit on Monday to take advantage of Wine Enthusiast Night, when select bottles under $99 are half price.

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  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Lake View

This isn't a hoity-toity seafood restaurant—prepare to get your hands dirty at Lowcountry, with outposts in Lakeview, Chinatown and the South Loop. Steam-filled bags are stuffed with shrimp, snow crab clusters, mussels and other sea treasures and tossed with sauce and veggies. All of the combos come with some honey butter jalapeño cornbread, but you can also add on Cajun waffle fries and beignets for a proper feast.

  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Loop
  • price 1 of 4

New York-based Luke's opened its first Chicago location in spring 2015, and serves a solid lobster roll for $23 to $34. Four to six ounces of meat is lightly dressed with both lemon butter and mayonnaise, sprinkled with spices, 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 for $26.50. And if you’re extra hungry, add on a bowl of clam chowder or lobster bisque.

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  • Restaurants
  • American
  • Lake View
  • price 1 of 4

This quick-service fish shack offers staples like beer-battered fried whitefish with fries and a soft-shell crab sandwich, plus a huge selection of tacos including fried shrimp and fried whitefish with spicy Thai sauce. If you’re bringing a friend who’s not a fish fan, BIG & little’s also has burgers and hot dogs. Complete your meal with an order of truffle fries and a caramel churro. The chain has locations in Lakeview and Wicker Park, so there are plenty of ways to get your raw ahi tuna taco fix.

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