There are several options for eating and drinking on Navy Pier. You can eat outside; you can eat inside. You can eat standing up. You can eat sitting down. You can pick up your food at a counter or you can have it brought to you and served on a white tablecloth. You can drink a beer while watching a game or listening to live music. You can eat out of your hands or out of a bag.
In short, Navy Pier’s restaurants and bars offer something for everyone, whether you’re a local or a tourist.
It wasn’t always this way, but with its redevelopment Navy Pier has made a concerted effort to create a more local dining experience. You can still get Bubba Gump’s and Auntie Anne’s, but now you can also dig into some DMK burgers, fill your Big Bowl with authentic Chinese cuisine, and indulge in five flavors of ice cream at once as you stroll dockside.
Here’s your complete guide to all the local restaurants on Navy Pier.
Two brothers traveled the country to find the best hot dog recipes, then they brought their favorites home with them. America’s Dog showcases these favorites with 18 “city dogs.” (But you’re going to get the Chicago dog, right? RIGHT?) You can get them year round in the food court. TLTip: several of their city dogs are under 400 calories.
Pick and choose from an array of authentic Chinese cuisine at this local chain located in the food court. Because this is an “express” version you won’t get the entire menu, but there are plenty of options including cherry bomb shrimp and Kung Pao chicken.
Big City Chicken
If you’re looking for some of the best fried chicken in Chicago you’re in the right spot. Founded by Chef Tim Hockett, the chef and partner behind the popular M Burger chain, this is not your typical fast food. The chicken is crisp and the fries aren’t greasy. You can get 2, 3, or 8 piece fried chicken, chicken sandwiches, and chicken strips, and they’re all available with some spice, too.
Billy Goat Tavern
While the original, made legendary by Saturday Night Live, is just a few blocks away, you can get your own cheezborger cheezborger right on Navy Pier. This location also offers outdoor seating, providing a much better view than its underground sibling. Like the original, prices here are pretty reasonable. A cheezborger original will only run you $3.45 – just ten cents more than the subterranean location.
DMK Burger Bar and Fish Bar
You don’t have to choose between land and sea at this venue. Owners and partners David Morton and Michael Kornick have combined DMK Burger Bar and DMK Fish Bar to bring you a little of both. The burgers include tasty creations like grass-fed bison, goat cheese, pickled red onion, and blueberry BBQ sauce; and the seafood lovers can get crabby patties and salmon BLTs. The prices are higher, but all the burgers include fries and all the fish sandwiches include tots.
Frankie’s Pizza by the Slice
Get a slice of ‘za at this carry-out edition of Frankie’s 5th Floor Pizzeria at 900 North Michigan Shops. In addition to pizza by the slice you can get individual pan pizzas, Italian beefs, frozen lemonade and whole pizzas to go.
There’s no mistaking the scent of Garrett Popcorn – or the lines of people waiting to dig into that sweet/salty Chicago mix. Since 1949 they’ve been air-popping kernels and mixing them with their secret family recipes to create crave-able snacks.
If Chicago deep dish pizza is on your bucket list then you can check it off as soon as you arrive at Navy Pier. The hometown favorite has a prime location at the entrance, giving you plenty of opportunity to walk off some of that stuffed pie. Want a quick piece? During the summer you can get a slice at the quick-serve restaurant near Skate By The Lake, the pier’s hot weather ice skating rink.
Goddess and the Baker
“The Goddess” Debra Sharpe has been delighting Chicagoans with her creative sandwiches and gourmet pantry items since 2004 with Goddess and Grocer. This outpost focuses on seasonal flavors with made-to-order sandwiches and salads and a “fanatical focus on pastries and sweets.” Coffee fans will delight in the selections that include pour-over, drip, and cold-brewed drinks.
Harry Caray’s Tavern
Holy Cow you’re going to love this place! That is, if you love sports and Chicago. They’ve got lots of sports memorabilia, although the menu is different from their original Italian Steakhouse location. This one features pizzas and burgers, and they also offer a gluten-free menu with tacos, salads, and sandwiches served on GF buns.
Lalo’s Mexican Restaurant
When Lalo’s opened in 1971 the idea was to show that Mexican cuisine is more than just tacos, enchiladas, and salsas, although they offer those, too. They now have locations in the city and suburbs and the restaurants are still family owned. Their Navy Pier location is counter-service and offers beers and margaritas to go with your guac.
Miller Lite Beer Garden
At first glance you might not think this is a local spot. It has “Miller Lite” in the name, for tourists’ sake. What makes this home-grown is that it’s owned by Phil Stefani Signature Restaurants, the parent company that owns several local spots including Riva Crab House. The food is burgers and brats and the drinks include frozen cocktails, some craft beer selections, as well as the eponymous Lite. On Wednesdays to Sundays from Memorial Day through Labor Day live music entertains in this prime location at the end of the pier.
The Original Rainbow Cone
When one flavor of ice cream isn’t enough, get a whole rainbow! The Original Rainbow Cone is a family-owned business that’s been serving up five layers of creamy goodness since 1926. A cone includes chocolate, strawberry, Palmer House, which is a blend of vanilla, walnuts and cherries, pistachio and orange sherbet.
Porkchop is to barbecue what Bubba Gump is to shrimp. Beef ribs, short ribs, pork ribs, burnt ends, ½ chicken, rib tip, hot sausage, brisket…you get the idea. Go whole hog with the platter and you’ll get a whole mess of bbq and sides to boot.
Riva Crab House
This is one of the best restaurants with a view in Chicago. While you’re dining on seafood from coast to coast, whether it’s Atlantic Salmon or Alaskan Red King Crab Legs, you’ll have a spectacular vantage point of the dock and the Chicago River’s entrance to Lake Michigan through the floor to ceiling windows. Dinner is definitely a dressed-up affair, and lunch at the Cafe can be a bit more casual with salads and sandwiches.
Snow Dragon Shavery
Instead of another ice cream shop (Navy Pier already has two), here you can get shaved snow. It’s lighter and they offer flavors like key lime, mango, green tea, and coconut. Speaking of, you can also get fresh coconut water, plus frozen yogurt and macarons. (Can you ever go wrong with macarons?)
This branch of Tiny Lounge will turn your Navy Pier cocktailing on its barrel-aged single-batch ear. Craft cocktails are the order of the day, and if their original location and the Chicago Riverwalk Tiny Hatt are any indication, this will be the hottest spot on the pier for both locals and tourists.
This counter service spot offers reasonably priced Mexican cuisine. They’ve got standard items including tacos, burritos, and quesadillas. Toppings like sour cream and jalapenos are extra, so you’ll want to figure that into your budget.
Xurro / Churro Factory
Since 1996 husband and wife team Ramon and Irma Covarrubias have been serving up these portable desserts in Pilsen. You can get their churros right on Navy Pier at their seasonal dock-side location.
Pictured: Riva Crab House dining room