Must-Try Riverfront Restaurants During a Road Trip From Iowa to Chicago


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Recently voted “#1 Best Big City in the U.S.” for a whopping sixth straight year by readers of Condé Nast Traveler, it’s safe to say there are countless reasons to visit the city of Chicago these days. From sports and world-class shopping to cultural attractions and a scenic lakefront with breathtaking views of the city’s iconic skyline, the Windy City truly has something for everyone.

As you might have heard, Chicago is also widely considered a foodie paradise as well thanks to a seemingly endless collection of restaurants, bars, and cafes that offer everything from award-winning fine dining to a simple, no-frills meal for under $10.

And if Chicago’s food scene is one of your primary reasons for hopping in the car and making the trip over from the Hawkeye State, here’s a closer look at a few of the best riverfront restaurants you absolutely can’t leave town without trying first.

Chicago Cut

300 N La Salle Dr, Chicago, IL 60654

Topping our list is Chicago Cut, arguably the city’s best downtown steakhouse. Frequented by athletes, celebrities, and the city’s elite, Chicago Cut is Chicago’s place to see and be seen at, especially in the summer when the restaurant’s riverfront patio is buzzing. Open Table has also mentioned it as being one of the most scenic restaurants in America, so if an unforgettable setting paired with a world-class food and wine menu is something you’re looking for in a dining experience, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better option along the Chicago River than the one-and-only Chicago Cut.

Pizzeria Portofino

317 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

Having opened back in 2019, Pizzeria Portofino is one of the newer riverfront dining destinations you’ll find in Chicago; and it’s one we absolutely recommend you try at some point during your stay. Thanks to more of a casual yet chic setting inside, we love the brunch vibe at Pizzeria Portofino, but it’s also great for an early dinner as well. The hand-stretched pizzas you’ll find here all use premium ingredients, and are also very reasonably priced considering the restaurant’s prime downtown location. And if you aren’t in the mood for pizza, the menu also offers salads, pasta, and charcoal-grilled seafood that pairs perfectly with a nice variety of coastal wines and spritzes that fill out the restaurant’s ever-changing seasonal drink menu.

Beatnik on the River

180 N Upper Wacker Dr, Chicago, IL 60606

If an exotic atmosphere full of bright colors, lush greenery, and spectacular city and river views sounds like something you’ll be in the mood for during a road trip to Chicago, make it a point to visit Beatnik on the River in the Loop. Named after the bohemian freethinkers of the 1950s and ‘60s, the lively and vibrant experience here will take diners on a unique and authentic journey through the Middle East, providing mouthwatering flavors from Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Northern Syria, all while sourcing ingredients from local farms right here in the Midwest. And while the food is unlike anything else you’ll find along the Chicago River, the craft cocktails at Beatnik on the River are also among the best you’ll find anywhere in the city. And, if you end up enjoying your time at this location, we also recommend heading over to their sister restaurant, Beatnik West Town, which is equally stunning and features antique pieces from around the world, as well as more than 400 living plants throughout the bar and dining area.