Great restaurants and design stores are found all over the River North neighborhood in Chicago. Some of the best include:
Tanta: The new Peruvian restaurant opened in 2013 by famed Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio at 188 W. Grand. It has a colorful, yet casual decor. The many small plates make it perfect for sharing many items to sample the wonderful Peruvian specialties. There are many cebiches (ceviches), causitas or small appetizers served on whipped potatoes, anticuchos or traditional skewers and empanadas to choose from.
Frontera Grill/Topolobampo/Xoco: These are the three restaurants on North Clark by well-known Mexican-food Chef Rick Bayless. Frontera is a favorite so reservations are hard to come by and there is usually a wait. Their Saturday brunch is excellent. Frontera was named the James Beard best restaurant in the US in 2007. His more formal, high-end Topolobampo has wonderful food and does take reservations. Xoco is his newest restaurant which is known for its Mexican street food featuring tortas, Mexican hot chocolate, churros and other fare.
Golden Triangle: A really great store featuring furniture and accessories from Thailand, Myanmar and China. Other stores in the area include P.O.S.H. for hotel silver, dinnerware, glassware and accessories. 631 N. State. Near P.O.S.H. at 601 N. State, is Pops for Champagne, one of the best champagne bars in the city.
Marina City: Make sure you walk by this famous landmark completed in the early 1960’s by architect Bertrand Goldberg; it is a true landmark. His work also includes River City in the South Loop, along the Chicago River.
Tortoise Club: 350 N State in Marina City. New supper club/restaurant with hip bar and traditional American food. The traditional interior is like the classic Chicago club such as the Chicago Club, Union League or University Club. The quinoa and beet salad, and white fish and salmon entrées were excellent. They have a network of local farmers and specialty artisans where they purchase their fresh ingredients.
Shaw’s Crab House has been a Chicago institution for 30 years. I highly recommend it. 21 E. Hubbard.
Siena Tavern: At 51 W. Kinzie, this is a new hot spot in River North. Be prepared for the huge bar scene and a lot of noise. It is a new Italian restaurant by popular chef Fabio Viviani who appeared on Top Chef and Top Chef All Stars.
For more great Italian food try Coco Pazzo at 300 W. Hubbard. It has been a Chicago favorite since 1992.
Three other popular spots include Gilt Bar which has a great menu at 230 W. Kinzie, Bavette’s Bar & Boeuf at 218 W. Kinzie and The Doughnut Vault around the corner. Go early as they tend to sell out fast!!
Slurping Turtle: A Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant by Michelin starred Chef Takashi Yagihashi. It is a casual River North spot known for its great noodle dishes and Japanese tapas. It is a perfect spot for a pre-theater dinner. 116 W. Hubbard. St.
Near Chicago and Franklin are two great restaurants. Farmhouse, at 228 W. Chicago, is a casual tavern featuring local craft beers and local food. Next door at 226 W Chicago is Bistro Voltaire. It is a cozy, bistro offering excellent, traditional French fare. I was there again recently. I love the warm decor, the service and the menu. The pork and fish entrees were outstanding!
The Boarding House Food & Wine at 720 N. Wells, has a large bar with special food menu and a large third floor dining room featuring good food and a large wine selection due to the fact that it is owned by Master Sommelier Alpana Singh.
Cafe Iberico 737 at N. LaSalle. This is a casual spot for some of the best Spanish tapas in the city. The menu is quite extensive.
To stay in the area, the Langham is a stunning addition to the Chicago hotel scene. It occupies the first 13 floors of the historic landmark, IBM Building designed by Mies van der Rohe. Dirk Lohan, the architect’s grandson, designed the hotel’s lobby and furniture. Some of Mies van der Rohe’s designs were also used. According to the New York Times, the hotel has an extensive art collection as well with works by Juder Ledgerwood, David Klamen, Jaume Plensa and Anish Kapoor. The hotel is a great place for tea, or a drink in the bar overlooking the skyline of Chicago. The Travelle restaurant is also getting very good reviews. It is located at 330 N. Wabash.
Another good option is the newly opened Aloft Chicago City Center at 515 N. Clark with a hip lobby and good restaurant, Beatrix which is a neighborhood restaurant, coffeehouse, and meeting place. Also check out the Hotel Felix at 111 W. Huron which is a smaller boutique hotel. Troquet restaurant is attached for cocktails and dining.
