We might not have an ocean, but we do have a giant lake. And during the summer, it’s our sacred duty to walk, run, and bike alongside it. All that active appreciation can make us hungry, but this summer most of the waterfront restaurants have been closed. Thankfully, they’ve just been allowed to reopen, so here is a list of our nine favorite spots to get a drink and a bite to eat by the water.
You never won that trip to Palm Springs by reaching your “adventurepreneur” sales goal, and that’s probably not happening anytime soon. But Shore Club is here to help you pretend you did. This place on North Avenue Beach has loungy daybeds and some solid Mediterannean food. And unlike that resort in Palm Springs, you don’t have to come here with your boss.
Theater On The Lake is (unsurprisingly) right on the lake, which means you have a close view of Lake Michigan and the pretty stretch of lawn right next to the path. Order bar food like wings, the burger, and lots of cocktails.
If you’re wondering where people who auditioned for The Real World hang out, they’re at Castaways. Yes, this place is a total sh*tshow, but if you want a burger after drinking on North Avenue Beach all day, this is where to order it. The location is inside a fake ship that’s right on the beach, and if you happen to be a little sad you never got to see Sisqo perform live during MTV Spring Break in 2001 this is where to go.
If Castaways is MTV Spring Break, Waterfront Cafe in Edgewater is Ina Garten’s spring break. This outdoor cafe is attached to a coach house next to the Berger Park Cultural Center mansion. It’s quiet enough to hear your friend complain about their quarantine haircut, and has food like nachos, spreads, and sandwiches, which you order from a takeout window. It’s basically the beach restaurant equivalent of linen pants.
Reggies On The Beach
The original Reggies is a very casual rooftop music venue and bar, and this location is basically the exact same, except it’s on the beach instead of a roof. You can expect live music, bar food like burgers, fries, and wings, and no one will judge you for wearing shorts and Tevas - even if they should.
Caffe Oliva is a reliable outdoor restaurant on Ohio St. Beach. It’s kind of like ordering food at a hotel pool, with options like calamari, coconut shrimp, and pita and hummus. Are you going to call all your friends after eating here to tell them about the food? Probably not, but it gets the job done when you’re too hungry to travel more than 100 yards from the sand.
Robert’s is located on the Ogden Slip, which might make you feel, for a brief moment, that you have a boat. You don’t, but the excellent pizza with its flavorful, airy, slightly crispy thin crust will help you forget that. You’ll find a variety of toppings, from fennel with pepperoni and honey to sausage with caramelized onions.
As hard as we try to pretend it is, Lake Michigan is not an ocean. That said, there are some spots along the “beach” that make you feel like you’re closer to the Jersey Shore than to Gary, Indiana. The Dock at Montrose Beach is one of these spots. But it’s also right on the lakefront sand and they serve a respectable burger.
Ok, so this isn’t so much a restaurant as it is a collection of 10 outdoor restaurants located along the Chicago river. And this summer they have outposts of some of our favorite neighborhood spots, like Batter & Berries in Lincoln Park and Chiya Chai in Logan Square. Come here when you’re hanging out by the river and/or are feeling indecisive.