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Photograph: Anjali Pinto

The 13 best restaurants in River North and Streeterville

River North and Streeterville serve some of the best food in Chicago, including seafood, steak and Mexican

Amy Cavanaugh
Written by
Amy Cavanaugh
&
Samantha Nelson
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River North and its neighbor Streeterville are among the most popular tourist destinations in the city due to their historic architecture, entertainment venues and views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago River. A huge variety of restaurants ranging from classic Chicago steakhouses to celebrity chef-driven experiences cater to visitors and locals looking for a great night out. If you’ve got something to celebrate, even if it’s just the start of the weekend, get dressed up and head to one of these restaurants, then keep the night going at one of the best bars in River North and Streeterville.

RECOMMENDED: Our complete guide to River North and Streeterville

  • Restaurants
  • River North

Chef partner CJ Jacobson presents a California-style spin on Mediterranean small plates with an emphasis on spreads, dips and mezze such as spicy hummus, house-made stracciatella and lamb and beef kefta kebabs. Stop in for happy hour from 4-6pm Monday through Thursday to enjoy $5 bites at the bar along with complex cocktails like the Secret Garden, a blend of gin, matcha, apricon, lemon and tahini honey. If you’re just looking for a quick bite, visit the Rotisserie Ema food bar.

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

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.

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

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 three decades, this has been the spot for regional Mexican fare made with local ingredients, a place to chow down on ceviches, enchiladas with mole, wood-grilled steak tucked into organic heirloom corn tortillas and, of course, insanely good margaritas.

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

If it gets any more old-school than this circa-1941 steakhouse, we haven’t seen it. The wood-lined dining room features Naugahyde bar stools and a mahogany bar that have hosted celebrities ranging from Frank Sinatra to Will Ferrell. Some of the servers have spent more than 40 years at the restaurant so they can guide you through the menu of Italian classics and signature dishes such as shrimp de jonghe and a garbage salad loaded with salami, provolone and jumbo shrimp.

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

One of Chicago’s best seafood restaurants, GT Fish & Oyster is a solid spot for dinner, happy hour, 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 shrimp bruschetta sparkles with citrus and avocado, the lobster roll is simple and perfect and the garlic marinated fish tacos with chipotle aioli and pork chicharron are a new classic.

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

The massive, lively restaurant in the heart of River North serves authentic Mexican cuisine paired with tequila- and mezcal-based cocktails. Couples and big groups have flocked to Mercadito for more than a decade for a seasonal menu of guacamole, ceviche, salsas and a huge selection of tacos including beer-battered mahi-mahi with chipotle aioli and smoked brisket with pickled tomatillo. Come for Toasted Brunch where DJs spin Latin, house and hip-hop music while you enjoy chilaquiles, huevos rancheros and mimosas.

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  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • River North
  • price 1 of 4

The lively restaurant is a perfect place for big groups looking to share an affordable menu of wine by the liter along with Italian small plates including Neapolitan-style pizza, veal meatball sliders with giardiniera and handmade gnocchi with fresh basil and ricotta. Start your meal with a tasting of salumi and cheeses and leave room for profiterole with a glass of house-made limoncello. The kitchen is open until midnight, so it’s also a great destination if you’re looking for a late night snack.

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

The second restaurant from the team of the Rancics and the Melman kids is this steakhouse, which turns out perfectly cooked steaks, a towering seafood platter and potatoes with black truffles. The desserts are the secret star, with a flaming baked Alaska and chocolate cake, though you should just pretend it's your birthday and snag one of the over-the-top sundaes.

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

There’s nothing wrong with splurging on lobster or king crab and wanting to enjoy it in this institution’s formal dining room. We just prefer to get down and dirty in the adjacent oyster bar, where we slurp fresh oysters, crack open crab claws and dunk lobster tail in copious amounts of butter. Classic cocktails are well-executed, though we'll almost always opt for a well-chosen draft beer alongside seafood.

  • Restaurants
  • Pan-Asian
  • River North
  • price 2 of 4

Restaurateur Billy Dec celebrates his Filipino roots at Sunda New Asian, which serves modern interpretations of lumpia, pancit and sisig along with sushi and signature dishes inspired by other Southeast Asian countries including Thailand, Vietnam and Korea. The drink menu offers an extensive selection Asian beer and sake plus seasonal cocktails you can enjoy on the restaurant’s revamped patio. Sunda also recently relaunched brunch, serving ube waffles with Japanese fried chicken, a traditional Filipino breakfast, and a 32-ounce Sumo Mary with equally outsized toppings including a pork belly bao bun and a baked snow crab handroll.

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