The River North Guide
There’s a lot going on in this neighborhood, and deciding on a restaurant can be tough. This is where you should be eating.
River North is a perplexing place: You love it. You hate it. The restaurants are great. The restaurants are annoying. It’s great for people-watching. Oh my god, these people are the worst.
This is the roller coaster of emotions you’ll experience whenever you find yourself in the neighborhood. But there’s an easy way to deal with it: Know exactly what you’re looking to get out of your meal, and choose a restaurant accordingly. Whether you’re with friends and family, potential significant others, or work people, picking a place with the right ambience is key. From over-the-top steakhouses to quality hot dog spots, here are the restaurants we keep going back to in River North.
Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab
Originally from Miami, Joe’s has officially become a Chicago classic, too. This location does a great job of incorporating its signature stone crabs with an otherwise traditional steakhouse menu. You’ll find all the steakhouse sides you’d expect (there’s a whole section devoted to potatoes and plenty of creamed spinach), along with seasonal fish and shellfish. Joe’s proves there’s no better way to do surf and turf than steak and stone crabs.
Damn you, Giuliana and Bill Rancic. On the surface your steakhouse looks like everything we expect in a mediocre River North restaurant – giant booths, crowded, and a total scene. But the food and service are excellent. Touché.
Like its sister restaurant, Ramen-san, Sushi-san has wooden tables, loud rap music, and a menu with a mix of traditional and contemporary Japanese dishes. Sure, this place has a poop emoji instead of a bathroom sign, but the sushi here is no joke – it’s really good. Sushi-san is also both reasonably affordable for the neighborhood, and a fun spot for a group dinner.
Shaw’s Crab House
Shaw’s has all things seafood in a refined dining room. It’s a great place to come with the family and have a comfortable, upscale meal. You can’t go wrong with any of the fish or crab dishes, but the more casual oyster bar is also a great option – go heavy enough on the oysters and appetizers there and you can skip entrees altogether, if you prefer.
The Rancics are back again. Everything we said about RPM Steak holds true for their Italian restaurant, too. It’s the opposite of laid-back, but it’s a fantastic choice if you’re craving delicious pastas and don’t mind seeing and/or being seen. The bucatini here is some of the best in Chicago.
Disclaimer: Beatrix could easily be categorized as both casual and trendy. It’s casual in the mornings for a cup of coffee and a baked good, any day of the week for lunch, or on weekends for a great brunch. But it’s also a trendy spot for dinner, especially since the menu includes a lot of health-conscious ingredients like quinoa and kale. Overall, it makes for a versatile, quality restaurant.
Ema feels like a Mediterranean Beatrix, probably because it’s owned by the same people and is right next door. You can keep it simple with basics like hummus and kefta, or order some of the more interesting dishes like sweet corn and bulgar risotto or braised lamb shoulder with dates and cherries. Whatever you do, make sure you order extra housemade pita – it’s excellent.