NFT Chicago Near North / River North

Near North / River North

On the west side, monolithic Merchandise Mart (seriously--it has its own zip code) casts its shadow over River North, helping the area maintain its old industrial edge. On the east side, the Trump International Hotel and Tower rounds that edge into the pinnacle of luxury living. In between, Rock N Roll McDonald's turns up the volume on America's favorite pastime: grease.

Whether you're hoping to enjoy craft beers with your dog (seriously, they're invited, too) at Clark Street Ale House or impress a date with your fluent French at See more.

>Bistro Voltaire, this 'hood welcomes two-legged and four-legged types. For can't-afford-to-miss Latin flavors that you probably can't afford, head to Topolobampo for gourmet Mexican cooking. Hint: go for lunch for less of a dent in your bank account.

Chicago is a pizza city and Pizzeria Uno and Lou Malnati's both serve deep dishes of it. For beef, try Gene & Georgetti or sleek chophouse Chicago Cut. Mammoth international emporium Eataly is sort of like what might happen if Dr. Frankenstein implanted the brain of a Trader Joe's with one of Mario Batali's shopping lists; it not only redefines "store-bought" but also offers the full gamut of dining--everything from a quick panini to a high-end five-course meal.


This Neighborhood Featured in...
Beer: English for Beer.

By Jill Jaracz
Beer: It may be the world's most popular alcoholic beverage but that doesn't mean you have to be democratic about it. From cask-conditioned to microbrewed, let Jill Jaracz show you a whole new world of fermented yeast.

Singin' in the Pain: Where to Find True Blue Chicago

By Douglas DuBrin
Ah, the blues. Nothing like the gruff, dejected drawn-out wail of misery. It came from the South. It takes up residence in the fields of the fertile Midwest. Douglas DuBrin callously categorizes his city's jazz joints by geography and calibre. Determine the rightfulness of his delineations in the article which follows.

Exploring RiNo

By Max Grinnell
River North (RiNo): A venal marketing ploy? A vital neighborhood? With sundry art galleries and an enormous McDonalds, RiNo is many things to many people. But what will it be to you? Read on to find out.

Air Conditioned Chicago

By David Rosenstock
It's a hot and pitiless world out there. Nothing beats a cool, architecturally inspiring walk in the corridor to get you back to your pre-liquified self. Join David Rosenstock as he takes you on a verbally acuitous journey through the bowels of  downtown's lobbies, markets and secret passageways--all air-conditioned, all life-changing.

The Resurgence of Architectural Design in Chicago

By William Moy
Glass and steel, columns and parks; Chicago architecture has it all! Don't believe it? Why would you? William Moy is prepared to forcibly educate you.


On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Rob Tallia
Photo:  Rob Tallia

Two radars of Topolobampo within one calendar year? Yes, we're making up for lost time here, since we hadn't ever reviewed Rick Bayless's temple of Chi-Mex goodness before. And since Tatyana Zaprudskaya already talked about decor, appetizers, and soups, I can firmly focus on the fact that the ceviches--both the sunfish ceviche and the tuna ceviche (pictured)--were two of the best ceviches I've ever had. Add in a dozen raw oysters and then, well, any of the main courses, and you're in great shape. Just bring working plastic like a good American, and your meal will be quite memorable. Unless you drink too many mojitos.

Posted By:  Brendan Keating
Photo:  Brendan Keating

Clark Street Ale House
Just a few blocks off the Magnificent Mile, Clark Street Ale House is a neighborhood bar nestled amongst the high rises of River North. There's a sign out front, a relic of bygone days, which reads, "Stop and Drink Liquor House." It's a fitting tribute to this tavern, which if you believe local tall tales, was a cop bar once upon a time in which drunken officers would let off steam by pulling off a few rounds into the brickwork near the ceiling. Ask the bartender to show you the bullet holes. This is an old bar, but it's learned a few new tricks. The beer list is far more extensive than you'd find in a typical neighborhood joint. It's dog friendly, which can be adorable or abominable, depending the pet and your perspective. Friday evenings they have free finger food. There's a patio out back. It also has a coveted 4 am license, so you can stop and drink into the wee hours. Everything you need to know about this bar is right in its name: location, specialty, and ambiance. It's as straight shooting as a regulation sidearm--and the proof is right there, up close to the ceiling...

