The real heart of Chicago beats in the neighborhoods, and River North, on the Windy City’s north side, is a food lovers mecca. Whether you’re looking for a romantic night out or you want a restaurant the whole family can enjoy, this region north of the Chicago River has you covered. Here are our top picks for the best restaurants in this urban community.
Best for Seafood: GT Fish & Oyster
Earning a Bib Gourmand in the Michelin Guide for its excellent food offered at an affordable price, GT Fish & Oyster has been carefully chosen by Michelin’s inspectors. Grab a seat at the contemporary raw bar and swallow oysters. Dine on dishes that are meant for sharing like the tuna crudo, green tea soba noodles, or deviled eggs with smoked salmon. Indulge in something from the extensive cocktail, beer, or wine list or try the Drunken Snapper sake from Kyoto, Japan. The experts behind the bar can help you pair a drink with your meal. You really can’t go wrong, no matter what you choose, at this modern seafood sanctuary.
Best for Latin Flavor: Topolobampo
Go big and enjoy The Perfect Seven tasting menu, which highlights the best Topolobampo has to offer over seven unique and dynamic courses. The thematic courses for this flavorful tasting menu change seasonally to ensure freshness and to keep you coming back for more. Taste Mexican flavors with a classy twist at this repeatedly Michelin-starred haven, the crown jewel of Rick Bayless since 1989, alongside neighboring Frontera Grill. Jump in on the mole tasting, wine pairings, and agave pairings.
Best for Families: Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria
Everyone knows that Chicagoans love their deep-dish pizza, and Lou Malnati’s in River North is one of the best joints to grab a pie. Bring your family to this casual hot spot and order pasta, salad, soup, sandwiches, or stick with the cheesy classic favorite. If you want to bring a frozen pie home, pop into the restaurant and buy one at the host stand. We recommend pre-ordering your pizza ahead of time, and then when you arrive, check in with the hostess and get seated close to your quoted time slot. This way, you won’t have to wait in line at this popular pizzeria. Outside seating is also available during nicer weather, and it’s a perfect way to dine with rollicking kids.
Best for Global Travelers: Tanta Chicago
Chef Gaston Acurio has created a trip throughout Peru, from the coastal region to the Atacama Desert to the Andes mountains to the Amazon rainforest, at his Tanta restaurant in Chicago. Walk in and see bright and colorful artwork contrasted with relaxing lighting and a sleek bar. Tanta has a private dining room next to a rooftop terrace. Visit Monday—Friday, from 5 to 7 p.m. to enjoy Happy Hour, where you can indulge in Peruvian beers or a signature Pisco Sour, a popular drink in Peru.
Best for Versatility: Beatrix
Whether you like coffee, adult beverages, or fresh-squeezed juice, Beatrix offers something for everyone in four different Chicagoland locations, including one in River North. This is a classic Chicago neighborhood meeting place, and it’s designed for you to linger with friends or family for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner. Rich Melman, the founder of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, works with chefs and partners John Chiakulas, Rita Dever, and Susan Weaver to create nutritious yet tasty menu possibilities as well as bakery items. The coffee comes from Chicago roasters Intelligentsia, and Metric, and the baristas are encouraged to make their own unique creations.
Best for an Artistic Experience: Marisol
Marisol is bright, sleek, and full of colorful art that pops, which makes sense given its location inside the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. The dinner menu features seasonal ingredients that are fresh and aesthetically pleasing. Burrata with Michigan peaches, Kampachi Crudo, duck, quail, squid rigatoni, and arctic char have all been featured on past menus. Enjoy drinks from a full bar, including dessert wine, amaro, cocktails, and wine. If you attend an MCA Chicago special event, you can enjoy a three-course prix-fixe menu at Marisol.
Best for Innovation: Roka Akor
Steak, seafood, and sushi are served in a stylish modern dining room with neutral tones and soft lighting at Roka Akor. The cuisine is prepared Robatayaki-style, and you’ll love watching your food be made as much as you’ll enjoy eating it if you sit at the bar. You can order sashimi, nigiri, or maki, but the standout choice here is a dish prepared on the Robata grill. Don’t skip the Japanese whiskey, beer, sake, and shochu to complete the experience.