search

Best Seafood in Chicago

Fin-atics get their fix at Chicago's best seafood restaurants


Seafood is hard to do well at home and it's best to buy fish fresh and prepare it that night, neither undercooking nor turning it into a Dr. Scholl’s shoe insert. Good luck with that after a long day at work - or just rely on any of these seafaring eateries.

What's your go-to? Oysters, the bracing bivalves that Casanova called  “a spur to the spirit and to love“ or a comforting platter of fried perch sided with potato pancakes and a cold one? 

Chicago claims a bevy of strictly seafood eateries that range from the messy to the posh. Oyster and crab lovers land trophy sized love at Shaw's Crab House Chicago. We love our Lake Michigan but you can get shellfish plucked from the ocean less than a day ago at places like Hugo's Frog Bar and Fish House and the elegant Ocean Prime that does seafood with upscale finesse.  All you need to say after a meal of soulful Spanish influenced seafood at Bar Mar is "gracias" to chef, José Andres. West Town can't be mistaken for the seaside of Galicia, Spain or Portugal, but your senses can fully enjoy the Atlantic coast at Porto. No need for raised pinkies at casual Lowcountry or city institution Lawrence's Fish and Shrimp. The Johnson family has been cooking up fresh fish at Don's Dock Seafood Market & Restaurant since 1951 - that's a lot of clams.

Let's drop our lines and see what we catch!


Advertisement

The Johnson family has been catching and cooking up fresh seafood for Chicagoans since the 1930's and the market/restaurant was established in 1951 - that's a lot of clams. The third generation is turning out terrific fried and grilled seafood; lush lobster rolls; seafood tacos; warm, comforting chowders and jambalaya; fresh salads; crab cakes and smoked items. Seafood arrives daily and fried fish is hand breaded every day. The diverse menu offers Creole, Caribbean, Scandinavian and Southwestern styles as well as American favorites like beer battered cod, fried Lake Perch and jumbo shrimp. Carry out or dine in and B.Y.O.B. - Don's supplies wine glasses, cork screws and frosted beer mugs. Check the menu for monthly specials: for example, the entire month of June is a shrimp fest offering everything from shrimp fettuccine Alfredo to a shrimp po' boy with homemade Remoulade sauce. It's also a market so you can purchase fresh seafood to prepare at home and Don's offers holiday recipes and appetizers around Christmas, New Year's and Lent.

Recommended for Seafood because: A family owned-and-operated palace of seafood for more than 70 years, Don's Dock is worth the short drive just over-the-border to Des Plaines.

Jacky's expert tip: Don's Dock is closed Sundays and Mondays so the family can spend time together outside of work.

Read more about Don's Dock Seafood Market & Restaurant →


9
Goose Island


The entire dining experience at the new Azul Mariscos is playful from the tropical music and location on the river to three outdoor spaces and a boat dock plus Latin-influenced seafood. It's a fresh tonic of ocean goodness after years of holing up indoors. Sunny servers launch your culinary vacay with a sample of Azul's spin on pina colada - a nice touch. Chicago South Side native Michael Hernandez offers classic mariscos dishes like cóctel de camarón (jumbo shrimp in housemade cocktail sauce enhanced by avocado, celery and onion); aguachilies, spicy lime-cured shrimp; and squeaky clean oysters, nude or topped with shrimp ceviche. A sturdy dice of cod shares a bowl with mango, bell pepper, habanero and a perky hit of citrus juice waiting to be scooped onto crisped tortillas, it's a winning ceviche. Impressive entrees include whole Veracruz Red Snapper; seafood studded paella; surf & turf with your choice of shellfish accompanying a grilled marinated skirt steak. Shared plates are served by entree, half-kilo and kilo: prawns, shrimp, grilled King Crab legs; or grilled skirt steak. There are tacos and tortas; lobster empanadas; elotes and wings; various grilled fish; and a kids' menu.

Recommended for Seafood because: Azul Mariscos is a fresh tonic of ocean goodness after a very long two-and-a-half years of holing up indoors.

Jacky's expert tip: Azul offers individual cans of select wines, perfect for boaters stopping by for a drink or friends chilling on the patio.

Read more about Azul Mariscos →


8
West Town

Surely West Town can't be mistaken for the seaside of Galicia, Spain or Portugal, however, your senses can fully enjoy the Atlantic coast at Porto. Fresh, wild caught fish is imported weekly from Portugal and Galicia and dances on Porto's grills and woodburning ovens in two open kitchens. There may not be other spots in the Midwest to try Galician uni and razor clams, house cured sardines with Basque pepper sauce, citrus-cured Spanish mackerel, and the unique use of fresh seaweed for natural salinity in various dishes. The Porto atrium, complete with a a wood-burning fire grill and a dry ager, opens in spring and a Sunday Family Supper rolls out, too. There are sliding doors that open when weather permits. The roster of sherries, Ports and Madeiras is the largest in Chicago and the music serenades with sounds from the African coast to Rio and the Algarve.