Posted By:  Tatyana Zaprudskaya
Photo:  Tatyana Zaprudskaya

The name, like the food, is a delicious mouthful. The most upscale of Rick Bayless's empire, Topolobampo is an innovative revamp and dare I say upgrade of Mexican fare. The decor is trendy and funky, colorful with lots of elaborate Spanish kitschy touches, Mexican fine art, and Dia de los Muertos figurines. It is cozy and small, tables are scarce. The appetizers are amazing, particularly the guacamole garnished with cucumbers, a refreshing and healthy alternative to chips. Their chicken tortilla soup is out of this world. Specialty cocktails, especially their Mojitos, are top notch. However, don't get too attached to any one thing on the menu, the whimsical dishes change seasonally. Spontaneous reservations are out of the question, call weeks in advance. Yes, it is pricey and upscale so expect small, expensive, complicated dishes. If you prefer Bayless's simpler, cheaper, and more casual take on Mexican food, try Frontera Grill, or his newest creation, Xoco, featuring Mexican street food and snacks. All three hotspots are located conveniently next door to each other.

Posted By:  Euphenia Cheng
Photo:  Euphenia Cheng

La Madia
When you're sick of deep dish La Madia Great has great thin crust pizza with exquisite ingredients. The restaurant has a very modern environment setting, but you won't feel intimidated at all. It's a nice litttle getaway from work. I highly recommend their Triple Pepperoni with white truffle oil and basil. My friends and I had a little discussion about the greasiness of this pizza. We weren't sure if the oil comes from the pepperoni or the truffles. But we didn't care, because it was delicious. Although it looks very oily, once you take a bite, the fragrant spread in your mouth is totally different from the greasiness from typical delivery. I've tried all of their pizza, and the pepperoni is definitely my favorite! Oh, they have a great wine, coffee, and dessert selection too.

Posted By:  Craig Nelson
Photo:  Craig Nelson

Portillo's is a Chicago chain that's as big as the average Chicago waistline. Not totally gigantic, but not that small either. They're located all over Chicago and throughout the suburbs making this a perfect destination for a family-friendly night out. But despite the theme-park vibe going on, they serve up one mean Chicago-style hot dog. They're generous with the pickle spears, tomato wedges, and pickled sport peppers. The all-beef dog is salty and robust, making a perfect match for the toppings and poppyseed bun. This is the ideal lunch food people, as long as you only have one. At the location on Ontario you order your grub at one line and then hit up the "bar" (really just a counter) to order some beer while you wait. There's plenty of seating, they have some old-school blues playing, and the AC is cranking--a key to survival in a city that literally melts in the summer humidity.

Posted By:  Jill Jaracz
Photo:  Jill Jaracz

Drinks Over Dearborn
Ah, the liquor store where you have to be buzzed to get in! Oh, I mean you have to actually ring a buzzer and climb a narrow staircase to reach this wonderful boutique liquor store. Kyle McHugh is the man in charge, and he's created a delightful haven for connoisseurs of fine wines, beers, and liquors. His alter ego is "The Boozehound," taken from his years of bartending and study of the subject. He imparts his knowledge by hand-selecting some of the best stuff available at a wide variety of prices. He also hosts many classes and has different liquor companies in for tastings--some of which are free--in this comfortable, clubby store. He's fun to shoot the breeze with, and loves talking about his wares. If he doesn't have what you're looking for, he can special order it. If you're looking to know a booze guy, McHugh is your man, and Drinks Over Dearborn is the place.

Posted By:  Jill Jaracz
Photo:  Jill Jaracz

Star of Siam
"Cheap" and "River North restaurant" aren't usually two phrases that go in the same sentence, unless you're talking about Star of Siam. Entrees here are under $10 (and that's taking into account the side of rice you might order, since it's not included in the dish). Overall, the food is good, though many dishes seem to err on the side of less spicy. The menu is fairly varied, with many curries and noodle dishes to choose from. Peanut sauce aficionados will find Star of Siam's sauce pretty damn tasty, so make sure to get an appetizer or entree with it. Top your meal off with a tropical drink, and you'll be eating like a king, just not spending like one. The restaurant itself is large and has a section of "floor seating" where you sit on cushions rather than regular chairs. Groups are welcome and can get a great deal on family-style service.

Posted By:  Jill Jaracz

Maybe you've got big plans to go out with your sweetie on Valentine's Day, but on Valentine's Eve, you can show your love to our four-legged friends at Mercy for Animals' 4th Annual Vegetarian Valentine's Party. Don your best red outfit and head to Enclave Nightclub, where from 8-11 PM on Friday February 13 you can enjoy sipping 360 Vodka drinks and nibbling vegan specialties from local vegan restaurants like Wicker Park's Veggie Bite, Mana Food Bar, and Strawberry Fields Bakery, among others. The evening will also include great music, dancing, and a best-dressed in red contest. At the end of the night, you'll receive a grab bag of cruelty-free goodies. Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 at the door, and the event is restricted to those 21 and over. Proceeds support Mercy for Animals, a non-profit animal advocacy group that campaigns against animal cruelty and promotes a vegetarian lifestyle.

