Travel

River North Restaurants

Establishment neighborhood
Pacific Standard Time
141 W. Erie St., River North
Pacific Standard Time reminds us of some of our favorite restaurants in L.A. (Botanica, Gjusta, we're looking at you), and it’s clear that chef Erling Wu-Bower took cues from coastal California, both in menu, open kitchen, and modern, light-filled space. Drawing from Mexican, Italian, and Mediterranean flavors, you can expect plates of oven roasted asparagus marinated in black garlic molasses, trout in a fennel-mushroom broth, and margherita pizza with pistachio pesto from a wood-burning oven. For dessert, the huckleberry sundae and the sunflower cotton cake with strawberry syrup are winners. And since it's Chicago, a city that does happy hour particularly well, grabbing cocktails (we go for the rhubarb spritzes) at the bar is a popular way to kick off a visit. Photos: Brian Willette
Radio Anago
226 W Kinzie St., River North
Radio Anago isn’t a typical sushi bar. Design and atmosphere take center stage at this River North spot, with its sexy purple banquettes and dim lighting that’s more reminiscent of a supper club from the 1950’s than a sushi bar from 2018. They serve all the standard rolls you could want (yellowtail sashimi, freshwater eel, salmon roe), but it’s worth ordering the Japanese-style, roasted matcha-enhanced fried chicken and the Sakura Blossom Last Word—a cocktail made of gin, green chartreuse, lime, and sakura cherry.
Octavio Cantina
5310 N Clark St., North Side
Half the pleasure in coming here for dinner is just looking around: Original building features have been restored and a huge thirty-foot mural of Mexico dominates one of the many brick walls. Seats are a rich blood red, and wood floors are interspersed with colorful tiles. Soft tortillas are handmade in the kitchen before being blistered over the grill and filled with all manner of slow-stewed meats and quick-fried fish. Margaritas come in pitchers, and there are great slushies for the kids.
Bavette’s
218 W. Kinzie St., River North
Like most establishments on Brendan Sodikoff’s roster (Au Cheval, Gilt Bar), the décor at this River North steakhouse is old time-y and darkly romantic (tufted leather booths, hard-wood floors, vintage mirrors) with a dinner offering that clearly values tradition over pomp: meatloaf, crisp wedge salad, and really really good steak frites. Wash it all down with something from the classics-minded cocktail list (regulars tend to go for the Dark & Stormy).
Gilt Bar
230 W. Kinzie St., River North
The first thing you need to know about Gilt Bar is that it’s not a bar—it’s a full-on restaurant, with a pared-down menu of small-plates that rarely eclipse the $20 mark. Here you’ll find pork meatballs, ramp risotto, and steak tartare served on toast. What’s more, there is an actual bar downstairs. It’s called Curio, and with its candlelit, subterranean vibe, and impressive classic cocktail selection, it’s arguably the best date spot in town.
Doc B’s Fresh Kitchen
55 E. Grand Ave., River North
This self-professed “fast-casual” eatery prides itself on giving guests a 100 percent customizable experience. The tech-to-table system allows for lightning-fast service (order from a digital menu board, and then take a wireless tracker to your table), though if traditional waiter service is more your speed, there’s that too. Food-wise, the focus is on healthful, fresh fare, with the menus at both locations brimming with veggie-driven dishes (for the most part, produce is sourced locally) like kale slaw and grilled artichokes, in addition to comfort staples like matzo ball soup and close to a dozen burger variations (the turkey burger is a GP favorite). There's also a location in Gold Coast.
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