One of the most visited destinations in Chicago, Navy Pier most definitely has a reputation as a warm-weather attraction, what with it's magnificent skyline views, lake cruises, rides, and more. But you'd be remiss to think Navy Pier goes into hibernation for the winter. In fact, there's plenty of reason to visit when the weather gets cold. Chief among them is the fact that the Pier has been steadily upping the ante on its restaurants, transforming into a dining destination in and of itself.
Most people know Navy Pier as a hotbed for spots like Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., Billy Goat Tavern, and Harry Caray's Tavern, which are all well and good. But for discerning diners looking for something a bit more, and with a bit more Chicago-centric flavor, the Pier has risen to the occasion with a new food experience.
The esteemed restaurateurs behind DMK Restaurants have made their mark on the Pier with outposts of their popular Lakeview haunts, DMK Burger Bar and Fish Bar. The former offers burgers that go well beyond the standard bill of fare. Expect options like burgers topped with NY pastrami, French Gruyere, sauerkraut, and remoulade; one with roasted hatch green chile, fried farm egg, Sonoma Jack cheese, and smoked bacon; and a bison burger with fresh goat cheese, pickled red onion, and blueberry barbecue sauce. The restaurant also offers lamb burgers, salmon burgers, turkey burgers, and vegetarian burgers, including an especially excellent rendition bedecked with a crispy sliver of eggplant and pesto mayo. Pair your burgers with any number of noteworthy fixins, like deviled eggs, Parmesan fries with truffle cream, mac & cheese with charred balsamic onions, and sweet potato fries with lemon Tabasco aioli.
If fish and seafood are more your craving, head next door to Fish Bar for any number of nautical delicacies. The casual fish shack-inspired concept peddles everything from clam chowder and gumbo to blackened fish sliders, raw oysters, "crabby patties," Buffalo shrimp, lobster rolls, octopus a la plancha, and more.
Pizza isn't anything new at the Pier, but no new restaurant sports an authentic Chicago accent quite like Giordano's. The local institution recently added a location to the Pier, bringing its famed stuffed deep-dish to the lakeside destination.
Another popular local haunt also recently made its debut at the Pier. Known for its quality Chinese and Pan-Asian cuisine, Big Bowl branched out with an express version, offering both Chinese and Thai flavors and versions of the restaurant's most popular dishes.
Dig further into Navy Pier's comprehensive new dining portfolio and you'll find a pretty incredible fried chicken sandwich. The delicacies are all the rage throughout Chicago right now, what with fried chicken sandwich spots like Honey Butter Fried Chicken, Leghorn, and Do-Rite Donuts and Chicken. The newly opened Big City Chicken, courtesy of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, is among the best. The formula is refreshingly simple and straightforward, keeping the focus on the high-quality chicken. It can be ordered in three sandwiches: original, hot & spicy, or crispy BBQ. It can also be ordered sans the bun, or as chicken strips.
For sweets, Goddess and The Baker is your go-to on the Pier. With another location in the Loop, along with a slew of popular Goddess and Grocers throughout Chicago, the brand is well-established as a sweet savant. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all served, but it's the pastries and desserts that'll surely grab your attention. Especially the hulking rainbow cakes, the tangy lemon bars, the gelato, the doughnuts, and so much more.
What else is new at Navy Pier? A lot!
Along with this new food experience, you'll find several changes underway at the Midwest's top visitor destination. Navy Pier celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2016, and as part of the centennial celebration, a bolder and more green urban space is being revealed. One notable change, a new Ferris wheel is being installed and will make its debut this spring. Find out more — and please pardon the dust! — at navypier.org.
Photos via Navy Pier