Posted By:  Jamie Smith
Photo:  Jamie Smith

Richard H. Driehaus Museum
Opulence is out in these uncertain economic times, but you can still explore the lifestyles of the rich and famous at the Driehaus Museum. Located in one of the grandest mansions of Gilded Age Chicago, the museum has taken some of the most spectacular objects of the nineteenth century from the Driehaus Collection and placed them alongside the original furniture and restored architecture of a home once known as the Marble Palace. During the ninety minute tour, you'll see elaborately carved woodwork, stunning stained glass, and authentic Tiffany lamps in their natural habitats. Don't worry if you don't know Tiffany from Stacy, as the docent will explain in great detail and no background knowledge is needed to appreciate the exquisite beauty of the art and architecture. Just as interesting as the intricacies of the house are the idiosyncrasies of its former owners--you have to wonder about the kind of people who mount animal heads from floor to ceiling. You may not share their tastes, but you might relate to their circumstances: a few years after the home was built the American banking system collapsed. The Driehaus Museum is available for tours on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays.

Posted By:  Tatyana Zaprudskaya
Photo:  Tatyana Zaprudskaya

This American/Mediterranean fusion restaurant has had Chicago abuzz with many recent awards and publicity. Hype-worthy: an awesome potpourri of spliced up comfort foods such as grilled cheese, chicken wings, and supposedly the second best burger in Chicago, as well as a variety of dishes for the more sophisticated palate (memorable dishes include the halibut and Greek salad) Downside? The service is at best mediocre; at worst, negligent. Waiters disappear, dishes are forgotten, and dinner is stretched to a multiple-hour affair. With that in mind, service may vary based on where you are sitting, so try to avoid the high-tops and bar. Would I go here again? For a fun, long dinner with friends, sure. When I'm starving and on a time crunch and budget, never!

Posted By:  Tatyana Zaprudskaya
Photo:  Tatyana Zaprudskaya

Coldstone Creamery
While this pricey, make-it-yourself ice cream chain is slowly but surely going extinct, the few shops that are thankfully left are heavenly igloos for ice cream lovers. What can be better than a variety of flavors and even more mix-ins ranging from different kinds of chocolate, your favorite candy bars, nuts, fruits, cookie dough, and fresh baked brownies? The stale ice cream at Ben and Jerry's or Baskin Robbins melts in comparison. The cherry on top of the sundae? Once you find your perfect custom combination, they can make you your own to-go container to indulge anytime at home and save a few trips during the blistering Chicago winter.

Posted By:  Tatyana Zaprudskaya
Photo:  Tatyana Zaprudskaya

Rosebud on Rush
This bustling, well-known local chain is almost synonymous with Chicago. The Rush location gloats walls adorned with many a celebrity that feasted there. However, aside from the impressive montage, their bragging rights are limited. This is certainly not the best Italian food in the city. What the portions don't lack in size they certainly lack in flavor, authenticity, and the signature Italian zest. Calamari is one of their specialty dishes... but then again it is hard to mess up anything heavily breaded or fried. On a positive note, while the food was disappointing, service is outstanding. If you are willing to splurge on gas money and trek to the burbs, visit the Highland Park location for much better Italian fare, and an amazing outlier burger.

Posted By:  Jill Jaracz
Photo:  Jill Jaracz

Chicago Chop House
One of my favorite things about the Chicago Chop House is that every table has a notepad on it. To me this means the movers and shakers of the city come here to eat and do a little business. Perhaps these patrons don't even intend to, but the Chop House knows that the notepads will compel them to talk business, and hence need something to write on. I like this touch because it makes me feel like at any second during dinner, I too could use this pad to help work out a deal, even if it's just with my husband. At any rate, the Chop House is one of those venerable steak houses that's sometimes overshadowed by newer, flashier steak joints. But don't count them out, because they still turn out a mighty tender steak. Even better, they don't serve everything a la carte, so your meal comes with a salad and baked potato, making the ticket price a little easier to swallow.

Posted By:  Tatyana Zaprudskaya
Photo:  Tatyana Zaprudskaya

Soups and salads and bread, oh my! It really does not get any simpler than this "fast food" soup joint. Choose from one of 12 freshly-made soups or salads for a quick lunch to go. For those afeared of taking a chance on an unknown food product, like Bayou Chicken & Sausage Gumbo, for example, no worries; you can sample as many soups as your cheapie conscious will permit. Carb-watchers beware, news of the Atkins diet has yet to reach this place so expect enormous chunks of bread to accompany your soup. Seating is very limited and soup to-go is definitely the optimal choice, otherwise be prepared to sit elbow-to-elbow with other lunchers, especially during the noon rush. The Gold Coast location is the newest and is situated right between Starbucks and Jimmy John's for those who are not satiated by soup alone. In three words (other than bread, salad, and soup), it's cheap, fast, and delicious!

