Certain restaurants are known for their expertise at turning out signature dishes really well. They've pinned down the ingredients, mastered the process, and gained a strong following as a result. Chicago has had much success cultivating great restaurants and creating a substantial market for Seafood. Locals can't get enough of the city's excellent food, and you'll often find them, along with eager tourists, at popular Shaw's Crab House Chicago or at Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab, a major player in the field. Make sure you see what all the fuss is about!

Hidden (it really is hidden) within a large apartment complex overlooking the Lincoln Park Conservatory is L2O, winner of two Michelin stars. The fine dining restaurant experience is best known for its outstanding tasting menu which is heavily based on its seafood dishes served as interactive performance art. Ever enjoyed oyster with green apple gel? It's part of the menu at L2O. As if it wasn't possible to outdo the preceding course, the next one comes out even more spectacular. Service, as would be expected at establishments like these, is second to none. From the moment you call for a reservation, drive the car up to the valet and walk in the door to the minute you leave, you will be catered to and made to feel like a million dollars. (7738680002)

Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab
This classic dinner club-style restaurant boasts a vaulted ceiling, dark wooden furniture, and excellent lighting, making it an ideal place for a power lunch or entertaining important clients. Partner of the famous Joe's Stone Crab in Miami, this River North gem features a selection of fresh seafood and steaks. Of course, rumor has it that the stone crab claws alone are worth the trip. (312-379-5637)

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The menu at this seafood restaurant combines New American cuisine with influences from the Orient. The design does as well, as Spring features a lovely Zen garden that's perfect for romantic dining on a warm summer evening. Once a bathhouse, this restaurant still retains its original white-glazed brick. Menu standouts include grilled sea scallops, roast duck, and grilled Pacific halibut. (773-395-7100)

Shaw's Crab House Chicago
Shaw's offers two distinct dining options — the casual oyster bar and the more upscale main dining room. Polished wood paneling and globe lighting set the scene, and the menu boasts a wide variety of fish and seafood: Copper River king salmon, Pacific halibut, and charred sashimi tuna, for example. Though limited, the dessert menu offers abundant temptations, and live music is offered in the oyster bar every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday. (312-527-2722)

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Fabulous seafood entrees paired with an excellent wine list cause this Evanston restaurant to be a top pick by knowledgeable locals. The long, narrow dining room is elegant with amber colored walls, a tile floor, and flowing fabric draping the ceiling. The menu changes daily, taking advantage of in-season items. Sample items include roast rack of venison with Shiraz and black currant sauce, roast sirloin of beef, and pan seared foie gras with pear chutney, gailon, and caramelized pineapple. Prix fixe wine dinners served once a month. (847-864-3435)

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Hugo's Frog Bar & Fish House
Famous for serving tasty frog legs, this restaurant is owned by the same folks as Gibson's Steakhouse next door. The menu at Hugo's focuses on seafood, and fresh deliveries are made several times a day, but you can order a steak from the neighboring kitchen if you're in the mood. If you're having difficulty selecting, know that mesquite-grilled mahi mahi, pan-fried walleye pike, and whitefish all make excellent choices. A nautical theme and three separate dining areas also distinguish Hugo's. (312-640-0999)

Nick's Fishmarket
Nick's food has an American-Continental sensibility and includes seafood, beef, poultry, pastas, and vegetarian dishes. Among the scrumptious options are roasted salmon fillet, lobster tail, and Dover sole — all perfectly prepared and expertly presented. (847-298-8200)

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Catch 35
If you've made up your mind to have seafood, make a beeline for this notable place, whose vast menu features lots of seafood favorites prepared in a variety of culinary styles. Choose from the likes of Chilean sea bass, stir-fried shrimp and scallops, seared Creole seasoned salmon, Bahamian fish chowder, grilled Atlantic salmon, and grilled yellow fin tuna. Steaks can also be had, and live jazz is a treat in the bar most nights. Valet parking available. (312-346-3500)

Cape Cod Room
This classically elegant restaurant is located in the Drake Hotel and has become a Chicago institution. It's definitely the place to go for old-fashioned pampering and a fresh seafood meal. Order the Dover sole, the lobster thermidor, the crab legs, or the roasted black Cod. The interior hearkens back to the shipping days of yore, with red-checkered tablecloths, exposed wood beams, weather vanes, and stuffed sailfish. Reservations recommended. (312-932-4615, 312-787-2200)

Half Shell
While Half Shell's location and dim room spangled year-round with Christmas lights may not immediately impress, your first taste of amazingly tender, succulent snow crab legs surely will. The house-specialty crab legs, served with butter and lemon, arrive in satisfying, heaping portions. Oysters, catfish, scallops, red snapper, and perfectly fried jumbo shrimp also delight. True to the no-frills vibe, entrees are typically served in red plastic baskets with non-traditional accoutrements: white toast and a lollipop. (773-549-1773)

Maps and Directions

L2O 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: Seafood
Neighborhood: Lincoln Park
Cost: $$$$
Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, Continental, Seafood, Steakhouse
Cost: $$$
Spring 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, Asian, Continental, New American, Seafood
Cost: $$
Shaw's Crab House Chicago 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, Seafood
Cost: $$$
Oceanique 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, European, French, Seafood
Cost: $$
Hugo's Frog Bar & Fish House 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, Continental, Seafood
Cost: $$$
Nick's Fishmarket 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, Continental, Seafood
Cost: $$$
Catch 35 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, Asian, Ethnic, New American, Seafood
Cost: $$$
Cape Cod Room 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, Continental, Seafood
Cost: $$$
Half Shell 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, Seafood
Cost: $$
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