Chicago’s location, right along the coast of Lake Michigan, makes it a prime place to find great seafood in the Midwest. The magnificent body of water that laps Chicago’s shores happens to be the third largest of the Great Lakes (at 307 miles long and 118 miles wide, with 1,640 miles of shoreline) and the fifth largest freshwater lake in the world. It’s also the only Great Lake that lies completely within the borders of the United States, which makes it uniquely American.
Lake Michigan features abundant populations of salmon (Chinook and coho), trout (rainbow, lake and brown) bass (smallmouth and largemouth), perch and walleye. As a result, the fishing traditions surrounding it are rich and deep. In the early 1800s, when the states surrounding the lake (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin) were settled, the people began to develop a style of cooking seafood that was distinctively Midwestern—simple, elegant and delicious. Today, those traditions continue in a plethora of Chicago seafood restaurants; no visit is complete without a foray into the culinary delights of the country’s “third coast.”
Catch 35 is considered to be one of Chicago’s best seafood and steak restaurants, and for good reason. The food choices here are truly exciting, innovative and super-fresh (for example, try the stir-fried wok dishes). The atmosphere is classy and the drink list is extensive. You’ll find Catch 35 at 35 West Wacker Drive in the loop. Reservations are recommended.
River North’s ultra-sophisticated Blue Water Grill features a creative surf-and-turf menu that pays homage to the Chicago meatpacking industry and the gastronomic influences of Japan. You can also relax at the trendy Starfish Lounge, where specialty sakes are offered alongside signature cocktails.
Tourists and locals alike flock to Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, located inside the chaotic cheerfulness of Navy Pier. Casual and fun, Bubba Gump (yes, it’s named after the Tom Hanks movie from 1994, “Forrest Gump”) offers great Southern and Cajun-inspired shrimp dishes, Dixie-style baby back ribs and hand-shaken cocktails.
Experience cozy yet elegant dining at the Cape Cod Room, which channels nautical motifs for an atmosphere befitting a 1930s-era seafood spot. An extensive menu features over a dozen fresh market selections from the simple to the lavish. Don’t pass up the classic preparation of clam chowder, and hang at the oyster bar to rub elbows with regulars. Open for dinner only.
An old-fashioned crab house atmosphere—live crabs in tanks, crab shells on the floor—is a highlight of Cy’s Crab House. This is a lively place to catch a game at the bar while enjoying a wide selection of seafood entrees, pastas and Mediterranean specialties.
Devon Seafood Grill reliably serves up only the freshest fish from the ocean, so seafood selections vary daily. This is a place designed to pamper its guests, with its casually elegant feel, a charming bar area and creative cuisine choices.
The jazzy feel at Green Dolphin Street is no accident; this supper club revels in its musical panache with shows all year long—rhythm and blues, Latin, swing, big band and even jazz dance lessons. Enjoy fresh market fish, seafood specialties and upscale American-style entrees with your favorite beat.
The legendary Miami Beach hotspot Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab has a bustling Chicago location with a grand, club-style space. Famous around the world for its stone crab claws and signature mustard sauce, Joe’s is a must for fresh fish—flown in daily—and delicious cuts of meat too.
King Crab Tavern & Seafood Grill is another offering from the folks behind Cy’s Crab House. The relaxed, saloon-like feel complements dishes like garlic shrimp, spicy Cajun gumbo, fried catfish, oysters and crab legs. The daily specials are worth the trip.
A dining experience at McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurant at the One East Wacker Drive or 41 East Chestnut locations are always sophisticated and enjoyable, thanks to a fabulous happy hour and truly superior seafood. Over 30 fresh selections are available each day on an ever-changing menu that celebrates tradition and good taste.
If you love seafood, you can’t visit Chicago without making your way to Shaw’s Crab House. Clubby and sophisticated in the East Coast style, this dynamic restaurant boasts over 40 seasonally fresh seafood entrees and an oyster bar for sushi and regional cold-water oysters on the half-shell. Famous for its crab offerings and sushi combinations, you’ll probably need a reservation to dine here.