Unless you live or work in Streeterville, you might think of it simply as that place between Michigan Avenue and Navy Pier devoid of public transportation and full of hotels, wandering tourists, and hospitals. But there are still plenty of reasons to find your way over here, and you can always get great food. Here’s where to go.
If there’s such a thing as “peak Streeterville,” it’s probably Althea - an upscale vegan restaurant that’s located on the seventh floor of Saks Fifth Avenue. And even if you’re not a vegan, or shopping the Clinique bonus sale, you should come here for the interesting food. You can get dishes like a spicy kung pao cauliflower, a peppery and rich “cacio e pepe” made with kelp noodles and cashew cheese sauce, and a vegan cheese plate that includes a macadamia nut pepper jack. Plus, it has a great view of Michigan Ave - as long as you sit facing the windows and not the men’s underwear display.
Like Althea, Woodwind has an unappealing-sounding location. This upscale spot is on the 18th floor of a building on the Northwestern Hospital campus, but this restaurant has great food that’s worth a kind-of-weird walk through a hospital lobby. The menu includes creative dishes that sound strange but are actually delicious - like a sweet and savory Big Mac-inspired foie gras bao and pomegranate-roasted squash with chunky peanut butter. The space has a beautiful view of downtown too, and it’s an overall fun option for dinner and drinks if you’re in the neighborhood.
Robert’s Pizza & Dough Company
Despite what everyone in the entire world thinks, Chicago doesn’t only have deep dish. Case in point: Robert’s, a great thin-crust pizza spot that’s right on the river. The pizza here has an airy, chewy crust with a great yeast-y flavor, and the toppings range from fennel with pepperoni and honey, to sausage with caramelized onions. So next time you’re near Navy Pier with a friend from New York who won’t stop smirking at Giordano’s, take them here.
photo credit: Sandy Noto
Marisol is in the Museum of Contemporary Art, but it’s open to the public even when the museum is closed. This is a good thing, because the food is excellent - way better than anything you’ve probably eaten in a museum cafe. You’ll find sunflower seed hummus, housemade pastas, and fried quail with date honey that tastes like fancy chicken and waffles. Come here for dinner with your mom, after she makes you go shopping at Talbots.
As tempting as a cellophane sandwich from one of the many nearby Starbucks might be, try a cubano at Cafecito instead. It’s the best thing here, which is saying something since their other sandwiches and Cuban entrees, like the ropa vieja, are also very good. Get a cafe con leche as well. Cafecito has two other locations in the city, but the one in Streeterville differentiates itself with a full bar and table service.
Doc B’s isn’t technically in Streeterville - it’s just west of Michigan Avenue - but it’s close enough to count for us. This place has the type of broad menu that normally raises red flags (when we see barbecue ribs, ahi tuna, and pizza all at the same place, we don’t expect much), except it actually delivers. It’s a good spot for dinner and lunch if you’re with a group that can’t make a decision, and it works for a low-key solo meal, too.
Come here if you’re fancy, or like pretending to be. Les Nomades is in a beautiful brownstone just east of Michigan Avenue, and everything about it has a genuinely high-class feel. It’s a prix fixe only menu that starts at $125, so you know they mean business.
Sayat Nova is a family-owned restaurant serving tasty and authentic Armenian food. The menu is large, and you’ll find a well-rounded collection of Middle Eastern classics, like hummus and kebabs. Whatever you do, make sure to order an appetizer of raw kibbe, an Armenian version of steak tartare that’s full of spices.
Volare Ristorante Italiano
By our count there are about a billion old-school Italian spots in this city, and Volare is the one holding it down in Streeterville. If you’re looking to sit down for a meal away from the chain restaurants, this is the spot. Get some pasta.
Indian Garden is the OG IG. Meaning, it’s gone by that nickname since before Instagram was even invented. Indian Garden is easy to get to if you find yourself downtown, and the daily lunch buffet is so practical you’ll almost wish there was less food. Almost.
If we had to pick one Chicago sushi restaurant to eat at every day, it would be Mirai. Don’t dismiss this place because it’s located at the bottom of a Hilton on Mies van der Rohe Way. Mirai serves excellent sushi, from basic sashimi and nigiri to creative rolls. It’s not cheap, because good sushi never is, but it’s also not fancy and overpriced. Prices at Mirai are no different from those at most other sushi restaurants around, but the food is infinitely better.
Ramen Misoya isn’t a particularly cool ramen restaurant. It’s a very basic spot - but sometimes that’s all you need. It’s perfect for an easy weekday meal or Sunday night dinner, and the ramen is consistently good.
We’ve come to really like Beatrix in River North because it’s so versatile. It works for business meals, date nights, and even breakfast or brunch. Luckily, the newer Streeterville location is pretty much exactly the same. It doesn’t have 100% of the River North version’s pizzazz, but you’ll find the same great coffee bar, salads, and healthy-ish entrees. There’s also a to-go area that specifically caters to businesspeople (of both the suit-and-tie and scrubs variety).
Billy Goat Tavern
Billy Goat might not truly be in Streeterville, but it’s in no man’s land on Lower Wacker, so we might as well include it here. We always feel like we’re looking for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when we go here, which is probably because Lower Wacker has a permanent, dark, wet, and creepy feel. But it’s part of the allure of this historical spot. Always get a double cheezeborger, and, if you can swing it, a light or dark Billy Goat beer. If beer isn’t in the cards, then no Pepsi. Coke.
Do-Rite Donuts & Chicken
The Streeterville Do-Rite location is obviously the best one, if only because it serves fried chicken sandwiches. It’s a tiny place mostly meant for carry-out, but who doesn’t want to carry out donuts and fried chicken sandwiches? Name us a better one-two punch and we’ll get you a unicorn.
Ron of Japan
If you’ve never been to Ron of Japan, know that it’s basically a Benihana, but we’ll take the ROJ any day of the week and twice on Sundays. Sit at a communal table, watch the chef flip shrimp tails into his hat, and cover all of your food in “egg salsa,” which is the most unhealthy yet delicious egg yolk and butter mix. Don’t wear anything that nice, because your clothes will smell like you went here for least a week.