Chicago Seafood Restaurants
Great Spots for Fresh Catches

In the 1800s, Chicago's fishermen would cast their nets into Lake Michigan and be richly rewarded—large nets sometimes pulled in hauls over 1,000 pounds. Today, commercial fishing has nearly vanished from the city, but a diversity of seafood spots still thrive. Many of these restaurants get fresh fish delivered every day, and some, such as Hugo's Frog Bar & Fish House, have their stocks replenished up to thrice daily. Michelin-starred L20 even built a 200-gallon freshwater tank from which to cull its catches.
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River North: Michelin-Recommended Small Plates

GT Fish & Oyster's interior designers had two chief sources of inspiration: an old fisherman's cottage and a sleek yacht. Chef Giuseppe Tentori maintains a similar balance on his menu of seasonal small plates. Diners can dig into beer-battered fish and chips or splurge on caviar. As the name would suggest, GT Fish & Oyster takes shellfish seriously, bringing in oysters daily from the Atlantic and Pacific coats.

Gold Coast: Classic Chicago Seafood

No matter where they dine in this nautically styled restaurant, which opened in 1933, diners should try to find the spot where Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio carved their initials into the wooden bar. The menu boasts fresh Atlantic catches with classic French preparations.

Noble Square: Mexican Seafood

Owner Rick Gutierrez knows that most Chicagoans don't necessarily associate Mexican cuisine with seafood, but the Mexico City native is trying to change that. Beneath life-sized marlins, diners devour ceviche or dishes made with red snapper and langostinos.

Lincoln Park: Michelin-Starred Tank-to-Table

Chef Matthew Kirkley wanted fresher fish and shellfish for his gastronomic artwork—such as Maryland blue crab en gelée, served with fennel cream and basil. So he installed a 200-gallon saltwater aquarium on site, where he raises geoduck clams, langoustines, Brittany blue lobster and other sea creatures. Zagat dubbed the concept "tank-to-table."

The Loop: Seafood in Style

The folks at Catch 35 source their seafood carefully: dry-packed scallops from near Boston and Blue Hill Maine mussels from a plankton-rich area that makes them extra meaty. If they can't get their preferred kind, they just don't offer it to the guests who dine in their white-cloth eatery.

Bridgeport: Michelin-Recommended Organic

“Nana” is the nickname of Maria Solis, who raised her sons Omar and Christian,above the spot where the restaurant sits now, both of whom help her with the day-to-day operations. Menu highlights include the grilled laughing bird shrimp and fried oyster po' boy.

South Chicago: On-Site Smokehouse

People eat in their cars near this small, take-out-only spot—but Calumet Fisheries boasts a James Beard Foundation award, and Anthony Bourdain dropped by on No Reservations. That's because they marinate their chubs, catfish, and salmon in brine overnight, then smoke them with oak wood in the on-site smokehouse.

Lake View East: Seafood Bar

Diners who venture into Half Shell's basement bar, lit by Christmas lights, find huge helpings of king crab legs, steamed mussels, and deep-fried oysters for dive-bar prices. Anthony Dennizman continues the business his grandfather started in 1968, bringing in top-notch seafood to the homey pub.

Near North: Two Sides, Two Vibes

Shaw's Crab House has a split personality. It's part sophisticated seafood restaurant, part casual oyster bar. No matter where you sit, the oysters are plucked and shucked fresh from the daily shipments of assorted fish and seafood such as Alaskan golden king crab legs.

Evanston: Award-Winning Wine List

At the helm of Zagat's 2012 pick for Chicago's best seafood restaurant, Chef-owner Mark Grosz insists on serving seasonal, sustainable fish. And the lavish Evanston spot's wine cellar, stocked with nearly 900 selections, earns Wine Spectator Magazine's "Best of Award of Excellence" year after year.

Near North: Fine-Diner

Two best friends risked everything to open this spot, where they dish up soft shell crab po'boys, fish tacos, and foie gras with fries—all at modest prices. Guy Fieri dubbed it "grunge gourmet" on an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives.

Gold Coast: Upscale Frog Legs

Hugo's gets seafood delivered at least once and up to three times daily. They need all that fresh material for heaping helpings of Mexican brown shrimp, half-pound crab cakes, and signature frog legs, which are pan-sautéed and dripping with garlic butter. Big portions and nightly live blues piano make the prices worthwhile.

Gold Coast: Contemporary Dining

An open kitchen gives guests the chance to peek in as Chef Rah Shabazz creates seasonal dishes in the contemporary, airy space's open kitchen. Diners can choose from the raw bar or opt for pan-seared Arctic char. Just 29 floors up from the restaurant, the C-View rooftop bar dishes both stunning views and C-House favorites.

Park West: Sesame-Chili Shrimp Tacos

The casual eatery's Korean street food often incorporates Californian influences—case in point, an ample selection of Korean tacos. The chefs' favorite? Their sesame-chili shrimp taco, for which they hand-batter panko shrimp to pile into grilled tortillas along with cilantro-onion relish, sesame-chili aioli, their "secret slaw," and a sprinkling of toasted sesames.