Recommended for Seafood because: An authentic taste of the Iberian peninsula, Porto is a one-of-a-kind trip to sunny Galicia and Portugal via wine, seafood and atrium.

Jacky's expert tip: Peruse Porto's wine book for tasting flights that travel along the Iberian peninsula's historic family vineyards.

Read more about Porto →


Advertisement


About 30 years ago, there were shrimp and fish shacks dotting the industrial parts of the city offering blue and white collar workers a quick oil-stained brown bag of hot fried fish chips, shrimp, clam strips, perch and a plastic container of slaw and hot sauce. It was cheap, delicious and they're almost all gone. Bringing us to Lawrence's Fish and Shrimp established more than 60 years ago on Canal Street with a parking lot full of folks gobbling hot shrimp in their car. The interior has been spiffed up but you can still get large, popcorn, coconut and lightly breaded shrimp; whole catfish or strips; perch; fish chips; frog legs; oysters; clam strips; and scallops in full and half orders. There are also chicken items and sandwiches plus slaw and sides. Grab a soda, lemonade or even a bottle of beer to wet the pipes. Lawrence's most popular items, large fried shrimp and hot sauce, are based on family recipes offered from the very beginning.

Recommended for Seafood because: One of the few remaining shrimp shacks in Chicago, Lawrence's Fish and Shrimp is a taste of casual, mid-century Chicago.

Jacky's expert tip: There are scenic views of the city from the Canal Street location that's open 24/7.

Read more about Lawrence's Fish and Shrimp →


For unique cuts of fish fêted with luxe ingredients, get to Mako in the West Loop. You'll be steeped in a dreamy dining experience at the omakase den. The star of this show is acclaimed sushi chef, B.K. Park, so be sure you reserve a seat at the 12-seat sushi bar to catch the action. The menu is delivered after the meal, so each bite a lovely surprise but count on melt-in-your-mouth turns of sea gems like abalone (braised in house soy); King Crab with uni miso and A5 Wagyu butter; seasonal selections of nigiri and sashimi; a square of sea bass with crispy skin and charred frisée; soy marinated saltwater eel; and a seasonal handroll with colorful fresh fish peeking out the cone of nori. The parade of seafood is delivered at a serene pace amid the understated decor with splashes of ocean design elements.

Recommended for Seafood because: Mako offers a civilized, meditative evening of up to 25 bites of the most pristine fish in the world.

Jacky's expert tip: The set menu ($175 per person) and subdued atmosphere make Mako an ideal experience for an anniversary or special occasion.

Read more about Mako →


Visit the seafood boil concept in the South Loop, Lakeview or Chinatown for a recreation of a sweet trip south when you'd stop for a bag o'seafood after a day of swimming in the ocean. Belly up to the picnic table with your mallet and appetite to chow down on your protein choices: shrimp, mussels, Snow or King crab legs, crawfish, chicken wings or lobster. Pick a sauce and heat level, add-ons like potatoes, Andouille sausage or corn on the cob and even some tasty extras like cornbread and garlic noodles. There's a veggie boil, too, that can be enlivened with one of the tasty sauces. Everything is cooked just right: potatoes are not mushy and cornbread is moist, beignets authentic, sizable mussels, fresh-tasting shrimp. The most popular item is the Payday combo that includes shrimp and Snow crab with corn, potato and a side of cornbread. It's messy, delightful and delish.

Recommended for Seafood because: Lowcountry is a fun, casual alternative to a stuffy seafood restaurant.

Jacky's expert tip: Lowcountry also offers deep fried goodness from wings and calamari to waffle fries and deep fried Oreos.

Read more about Lowcountry →


Doing for seafood what Gibson's (next door/ same owners) does for meat lovers, Hugo's Frog Bar and Fish House is always a sure thing. Doesn't a bowl of New England clam chowder and a butter-poached lobster roll sound nice right about now? There aren't many places in town one can get a 20 oz. Halibut T-bone; old-timey dishes like Crab Louie salad and garlicky Shrimp de Jonghe; or lobster escargot. On the raw side of the menu you'll find maki rolls, oysters and ceviche tostadas plus various permutations of seafood towers. Oysters are flown in daily and sent to Hugo's the next day, so most have been out of the water for less than 24 hours before being shucked at the Rush St. restaurant. Fresh entrees include whole fried Snapper and Faroe Island salmon. If someone in your party isn't feeling fishy, they can order a USDA Gibsons Prime Angus steak from next door.