My latest find is The Kitchen at 316 N. Clark St. This sleek, new space in an old industrial building along the Chicago River, is the latest from the Colorado group. They have restaurants in Boulder and Ft. Collins where I have eaten in the past. The design, food and service were excellent.
For a great traditional Chicago experience don’t miss Gene & Georgetti at 500 N. Franklin. I recently went to this Chicago institution that has been serving steaks and Italian specialties since 1941. Not a trendy spot frequented by the younger, hip crowd, the crowd is older and consists of many regulars. The attentive waiters, wear traditional white jackets and long white aprons. You feel like you walked back in time. It has a warm, clubby feel with great photographs and murals. They have a great selections of steaks, chops, pastas, salads and seafood. The mussels marinara was really excellent!
I recently tried Bohemian House at 11 W. Illinois. Here you can find Eastern European specialities in a warm atmosphere. I enjoyed a wonderful beet salad and roasted duck entree which reminded me of my recent trip to Prague and Budapest.
A great new find is Seasons 52 at 55 E. Grand. This is a large restaurant with great food, service and atmosphere at very good prices. I also liked the focus on healthy items and showing calorie counts on the menu. I just went and will definitely go back! It is the perfect spot for group dining. This is the chain’s first urban location.
Another new find is Bernie’s Lunch & Supper at 660 N. Orleans. With is eclectic decor and good food, this is a great spot for lunch, dinner or brunch. The lunch menu includes small plates, salads and sandwiches plus a creative build-your-own sandwich using a menu where you check-off your options. The supper menu features similar items on the lunch menu plus large plates and wood fired options. Saturday and Sunday brunch includes omelettes,eggs benedict, quiches and shrimp and grits.
I have been twice to Beatrix at 519 N. Clark St. The first time I had lunch and enjoyed the krispy kale salad included pumpkin seeds, papaya, dates, parmesan and a white balsamic vinaigrette. The second time, I enjoyed a latte and the chia pudding, made with chia seeds, coconut milk, and a mango passion fruit puree. This is a popular spot so make sure to make a reservation before you go.
I recently went back to Kiki’s Bistro,with local friends. It has been a local institution serving great French food for over 25 years. It has a comfortable, warm atmosphere. From mussels, to duck and a filet to pate, it was a very good meal. 900 N. Franklin.
I recently went back to GT Fish & Oyster, known for its seafood and shared plates. I had been there after it opened in 2011 and was not overly impressed. But having received a Michelin Bib Gourmand designation, I decided to go back before a Goodman Theatre production. I was very impressed with the great service and food. My halibut entree was excellent as was shishito and watermelon appetizer with crab meat and a green tomato gazpacho. They are open for lunch, dinner and brunch on Saturday and Sunday. 531 N. Wells.
Piccolo Sogno Cafe is now Noninna, by the same team. It offers Italian specialties in a classic, upscale space. Perfect for pre-theater, I enjoyed my dinner, prior to a downtown concert at the Chicago Theater. I thought the food and service were very good. 340 N. Clark.
A fun new addition not far from Noninna is Barrio. This is a rustic, industrial spot that features a menu of Mexican dishes, mostly small plates, with with Japanese influences and creative cocktails. I enjoyed my dinner with octopus tacos and sea scallop skewers. Chef Katsuji Tanabe appeared on Top Chef Season 12 Boston and is highly influenced by his Japanese father and Mexican mother. 65 W. Kinzie.
Just north is a great new find, Three Dots and a Dash. Located in the alley behind 435 N. Clark, this is a downstairs Tiki bar, offering a large selection of rum drinks and luau bites in a “retro Polynesian-island setting.” It is a great spot for a drink before you head to one of the restaurants in the neighborhood. The decor is really fun and colorful. You have to enter it through the alley in the back of the building.
The Merchandise Mart has a new food hall on the second floor and the new Marshall’s Landing, also on the second floor, which is a fun new spot for “gathering, socializing, eating, drinking, noshing, caffeinating and working.” It has a number of shops, restaurants on the first and second floors. The Chopping Block in suite 107, is a fun spot for hands on cooking, grilling and wine classes along with cooking demonstrations. Check out their website for the updated calendar. I have enjoyed taking several in the past. They have a second location in Lincoln Square.