The Chicago River is one of this city's most defining assets. With its individualized bridge towers, movable bridges, and use for both transportion and leisure it's as much a character in the Chicago story as are the skyscrapers and Lake Michigan. One of the easiest ways to enjoy this feature is at one of the many restaurants that line its banks. Here's our roundup of spots for year-round dining on the Chicago River. Now there are 12! We realized we missed one. Are there others? Leave a comment and let us know!
We've also got a complete list of the restaurants on the Chicago Riverwalk! Waterfront dining rocks.
Photo courtesy Bridge House Tavern
This river-level restaurant has one of the best patios in the city, with great people watching as water taxis, tour boats, barges, and kayaks float by your table. The cuisine is American and includes small plates as well as full-sized entrees. Stop by between 3 and 6pm weekdays for half price oysters. Bridge House Tavern, 321 N Clark St, (312)644-0283Photo courtesy Chicago Burger Company
One of the few riverfront restaurants east of Michigan Avenue, the Chicago Burger Company is a casual spot with an upscale address. Sip on a frozen cocktail while you watch the boats head to and from Lake Michigan. You can find this idyllic spot in the Sheraton Towers a block east of the Mag Mile on the Riverwalk. Chicago Burger Company, 301 E North Water Street, (312)464-1000
Photo courtesy Chicago Cut Steakhouse
Although fairly new to the steakhouse scene, Chicago Cut has already made a national name for itself. Since opening in 2010 it's been on Esquire's Best New Restaurants list, named the #1 Steakhouse by USA Today's 10 Best, listed as one of Yahoo's 5 Best Steakhouses in America, and on Food Network's collection of best places for steak in America. Add a killer view on top of their in-house butcher and dry-aged steak and his place should definitely make your restaurant bucket list. Chicago Cut Steakhouse, 300 N LaSalle St, (312)329-1800
Photo courtesy Dick's Last Resort
Located in River North's Marina Towers this spot is known for the "rude" behavior of the servers and its theme nights. The menu of mid-American goodness includes bbq chicken, ribs, fries and slaw. There's also a buffet Sunday brunch and "big-ass" beers. Dick's Last Resort, 315 N Dearborn St, (312)836-7870
Photo courtesy ESTATE Ultra Bar | Yacht Club
This riverfront spot may be off the beaten path but its stunning view of the Chicago skyline makes it worth a visit. The bar's Star Deck has over 4,000 square feet for your lounging and viewing pleasure. They've also got their own dock so you can cruise up the river and tie off for awhile. Estate Ultra Bar, 1177 N Elston Ave, (312)523-4296
Photo courtesy of The Kitchen Chicago
The Kitchen is a Colorado transplant that sources its ingredients locally. While it doesn't have an outdoor space the south side of the restaurant features large windows that overlook the river. Designed to feel like you're in a friend's kitchen, this restaurant has its own non-profit that gives back to the community by creating learning gardens in schools. The Kitchen, 316 N Clark St, (312)836-1300Photo courtesy Lizzie McNeill's
Tucked down a side street east of the Sheraton Hotel, Lizzie McNeill's is the secluded outpost for outside dining on the east branch of the Chicago River before it ends and Lake Michigan begins. This is an ideal spot to watch the fireworks from Navy Pier on Wednesday and Saturday nights. Besides the traditional Irish pub fare, and lots of whiskey, they also offer wraps and salads. Lizzie McNeill's Irish Pub, 400 N McClurg Ct, (312)467-1992
Photo courtesy Rittergut Wine Bar & Social Club
This hidden gem is a riverside hideaway that offers wine flights and excellent cheeses. Travelzoo* has a deal offering two wine flights and a cheese sampling for $29 (regularly $45), providing a perfect girls night or date night before an evening at Lyric. Rittergut Wine Bar & Social Club, 10 S Wacker Dr, (312)835-1832Photo courtesy River Roast
Located in the instantly recognizable Reid Murdoch building, River Roast also has one of Chicago's most recognizable chefs. At the helm is James Beard Award-winning Chef Tony Montuano. Meat, fish and veggies are roasted (of course) and carved tableside. Craft cocktails (from slow drip infusion towers) and craft beer make this a great spot for an afterwork cocktail on their riverside patio followed by an impressive dinner in the historic building. River Roast, 315 N LaSalle, (312)822-0100Photo courtesy of Rivers
One of the earliest restaraunts to take advantage of a prime waterfront location, Rivers has been serving on the Chicago River since 1997. Their menu changes seasonally and offers both a bistro menu, with more casual items, and a regular menu with signature entrees. With their location in the Loop their weekend hours are limited to Friday and Saturday nights, making them a prime spot for weddings. Rivers, 30 S Wacker Dr, (312)559-1515
Photo courtesy Wollensky's Grill
Whether you're looking for fine dining upstairs or more casual dining downstairs, these sister restaurants offer prime dry aged steak with prime views to match. Smith & Wollensky offers the standard steakhouse fare such as jumbo shrimp cocktail, tuna tartare, and bone-in Kansas City Strips. Wollensky's Grill offers items like a Burrata Bar and shareable plates including lobster corn dogs. Smith & Wollensky / Wollensky's Grill, 318 N State St, (312)670-9900
Photo courtesy South Branch
Named for its location on the Chicago River this is one of three river-side restaurants in the Loop. It's only open to the public Monday through Friday, leaving it open on the weekends for private parties. Stop in here for a truffle chicken salad sandwich or root beer short rib before catching the Metra or enjoying a night in Chicago's Theater District. South Branch Tavern Grille, 100 S Wacker Dr, (312)546-6177
For more alfresco dining options all over the city, visit the Outdoor Dining in Chicago section.
Featured photo courtesy of River Roast