River North and Streeterville are best known for steakhouses, but the neighborhoods also have plenty of other culinary gems. With Mexican restaurants, Czech food and seafood restaurants, the area has a diverse array of options. Still hungry? Devour River North and Streeterville's cheap eats or head to one of the best bars.
RECOMMENDED: Our complete guide to River North and Streeterville
Brendan Sodikoff's vaguely French steakhouse is a departure—or perhaps an evolution—for the restaurateur. While his other spots (Gilt Bar, Au Cheval) have their charms, the appeal of this spot—decked out with jazz-era decor and music—is practically universal. Diners need not be huge steak fans to get a good meal; in fact, as good as the steak frites is, both the fried and roasted chicken are even better. Elegant cocktails begin meals here; fabulous pies (lemon meringue, chocolate cream) end them.
Under chef Tanya Baker, Alpana Singh's Boarding House has a new life. The American menu is filled with well-executed dishes, like housemade pastas, lovingly cooked octopus tentacles, and duck breast with celery root and black garlic sauce. As for drinks, with Singh at the helm, you know the wines are spectacular—knowledgable staff can help you find a new gem.
Led by chef Rob Sidor, the outstanding Czech restaurant shines a light on a cuisine we don't see a ton of in Chicago. The restaurant, replete with grandmotherly china and a back bar built from wooden tables, has a funky aesthetic and it's a comfortable spot for tucking into the soulful chicken paprikash with potato dumplings and pickled sweet peppers, crispy, tender pork schnitzel with charred lemon, and the beef cheek pierogies, a perfect starter.
David Burke’s name is on the door of this modern steak house, but make no mistake—chef Dino Tsaknis is the one in the kitchen. Under the duo’s jurisdiction, warm popovers stand in for bread, filets are unstoppably tender and rich, and the Caesar salad is whipped up tableside. It’s not your mama’s steakhouse, but don’t worry—your parents will want you to take them here again and again.
This likable, cozy tavern approaches the idea of “local” with militant seriousness: The 28 draft lines run Buckledown, Half Acre, Dark Horse, 5 Rabbit —and that doesn’t even begin to cover it. The food too, is Midwestern in theme, and it's simple but consistently well executed. Fried cheese curds are served with house ketchup, the grass-fed burger is even better with the addition of a fried egg is a must in summer.
Most chefs behind culinary empires branch to other cities, leaving the original back home to suffer. Rick Bayless kept close to the kitchen and chose to expand in other ways (packaged food line, cookbooks, TV shows). Lucky us. For two decades, this has been the spot for a vibrant slice of Mexico City, a place to chow down on ceviches, earthy mole, wood-grilled steak tucked into housemade tortillas and, of course, insanely good margaritas.
If it gets any more old-school than this circa-1941 steakhouse, we haven’t seen it. Filling every inch of the wood-lined dining room are Naugahyde bar stools, chairs and banquettes as blood-red as the steaks (both well-aged, we might add). Servers range from formal to gruff, but they mean well and they deliver the goods: textbook veal Vesuvio, a “garbage” salad fit for four, calf’s liver sautéed with onions and bacon, perfectly seared chops and garlicky shrimp De Jonghe that the veteran staff swears the joint invented.
One of Chicago's best seafood restaurants, GT Fish & Oyster is a solid spot for dinner, lunch, brunch or just oysters and cocktails at the bar. Chef Giuseppe Tentori's menu changes regularly, so you never quite know what you'll find, but the sunfish ceviche sparkles with acidity, the lobster roll is simple and perfect and the lobster mac and cheese is a new classic.
Michael Kornick’s initials still emblazon the exterior of this River North stalwart, but chef Erick Williams executes the day-to-day, drawing in newbies and satisfying loyalists with elegant and seasonal contemporary American cuisine. The spacious and tasteful room is comfortable enough that you can settle in for Williams’s tasting menu, where he’s been known to show off a veal porterhouse grilled over hardwood charcoal with melted leeks and the simplicity of seasonal oysters with a mignonette.
Chef Carrie Nahabedian delivers an upscale experience minus the pomp, courtesy of a snazzy room and a seasonal menu that reads like a who’s who in regional, sustainable foods. The menu changes weekly, so expect anything from seasonal veggies—Tender leaf spinach and roasted fennel bulb—accompanying a wild Carolina Coast striped bass to walnut baklava with Afghani saffron ice cream, greek yogurt and Bay Laurel Leaf Gelée.