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Apr 22, 2007 09:10 AM

Chicago dining on the water

I used to go to Secret Garden Cafe at Berger park on Sheridan near Granville because while the food wasn't anything special really you literally sat ON the waterfront and it could not be beat for cheap foods with a view...

But I haven't been in the last few years and someone told me it actually closed... first, can anyone confirm that? Second, can anyone recommend another restaurant -- other than Castaways! :) -- with Lake Michigan views and decent food?

Two of the best things -- in my mind's eye -- that Chicago has to offer is the lake/river and restaurants and I am shocked people haven't married the two more often.


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  1. Riverfront Restaurants:

    - Smith & Wollensky - High end chain steak house, Very pricey. Delicious food, and, in the summer, beautiful outdoor seating. I think they also have a lower-priced restaurant on the same level as the water.

    - McCormick & Schmick (Wacker location) - another chain, this one specializing in seafood. Very good food The only river views are from the outdoor seating int he summer, though.

    - Fultons on the River - Another seafood place. The food is OK, but IMHO, not as good as McCormick & Schmick. People on this board have said that they have great oysters. I've never tried them there though.

    - Rivers - I've only had drinks here. Right on the river though.

    - Bar connected to Ogilvie Transportation Center - this place along the river at Washington keeps changing hands, but it is generally cheap with lots of outdoor seating in the summer.

    I can't think of any restaurants that are actually along the lake, but you can see the lake from a couple places. Spiaggia has views of the lake and you can certainly see the lake from the Signature Room (although the food up there isn't great).

    1 Reply
    1. re: SuzMiCo

      What about Flatwater? Also on the river near Smith and Wollensky. Anyone ever been there?

      One thing about the lake - all lakeshore in Chicago is public property - parks, etc.. so there are no restaurants actually on the lake - except maybe Castaways at the North Avenue Beach house which is really just a bar. And of course the Chicago Yacht Club if you know any members, although I wouldn't go there for the food.

      Between much of the lakefront and the city you also have Lakeshore Drive, so the closest you could really come to a Lakefront restaurant, unless you get up to the Rogers Park area, would be on the far side of LSD, which is what you have with Spiaggia.

      Maybe something on Navy Pier? My impression is that Navy Pier is run over by tourists and has a lot of mediocre food, but maybe I am missing some hidden gem out there?

    2. Lake Michigan views are tough because almost the entire lakefront is part of the Chicago Park District, and they want a big chunk of any monies earned by the restaurateur, if the owner even wants to attempt wading through the morass of bureaucracy that would have to be done to get the necessary permits, etc. Riva, on Navy Pier, is on the water (as well as a few other Navy Pier restaurants). As a rule, most of Navy Pier is a tourist trap. But after Memorial Day, go down on a Wednesday night, fewer tourists than on a weekend, and stay for the fireworks that are there every Wednesday throughout the summer @ 9:30PM.

      1. Surprised no one mentioned this...Marina Cafe in Jackson Harbor.

        1 Reply
        1. re: kinners

          Riva's is ok, and is probably the best restaurant on Navy Pier. It's a bit overpriced for what you get (I'd focus on their seafood) but not outrageously so and its higher price points prevent it from being overrun by tourists; besides, you are paying for the view. Here's the website:

          It tends to get crowded both before and after performances at Chicago Shakespeare.

          Another southside venue is The Parrot Cage, run by the Washburne Culinary Institute. I haven't been but it's on my "looks interesting, hope to get there someday" list. Here's their Metromix write-up:

        2. is the place at Granville & Sheridan at Berger Park. It's open.

          1 Reply
          1. re: holman

            It's also great, I go all the time during the summer and highly recommend it, especially the falafel wrap (I crave it all winter long!) and the blackberry lemonade.

          2. There's a more recent topic that includes discussion of options for dining with views of the lake and river: