Where To Eat Along The Riverwalk

Your best options for things that aren’t beer and cocktails on the Riverwalk.
Exterior of Tiny Tapp with green umbrellas and tables on the riverside patio

photo credit: Carolyn Katz

Summer in Chicago often means a reunion with the Riverwalk, where you can wave at kayakers or play real-life Frogger with tourists and incompetent rollerbladers. And while most of the patios on this 1.25-mile path involve beer and cocktails (and occasionally live music or Jumbo Jenga), only a few know how to put their limited kitchens to use. No one is coming to the Riverwalk for an incredible meal, but when you need a snack break these are the spots with decent food.

Patios reopen frequently after Memorial Day and as the weather gets warmer, check back for the latest updates.


photo credit: Kim Kovacik



$$$$Perfect For:Day DrinkingDrinks & A Light BiteOutdoor/Patio SituationPeople Watching

City Winery runs a very nice outdoor outpost on the Riverwalk, complete with wines on tap which you can drink in the shadow of Marina City. They currently serve a variety of solid bar food including cheese, salads, paninis, and some surprisingly good tacos at tables on their block-spanning, partially enclosed patio—which is usually packed after work and on weekends once temperatures consistently hit 70 degrees. Make a reservation so you don’t have to resort to drinking frozen Pinot Grigio on the crowded hotel rooftops nearby.

There aren’t a ton of options to eat real, enjoyable food along the narrow and crowded Riverwalk. And while CocoBar is technically street-level, the fantastic frozen margaritas, hefty carnitas tacos, and warm churro fries make up for how you’re missing a chance to fall into the river. Settle in at one of the cute millennial candy cane-colored tables on the tree-covered patio with a bucket of beers and some garlicky empanadas, and be thankful to be out of the fray of the main Riverwalk path.

We always appreciate a good Chicago pun, bonus points if it involves something food-related. That’s only part of the reason why we’re happy to visit Sweet Home Gelato, a family-owned, local gelato stand, whenever we find ourselves on the Riverwalk. While the available flavors might be basic—like hazelnut or mint chip—nothing tastes artificial, and the gelato is fluffy and creamy. There aren’t many tables, but you can walk east along the path and sit on the steps of the River Theater between Clark and LaSalle.

photo credit: Kim Kovacik



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This popular bar is the unofficial summertime place for people who work in the area. Be prepared to balance a beer and a basket of tasty barbacoa nachos while standing—or wait at least 45 minutes for a table—if you visit during the week. But the (occasionally live) music is fun, and you can pass the time waiting in line for a summery cocktail by befriending people from other companies also complaining about their boss. When you’re five mojitos deep and on hour two of complaining, the slightly better-than-expected bar food—like a pair of salty, buttery, soft pretzels, or a decent smashburger—will get the job done.

photo credit: Veda Kilaru

$$$$Perfect For:Outdoor/Patio Situation

There are fewer crowds to contend with at Brews & Bites, a block-long bar across from Merchandise Mart, than at some of the other places on this guide. And apart from the usual Riverwalk-makeshift kitchen suspects, like hot dogs, sandwiches, and a double patty smashburger with the right ratio of char to juiciness, there are also bowls of pasta. Or, get one of their solid sweet or savory crepes. They're made-to-order, and go well with an Art On The Mart show.

Chicago Brewhouse really leans into its Chicago, beer, and Chicago beer themes. The short menu—filled with “neighborhood street food”—reads like it came from a travel guidebook because each dish, like “Pilsen Street Tacos” and “Greek Town Gyro Sliders,” includes a brief fact about the neighborhood. And even though they’re essentially mediocre bar snacks and sandwiches, it doesn’t matter. You’ll have a lot of options—though most people are only here for the nice selection of local beers on tap and maybe a pretzel, chips, or barbacoa tacos to share.

This is the Riverwalk Marketplace stall of one of our favorite spots for South Asian food. While the menu is significantly more limited than the main Chiya Chai in Logan Square, you can still choose between nine different types of chai and a variety of chaat. Get a samosa on its own or topped with bhel, and try to fight off the birds angling for a piece of flaky pastry shell.

TacoRio is a fun taco stand and bar where you can drink batched cocktails and dance in your seat to a playlist of summertime hits (occasionally curated by a live DJ). This counter-service spot is run by Urban Kayaks next door, so there are often discounts on food if you book a kayak—though you should stick to basic snacks like chips or the satisfying warm churros. Show up with friends for Happy Hour margaritas during the week, and wave at the kayakers floating by.

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