Grab your forks, crackers and bibs: The Great American Lobster Fest is swimming back to the Navy Pier, just in time for Labor Day Weekend (1–3 September). The Midwest’s largest lobster and seafood event turns four this year; instead of birthday cake, expect live lobsters, (flown in fresh), plus artisan shopping, fun family activities and a program of concerts and performances.
Labor Day Weekend is a great excuse for a summer seafood frenzy, but Chicago has a year-round crush on crustaceans. Here are four favourite seafood restaurants for if you’re feeling fishy…
Discerning folk flit in schools to Nico Osteria, lured in by shuck-fresh oysters, a refined crudo bar and house-made pastas (special mention goes to the star-turn lobster spaghetti). Don’t leave before indulging in one Nico’s gelati (banana stracciatella or Sicilian pistachio, perhaps), or ticking off pre- or post-prandials in adjoining Salone Nico, a svelte spot for tipples.
Sibling to Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse, Hugo’s Frog Bar & Fish House delivers on its promise – ’seafood at its best’ – thanks to its delicious daily catch of oysters, crudos, frog legs, lobster and fish. Got a soft spot for Alaskan king crab? Good news: it’s flown in daily. Other oceanic highlights here include wasabi-crusted tuna, crabmeat avocado and the crabby spin on mac ‘n’ cheese; don’t miss the mighty, crab-stuffed lobster. Carnivores can chomp on steak and chops, if they so wish.
Wiggle your way towards River North for GT Fish & Oyster, which serves up award-winning bivalves at shuckingly good prices. Dishes feature playful flavour combinations – lump crab comes with watermelon and green-tomato gazpacho; shrimp bruschetta gets extra zing courtesy of grapefruit and cilantro – and there’s a formidable seafood tower, whose components include a pound of lobster, king crab, snow crab claws, ceviche, oysters, clams, mussels and more.
Last but definitely not least, RL Grill is the restaurant debut from our favourite Ralph (Lauren, dahling), styled with the same classic pizzazz as the designer’s clothing: the fit-out is classic Americana with lashings of herringbone parquetry, mahogany and leather. Stick with the fishy theme and opt for lobster bisque, crab cake Benedict or oysters served with mignonette granité and Bombay gin cocktail sauce. If it’s good enough for Mr L...
The Great American Lobster Fest / Navy Pier / 1-3 Sep: noon-10pm Fri, 11am-10.30pm Sat, 11am-9.30pm Sun / americanlobsterfest.com
Nico Osteria / 1015 N Rush St / Near North Side / +1 312 994 7100 / lunch & dinner daily, brunch Sat-Sun / nicoosteria.com
Hugo’s Frog Bar & Fish House / 1024 N Rush St / Near North Side / +1 312 640 0999 / dinner daily / hugosfrogbar.com
GT Fish & Oyster / 531 N Wells St / Near North Side / +1 312 929 3501 / lunch Tue-Sun, dinner daily / gtoyster.com
RL Grill / 115 E Chicago Ave / Near North Side / +1 312 475 1100 / lunch & dinner daily / rlrestaurant.com