Recommended for Seafood because: Hugo's, celebrating 25 years n 2022, gets seafood delivered daily and the oysters, crudo, crab, lobster and fish taste it.

Jacky's expert tip: Ask about daily specials such as Walleye on Wednesday and Dover Sole for two on Thursday.

Read more about Hugo's Frog Bar & Fish House →


Shaw's Crab House has been the authority on fresh seafood for decades and you'll be flummoxed with desire when you open the menu: lobster, sushi, sea scallops, King crab and a boatload of seasonal swimmers from bone-in Halibut to the exquisite Copper River King Salmon (Shaws may be the only spot in Chicago offering this flavorful Omega-3 bomb). When it's chilly, go for velvety lobster bisque or a chowder. Seafood is perfect for summer and Shaw's signature chopped seafood salad, heaped with crab, shrimp, lobster, hearts of palm and avocado, is a revelation. Enjoy light, crisp wine that pairs perfectly with sea delicacies or a sturdy Manhattan that complements the handsome decor. The dessert sampler is genius: mini servings of creme brulee, Key lime pie, chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream or order the famous red raspberry pie with its pure, intense flavor fueling some fervor even if you didn't slurp oysters.

Recommended for Seafood because: Shaw's Crab House has been reeling in seafood fans for decades and never disappoints.

Jacky's expert tip: Choose to dine in the casual oyster bar or the polished main dining room with wood paneling and globe lighting.

Read more about Shaw's Crab House Chicago →


2
The Loop

Michelin-starred chef, José Andrés, is single-handedly taking care of feeding people (via World Central Kitchen, that provides meals after natural disasters and most recently, during war) and populating cities with remarkable Spanish restaurants. His latest in Chicago, Bar Mar on the first floor with Bazaar Meat upstairs, dazzle with big flavors and culinary theatrics. Bar Mar is a colorful trip to the sea with alluring tapas like hamachi or caviar cones; briny bivalves; perky ceviches and Spanish favorites like pan con tomate - toasty bread studded with tomato pulp. Taste Neptune's Pillows, a slice of fresh tuna lolling atop a crunchy inflated cracker, and you'll see why it's a popular choice. Get oysters on the half shell, smoked, in ceviche or Imperial - baked with Backfin crab, ham, green pepper, and horseradish breadcrumbs. Big flavor in a bite. Lobster, calamari and tuna tartare rolls up the appetite ante but there are also more substantial items like whole fried fish and Walleye pike. Order a dramatic cocktail like the Floral Cloud: gin, lemon, cherry liqueur finished with a blossomy aromatic cloud. Chef's deconstructed Key Lime pie is a bowl of happiness.

Recommended for Seafood because: Bar Mar offers a carnival of Spanish flavor and seafood in a restaurant-lean part of downtown.

Jacky's expert tip: Bar Mar is just across the street from Lyric Opera for exceptional pre- and post-opera drinks and nosh.

Read more about Bar Mar →


1
Magnificent Mile

Cast your net at Ocean Prime and you're sure to catch a prize-winning evening of impeccable seafood preparations by Chef Lucas Montoya and dreamy views of Chicago. The elegantly understated space sets a memorable scene for special occasions or simply a night you feel like fulfilling some fish fantasies. Start with hand rolled sushi like the Ocean Roll (tuna, salmon, hamachi, avocado, chili garlic oil); white truffle caviar deviled eggs; East or West coast oysters; or have the kitchen erect a stunning seafood tower of your choosing. Warm up with lobster bisque or French onion soup redolent of brandy and aged Swiss or cool off with a crisp Iceberg wedge or seafood Cobb salad. Of the seafood entrees, you cannot go wrong with Florida grouper enhanced by bits of lobster, pillowy logs of gnocchi, spring peas and lemon jus. Sea scallops with Parmesan risotto, Chilean sea bass, blackened snapper, crab cakes - it's all very, very good. Meat eaters will be equally impressed with chicken, lamb, pork and Prime steak preparations.

Recommended for Seafood because: The contemporary American restaurant brings impeccable service, an elegant atmosphere with lovely views and fabulous seafood and Prime steaks to Michigan Ave. and Wacker Drive.

Jacky's expert tip: The Michigan and Wacker location on the second level of the LondonHouse affords fabulous views so ask for a window table when making your reservation.

Read more about Ocean Prime →


Map

Meet Jacky Runice

Born in Bucktown when bulletproof was a home safety choice and not a coffee order, Jacky Runice has been knocking around Chicago as a professional print, online and broadcast journalist and...  More About Jacky

×