River North is a magnet for Chicago social groups on any given Friday or Saturday night. Of course many of these groups are looking exclusively for destinations with local beers on tap and craft cocktails flowing from the bar. The only mention of food might be some bar bites or small dishes to snack on while sharing a drink with friends. But why sacrifice quality of food while you’re trying to go out for a night in one of Chicago’s most lively nightlife districts? Here are a few stops for River North restaurants that pair seriously good food with legit cocktails.
Best River North Restaurants
This cozy restaurant and bar at the ground floor of the Hotel Palomar has a brilliant balance of local and global flavors on the menu for both the food and cocktail menu. Take a sip of the Loki Lane (CH aquavit, martini and rossi bianco, imbue vermouth) for some nordic-inspired mischief. The food won’t let you down, either. The goat cheese deviled eggs and short rib sliders are tasty treats between sips of elevated craft cocktails.
An immense subterranean ping pong playground, London import AceBounce offers River North restaurant enthusiasts elevated dishes in downtown Chicago’s most energetic setting. Ping pong balls fly while creative cocktails like Hits From the Pong (El Peloton Mezcal, Tentura cinnamon liqueur, horchata, habanero, lime) flow from the majestic marble-topped bar. After a game of ping pong, saunter over to the modern 44-seat restaurant on premise, 1901, and enjoy bites by award winning chef Rick Gresh. Serious players can tuck into serious fare like the poached lobster gougeres (poached lobster, foie gras torchon, black pepper caramel) or papperdelle (braised beef short ribs, root vegetables, mushrooms, fine herbs).
Sometimes you just need to pick a thing and do it the best you can. Mercadito is a great example of this, serving inventive and truly delicious tacos (the chipotle-glazed pork belly is always a solid choice) while kicking ass and taking names with their extensive tequila options. They have more than 100 different tequilas behind the bar and serve margaritas that will make you forget that this spot is always crowded during the evening.