Restaurants in River North
I am visiting Chicago for the first time in a few weeks. I'm staying in the river north area. I'm looking for really good seafood restaurants as well as sandwich places. Also breakfast suggestions would be helpful. I'm willing to walk about a mile radius from the area. Im looking for quality restaurants Any suggestions?
River North is a great area for a nice assortment of restaurants within a compact walking distance.
For seafood, the two best places in the city are both in River North. GT Fish & Oyster has a "small plates" format for their mostly-seafood menu, as well as great craft cocktails. Shaw's Crab House has a more traditional seafood menu, with cooked selections as well as maki/sushi. Shaw's also does an outstanding Sunday brunch, with an all-you-can-eat buffet featuring not only great seafood (king crab legs, crab cakes, maki/sushi, etc), but also other terrific items (thick-cut caramelized bacon, crème brulee, etc). Not inexpensive ($55) and reservations are strongly recommended. (GT Fish is also open for brunch on weekends, but I've only been there for lunch and dinner.)
The best breakfast places in the city aren't in River North, but there are some decent ones in that area. Meli Café on Wells, right across the street from GT Fish, has a huge breakfast menu, with a dozen kinds of French toast, etc. Brunch on Orleans is pretty good too. Yolk has a location on Wells. The Original Pancake House on East Bellevue is around the northern edge of River North. You'll also find an interesting breakfast buffet at LB Bistro in the Sheraton, a couple blocks east of Michigan Avenue and just north of the river.
If you feel like venturing out of River North for some of our best breakfast-specialty restaurants, consider going to Jam (take the CTA Blue Line to Logan Square), M. Henrietta (Red Line north to Granville), Bongo Room (Red Line south to Roosevelt/12th), or Southport Grocery (Brown Line to Southport).
The Field Museum is part of the "Museum Campus" at the south end of Grant Park, along with the Shedd Aquarium and the Adler Planetarium. That's near the Wabash and Roosevelt/12th location of Bongo Room for breakfast. For sandwiches, Panozzo's Italian Market is close by. For deep-dish, Lou Malnati's has a location at 8th and State.
The Lincoln Park Zoo is three miles north of the Loop. For breakfast and dinner, Perennial Virant is very good; they have contemporary American cuisine in a small plates format. Another good breakfast option is the Original Pancake House at Clark and Armitage. For sandwiches, Pastoral's location on Broadway is about a mile north. For deep-dish, Lou Malnati's has a location on Wrightwood, also about a mile away. For an upscale dinner or Sunday brunch, North Pond is lovely, thanks not only to Chef Bruce Sherman's contemporary American cuisine, but also its exquisite setting in the middle of Lincoln Park (the park itself, rather than the adjacent neighborhood named after it).
The Art Institute is in the Loop, which is full of lunch places for all the office workers who work nearby. For breakfast about halfway walking from your hotel to the museum, get coffee at Intelligentsia on Randolph, croissants at Toni Patisserie on Washington, and/or donuts and coffee at Do-Rite Donuts. Also near there is Pastoral on Lake, for sandwiches and cheeses. Another good place for sandwiches is Pret a Manger, which has a location right across the street from the Art Institute, at 108 S. Michigan. For deep-dish, go to Pizano's on Madison. Nicer restaurants in the vicinity include Mercat a la Planxa for tapas, tesori for Italian, the Gage for gastro-pub, and Henri for French bistro fare.
Near the LP Zoo is Perennial Virant, http://www.perennialchicago.com/, not open for lunch during the week but for breakfast until 10:30 during the week and brunch on the weekend, as well as dinner hours.
There is nothing right by the Field Museum but Chinatown is not far or you can eat in the South Loop, which is the area to the north of the Museum Campus (that is the name for where the Field Museum, She'd Aquarium, and Adler Planeterium are located). In the South Loop you can get excellent Chicago deep dish pizza at Lou Malnatti's in the 800 block of south State Street, and both Yolk and Bongo Room serve brunch during the week. For a gourmet deli, which has a location near the Art Institute, you might try the Lake Street location fo Pastoral, http://www.pastoralartisan.com/. Also near the Art Institute is a Cuban sandwich shop called Cafecito -- inexpensive and casual, but very good. Or for more upscale food near the AI, try The Gage. Or if you want deep dish pizza near the AI, go to Pizzano's, which is owned by another branch of the Malnatti family.
>> Are there good burger places in the downtown area? I've noticed most are pretty far from river north.
When you're going to the Lincoln Park Zoo, go to Edzo's. Best burgers on the planet (including options for specialty ranch beef upgrades) and best milk shakes on the planet. www.edzos.com
Downtown, most of the steakhouses have pretty good burgers. (At some places you'll find them on the bar menu.) I've also heard praise for the burgers at Au Cheval in the West Loop, but I haven't been there. www.auchevalchicago.com
Hopefully others can help answer your sushi/Japanese question.
You haven't asked about Mexican food, but our contemporary Mexican restaurants are a great specialty you don't find in most cities this side of the Mexican border. Topolobampo and Frontera Grill are both outstanding and in River North, right around the corner from your hotel. Topolobampo is a good choice for lunch (reservations recommended). It's hard to get a reservation at Frontera Grill; without one, you'll have a long wait for a table unless you arrive before they open the doors. Also at that location is Xoco, which is another choice for breakfast in River North; they have churros and hot chocolate. (EDIT: On this point, it looks like kathryn and I were typing in the same advice at the same time - the same thing that happened in this topic earlier today with masha and me - too funny!)