What I Ate: River North, Chicago

Photo courtesy of Yelp
Photo courtesy of Yelp

An inevitable step to moving to a new city is exploring the local food. At least for me anyway. And thankfully, I work with a couple of Chicago foodies who have more suggestions that I can eat! I actually have a word document with over 50 recommendations that they’ve all compiled for me. I will have no shortage of new places to try over the next few months.

I’m starting my Chicago food journey in River North, home to my office and where I spend a large chunk of my time each day. River North has all kinds of good restaurants and I’ve been trying them during my lunch breaks and after a long day at the office. Here are some of the restaurants I’ve been to so far in River North:

Green Door Tavern — 678 N Orleans Street

One of the oldest spots in the neighborhood, Green Door is a kitchsy, cozy and vintage bar setting. The food is a standard bar fare — think greasy burgers and fries. I love this spot in the winter because they have a working fireplace! It’s an easy place to grab after work drinks and there is always good people watching!

Watershed — 601 N State Street

I purposely saved my favorite spot for last. I took Sam here on a whim the other night per my coworker’s recommendations after he had a long bus ride down from Madison. And we both absolutely fell in love with this place. Located below another restaurant in the basement, the decor and vibe feels so 1920 prohibition. Very speakeasy-chic if that’s even a thing. We sat at the bar and sipped on innovative and creative cocktails while snacking on some seriously good dishes. We shared a few appetizers including the Italian Beef sliders (which come with a tasty french dip gravy) and the maple & chili confit chicken wings. But my favorite dish was the escargot brioche. Wow. Just get them. They are amazing and perfectly cooked.
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Farmhouse — 228 W. Chicago Avenue

This is the restaurant my boss took me to on my first day of work at Greenheart Travel as a “welcome to the company” meal. And then I returned for a lunch date with Sam a few weeks later. The first time, I thoroughly enjoyed the seared pork belly sandwich. The pork belly was super tender and well seasoned with a delicious topping of pickled carrot, radish,  and cucumber and drizzled with a spicy pepper mayo. The second time I wasn’t quite as satisfied with the fish and chips, since the breading was too thick and poorly fried, but I really love the vibe of the restaurant.

Boarding House — 720 N Wells St

A fancy dinner spot upstairs or a cool after-work drinks hangout downstairs, Boarding House is a massive restaurant on the corner of Wells & Superior. I’ve been here twice now, once with coworkers for after-work pizza. We split a 6 piece sausage pizza which is complete with a delicious (and spicy!) giardinera. The other time I came here was with my dad and we went up to the fancy dining room. Our meal was far more decadent, complete with 4 courses and wine pairings. We shared the rich hen egg & polenta fries with a delicious bechemel sauce as well as the braised octopus, which was a little too salty for my taste. For my entree I got the grilled venison loin over a rutabaga puree, topped with bacon and macerated currants.

boardinghousethediningroom
Photo courtesy of the Boarding House Chicago

The Franklin Room675 N Franklin Street

This is our office’s favorite lunch spot because of the killer specials — $1 wine!! And their food is good too! We have a standing Friday reservation here, and it never disappoints. It’s a hidden gem, on the basement level right near the alley on Franklin street. I’ve had quite a few things on their menu but a few of my favorites are the duck pate, burrata and fried tomato, duck sausage sandwich, and fish sandwich. Their dinner is excellent too and feels really upscale.

Taco Joint — 158 W Ontario Street

This a-la-carte Mexican place with some seriously great taco choices. Their service is speedy and the tacos are cheap (under $4 each). They have special tacos each day, but the ones on their regular menu are great too. Skip out on the house made chips and salsa (they’re not that good) and go for an extra taco. My personal favorite is the cochinita, which features juicy pulled pork and pickled red onions, but my coworkers all love the Baja taco with battered tilapia and arbol chili slaw.  Other good choices are the barbacoa and carnitas.

taco-joint-chicago
Photo courtesy of Taco Joint Chicago

Slurping Turtle — 116 W Hubbard St

I can’t deny myself a good ramen broth on a cold day, so this place was hard to resist in the winter. It’s an Asian fusion restaurant with a lot of yummy options. I liked their dumplings because the stuffing was well-seasoned and flavorful. The bao is good, but can get a little sweet for my taste. So the ramen is where it’s at and I really loved the tonkotsu ramen. Always, always order a an egg in it!

Brett’s Kitchen– 233 W Superior Street 

If you missed breakfast or are running late, Brett’s is the perfect place to pick up something quick. I love their omelets even if their potato hash is a little lame. They load up the omelets with cheese so they are filling and rich. But the portion is a good size, so you won’t have to worry about lunch.

25 Degrees — 736 N Clark Street

Another office hot spot, this is a regular lunch spot for the Greenheart Travel crew. I’ve tried a few different things, but my favorite is the number one burger. The flavors are so good, and particularly love the arugula lettuce choice! If you want something a little more “healthy”, go for the kale salad because the bacon and cheese make it feel like you’re being good. The fried chicken sandwich is another great option, and be sure to order the french fries.

Photo courtesy of 25 Degrees Chicago

Looking for more restaurant suggestions in Chicago? Check out my “What I Ate” list for Logan Square.

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Author: Megan Arz

I am a travel and food obsessed Midwesterner living in Chicago and dreaming of the world. I work as a full-time program manager for Greenheart Travel, but I am also committed to integrating the travel lifestyle into my every day routines. I am passionate about ethical travel, meeting new people, creating unique memories and eating local cuisine!

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