Fresh Catches: Chicago’s Sublime Seafood Restaurants

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Photograph by Stefan Johnson

Chicago’s culinary scene boasts an impressive array of seafood restaurants that transport diners to the ocean’s bountiful depths. With a stunning blend of flavors and impeccable craftsmanship, these establishments offer a sublime experience for seafood enthusiasts. From the iconic institutions that have delighted generations to the innovative newcomers pushing boundaries, Chicago’s seafood dining landscape is as diverse as it is delectable!

Komo

At the West Loop’s Komo, chef Macku Chan offers a Japanese take on seafood that extends well beyond sushi. While the menu includes seasonal nigiri, Chan adds white tuna ceviche, lobster croquettes, sashimi served with an ice presentation and an eight-course tasting menu. Esco, a speakeasy-style cocktail lounge, is located on the second floor and accessible by an entrance in the alley. 

Catch 35

A Loop staple, Catch 35 has been serving some of Chicago’s best seafood since 1990. Its specialties include pan-roasted Chilean sea bass, Atlantic salmon, and Alaskan halibut. The establishment also hosts live jazz music Wednesday through Saturday evenings. The restaurant also has a Catch & Carry menu, which offers traditional breakfast and lunch items for pre-order and pickup. 

Lowcountry

Lowcountry brings the culture of Southern seafood boils to the Windy City. Guests can choose the types of shellfish, sauce, heat level and side dishes desired. The meal is boiled together and served in a bag, at which point diners can dive in! Lowcountry has locations in South Loop, Lakeview and Chinatown, and each has a distinct specialty cocktails menu. 

Shaw’s Crab House

The large menu at Shaw’s Crab House has something for every seafood lover. From fish & chip and South African lobster tails to New England clam chowder and Chilean sea bass, all palates are covered. They also boast sushi rolls and poke bowls and, naturally, a variety of crabs. Its Loop location, which opened in 1984, is designed to take visitors back to the 1940s. The oyster bar offers the full menu in a more casual dining atmosphere. 

Porto

The fishing villages found on the Atlantic coast of the Iberian Peninsula act as the inspiration for the Michelin-starred Porto. From an open-flame kitchen in West Town, Porto delivers seasonal seafood dishes from Portugal and the Galicia region of Spain, including an eight-course tasting menu. The restaurant also features innovative craft cocktails and an expansive selection of Spanish and Portuguese wines.

Brown Bag Seafood Co. 

The fast-casual Brown Bag Seafood Co. has become the preferred choice for those looking for a relaxed seafood dining experience. Its 11 locations throughout Chicago allow guests to design their meals as tacos, salads or boxes filled with grains, greens or both. Brown Bag proudly states that its sources are approved by the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch and that its restaurants are eco-friendly

Half Shell

Found in the basement of a Lincoln Park greystone, Half Shell is as loved for its upbeat, unpretentious atmosphere as its food. Crab legs are the house specialty, but guests can also feast on swordfish steak, whole catfish, filet of lake perch and broiled whole red snapper, all at reasonable prices. The restaurant was opened in 1968 by Danny Denizman and is now owned by his grandson Anthony. But beware: It’s cash only. 

RPM Seafood

Situated along the main branch of the Chicago River, RPM Seafood delivers a variety of plates from around the world, including seared tuna Nicoise, caviar, Spanish branzino, miso black cod and citrus-cured salmon. The seafood tower, available in two sizes, contains prawns, Maine lobster, Alaskan king crab legs and oysters. RPM also offers a two-hour curated dinner, complete with wine pairings, at its sommelier station.

Ina Mae Tavern & Packaged Goods

Located in Wicker Park, Ina Mae Tavern & Packaged Goods is for those wanting a taste of New Orleans in Chicago. The seafood dishes on the menu include Cajun/Creole classics like po’ boys filled with fried shrimp, oysters, catfish, crawfish or alligator sausage; char-grilled oysters; blackened salmon and—for brunch—shrimp & grits. Chef Brian Jupiter has earned three Michelin Bib Gourmand Awards for Ina Mae’s, and was a champion on a 2022 episode of Food Network’s “Chopped.” 

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