Posted By:  Jill Jaracz
Photo:  Jill Jaracz

Mr. Beef
If you haven't heard of Mr. Beef, I'm not sure you can claim to live in Chicago (and "I'm a vegetarian" isn't an excuse). This is one of Chicago's classic Italian beef joints, one that the city's reputation for good Italian beef was built on. You'll see that immediately just by looking at all the celebrity pictures and press clippings lining the walls. Since this River North lunch spot has been around for decades, don't expect anything fancy, just good Chicago-style food. Once you get your beef, you can pull up a stool at the counter or enjoy it in the comforts of their fine dining room, i.e. long row of picnic tables. The sandwich itself is huge and stuffed with tender beef, perfectly cooked. Mr. Beef does have all sorts of regular grilled sandwiches on their menu, but there's no real reason to order them when you already have perfection in one sandwich.

Posted By:  Elissa Pociask
Photo:  Elissa Pociask

The elegant young bachelors are all a-titter about English. It was only a matter of time before my shoulder's devil hypnotized me into a visit. True, it's in River North, and it's teeming with those guys who only vaguely know you but take a picture with you before you can even get to the bar, then post it online the next morning. But after all, it's pretty hard to hate a place with mini crab burgers and mussels and proper little drinks like cucumber cosmos and pimm's cups. I recommend an off-hours visit to avoid the ungodly crowds and fully appreciate the tasty lamb chops and goat cheese artichoke dip. (Note: Even peak lunch hours get clogged with the business crowd). But if you do get stuck there on a Saturday night, at least you'll probably be able to convince some ODB to pay for your earl grey martini.

Posted By:  Molly Fergus
Photo:  Molly Fergus

The Melting Pot
In the list of reasons why I enjoy being a girl, the River North Melting Pot’s ladies’ night special ranks near the top. Although I usually avoid national chain restaurants, it’s hard to be discerning when hunting for affordable River North eats. Luckily, this Thursday night special delivers: Salad, cheese fondue and a chocolate fondue dessert spread rings up to $18 for each lady at the table. Add $6 martinis to the bill, and by the end of happy hour you might want to croon like Sarah Jessica Parker in a Gap commercial circa 2004. But please don’t.

Posted By:  Ceda Xiong
Photo:  Ceda Xiong

Hotel Sax Chicago
What was the House of Blues hotel is now the Hotel Sax and it houses one of the most exotic and eclectic looking lounges in Chicago. A mixture of chinoiserie and French regency style, the lounge is deep with plush furniture, quirky historical paintings, and gorgeous lighting. Under the faintly Moroccan lights, every one looks a bit more glamorous, sipping drinks behind the mysterious screen mazes that weave throughout the floor. Night-life photographers can be grateful for the sumptuous setting because pictures are guaranteed to look fabulous. As a hotel bar, this opium den-looking lounge will draw out-of-towners and city-dwellers alike to form the best kind of distraction.

Posted By:  Jill Jaracz
Photo:  Jill Jaracz

The Green Door Tavern
River North is full of fancy restaurants and chichi clubs, but sometimes you just want to relax at a neighborhood joint. That place is the Green Door Tavern. Built in 1872 just after the Great Chicago Fire, the building even looks like it has had a few beers because its wooden structure is so old that it’s tilting. Nonetheless, this baby is full of life on the inside, where its walls are covered with bits of Chicago history. Reasonable prices are another draw, but the main attraction is the enormous sandwiches that are simply delicious. You’ve never had a Reuben until you’ve had it here, with corned beef piled high on slabs of bread. Burgers are tender and filling. Trying to eat a little healthier? They’ll substitute some tasty green beans instead of french fries for a nominal fee. Throw in some friendly bartenders and you’ll wish there was a Green Door in your neighborhood too.

Posted By:  Tamara Matthews
Photo:  Tamara Matthews

If you’re anything like me, you’ll agree that there’s nothing quite as sexy as dipping stuff in cheese. And if that cheese happens to be mixed with sherry, shallots and garlic, heated in a metal pot, then all the better. Some might call The Melting Pot just another chain restaurant tourist trap in River North. I call it the best non-romantic evening of drippy, gooey fondue enjoyment ever. Maybe it’s the “cheesy” fondue pot water fountain at the entrance that brings it down a notch. Maybe it’s the smoking lounge complete with chess and shuffleboard tables. Either way, the environment doesn’t necessarily spell intimate. The best time to go (if you are a “lady”) is for ladies’ night on Thursdays from 6–8:30 pm. Salad, cheese fondue, and chocolate fondue for only $15—you can’t beat that.

Powered By Subgurim( Maps ASP.NET

See Near North / River North...
Restaurants (81)
Nightlife (34)
Shopping (15)
Landmarks (8)