While we may not exactly be seaside, Chicago sure knows how to fry up good fish. Well-known culinary names have long established Chicago's focus on curating top tier seafood cuisine (Joe's Seafood, Acadia, GT Fish & Oyster, Shaw's Crab House, The Cape Cod Room, and most recently Chef Paul Kahan's Nico Osteria, to name a few).
Without a doubt, Chicago is a seafood force to be reckoned with - but what about the weather-worn charm of seafood shacks right up on that salty coasty water, you ask? No need to leave the city for the gritty, casual charm of local seafood joint - we've got you covered.
Brown Bag Seafood Co. (340 E. Randolph St)
Who knew that a brown-bagged meal could be such a delicacy? This is not your middle school lunch bag anymore: think fresh, quality, craft and quick seafood. This self-proclaimed "glorified fish shack" sits lakeside at the north edge of Chicago's Millennium Park, and is fully embracing its mission of introducing Chicagoans and visitors alike to the casual seafood and craft combination. Classic.
Pearl Tavern (180 N Upper Wacker Dr)
A rarity among modern seafood eateries, Pearl Tavern pays homage to the vintage historical significance of the building that houses it. Recently opened, this revitalization of the space graciously nods to the exuberant 1950s golden era of Chicago to create a space warm enough to create an atmosphere of sharing drinks, sharing stories, and, of course, sharing oysters. Pearl Tavern's blend of seafood delicacies and old world décor makes this "seafood shack" not so much shack-y as next level chic.
Bow & Stern Oyster Bar (1371 W. Chicago Ave)
This seafood joint's guiding philosophy is a simple one: fishing (and farm) to table. Bow & Stern focuses on locally-sourced food and fresh ingredients to create delectable fish fried sandwiches and to "demystify the oyster" for a city who may not be on a body of salted water. The Bow & Stern experience is one that begins with oysters, but doesn't end there; its distinct and flavorful cocktail menu compliments Chef Brian Greene's inventive and bold seafood dinner and brunch menus. One oyster into your Bow & Stern visit and you'll find yourself officially an oyster convert.
Mercadito Fish (10 E. Delaware St)
Brought to you by Chef Guillermo Tellez, this brand new seafood spot located just through the lobby of the Talbott Hotel focuses on American classics and comfort seafood dishes (what could be more comforting than crab cakes, chowder, and everything fried?). Mercadito Fish's raw bar features a wide array of oysters, clams, and shrimp cocktails
mfk (42 W Diversey Pkwy)
Not only is mfk your intimate, seaside-focused eatery on the border of two of the most vibrant Northside neighborhoods, mfk is also your new go-to late night joint. Grilled crustaceans, crusty bread, and chilled rosé? This new Chicago spot is here just in time for summer seafood cravings, and has the staying power to entice Chicagoans to nosh on fresh seafood all year round.
Calumet Fisheries (3259 E. 9th St)
Priding themselves on their art of smoking all of its seafood onsite, Calumet Fisheries is 65 year tradition of seafood here in Chicago. With no seating, no bathroom, and no nonsense, Calumet is the original Chicago seafood shack, and with some chops to back it up! Calumet was named one of the five honorees for the James Beard Foundation Awards America's Classics back in 2010, also making appearances on Anthony Bourdain, Check, Please! and in the Chicago classic Blues Brothers. Calumet Fisheries' legendary seafood is no joke, and continues to set the bar high for upcoming local seafood joints!