Chicago Neighborhood Guide: River North
Welcome to the land of gingham shirts, reservations and valet parking. Chicago’s River North neighbourhood is located on its Near North Side, surrounded by candles like Streeterville and the Gold Coast. As the name suggests, this lively place is north of the Chicago River, just across the Kinzie Street Bridge from the Loop, and a short walk from the Magnificent Mile on Michigan Avenue. This urban area is densely populated for nine to five years, a cornucopia of restaurants, galleries galore, busy bottle service dance clubs and luxury tours. The vibrant community is also blessed with the Chicago Riverwalk, which offers many opportunities to watch the skyline.
The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) red line alternates between the north and south sides via downtown 24/7, stopping en route at the Grand North River subway station on N State Street . The Brown Line and Purple Line stop at Chicago Avenue and the Merchandise Mart before heading to the loop.
Numerous bus routes serve the area, with stops every few blocks. 22 Clark moves from the loop and north to the North River. 65 Grand descends Grand Avenue before connecting with the red and blue lines further west. 66 Chicago goes from Michigan Ave to West Town via Chicago Ave. Whatever you do, don’t drive! The L can get you to the city’s central business district, The Loop, in under 15 minutes.
Where locals eat Sunday brunch
The Donut Vault
401 N Franklin St, Chicago, IL 60654
Some Chicagoans stay sober on Saturday evening just to queue at the Donut Vault, very early on Sunday morning. With delicious creations like grape jelly with peanut butter frosting and the wedding cake donut, it’s no wonder they’re still selling out. Pro tip: grab a Starbucks to sip while you wait.
The best coffee for working remotely
3 Greens Market
354 W Hubbard St, Chicago, IL 60654
3 Greens Market has it all: an inviting coffee lounge, gourmet Small Horse burgers, Dastrman Pastrami sandwiches, a large salad bar and a ping pong table.
The best place to take away when you don’t feel like cooking
Pizzeria Lou Malnati
439 N Wells St, Chicago, IL 60654
Order a deep Chicago-style dish at pizzeria Lou Malnati. The local family chain is known for its crunchy, buttered crust.
In the evening, you eat when you have eaten too much
Portillo hot dogs
100 W Ontario St, Chicago, IL 60654
Grab a Chicago dog or a world famous Italian beef sandwich from the Portillo Hot Dogs. The location of River North is the flagship location of the classic Chicago chain. If you really feel like a big child, go ahead and make a “milkshake”, the chocolate milkshake with chocolate inducing diabetes.
The dive bar where everyone knows your name
Green Gate Tavern
678 N Orleans St, Chicago, IL 60654
The Green Door Tavern is reminiscent of a Bennigan’s, but the hamburger bar sits on an underground secret, The Drifter. This basement bar is a legitimate speakeasy of the prohibition era, with hourly cabaret numbers and an incredible list of rotating cocktails presented on a series of tarot cards, and is one of the reasons for which River North has made our list of the best Chicago neighborhoods for young professionals.
Where to drink mimosas outside
The Laurel room
640 N N LaSalle Dr 8th floor, Chicago, IL 60654
River North is full of rooftop bars, such as the Pacific Standard Time’s seasonal location, The Laurel Room. Sip a spritz, spirited slushie or rosé while admiring the rooftops of the eighth floor open-air lounge. If you have an appetite, there is always coastal California cuisine focused on seafood, or you can go down to the PST and order well, just about anything.
Where to have cocktails on a first date
Three dots and a dash
435 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654
Tell your date to pack, because you have two tickets to tropical paradise. Will they be upset when they find themselves in the line of an alley? May be. Will they be happy once they have a tastic rum tiki drink topped with flamboyant? This is nothing less than guaranteed to Three Dots and Dash.
All things to do in River North
High-end boutiques and luxury fashion stores line Chicago’s premier shopping district, the Magnificent Mile. The Shops at North Bridge occupies six blocks, with a Nordstrom store and Eataly among its 50+ shops and restaurants. Head to N Wabash to get your big brown bag of Bloomie’s goodies.
Merchandise Mart, now known as “The Mart”, houses showrooms, restaurants and offices. An interior design district surrounds this sprawling emblematic building.
The Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place and the Lookingglass Theater sit opposite each other in historic Gothic buildings on N Michigan Ave. The first is on the first floor of the historic water tower while the second is inside the old pumping station.
The closest farmers’ markets are at the Museum of Contemporary Art (SOAR Farmers Market) and Division and Dearborn (Division Street City Market). But what River North misses in foreign markets, it makes up for by having both a Whole Foods (W Huron St and N Dearborn) and a Trader Joe’s (E Ontario St and N Wabash). Goal!
On the banks of the Chicago River, the modest Ward Park (A. Montgomery) offers a place for K9s and children. To the north, in the Washington Park / Woodlawn district, Washington Park offers nearly 350 hectares of fun, including three playgrounds, a swimming pool, an arboretum, two gymnasiums, a fitness center, sports fields, a lagoon, a games room, a racquetball field, and more. It also houses the famous fountain sculpture from the time of Lorado Taft and the DuSable Museum of African American History. Grant Park, Millennium Park, Cloudgate (The Bean) and Buckingham Fountain are just 20 minutes by train.
Top-rated Places in River North
We would be careless if we didn’t mention the Riverwalk! For the best views, we recommend entering Franklin Street and then alighting at Dusable, with a wine stop at City Winery or ice cream on the way.
Historic architecture from the Golden Age meets interior design at the Richard H. Driehaus Museum, a restored 19th-century mansion on Eerie Street. Count the different types of marble (there are 17), contemplate the hand-painted ceilings and admire the carved woodwork of exotic wood.
River North is actually the abbreviation of River North Gallery District, so named for its group of galleries, mainly gathered along Chicago, Superior and Huron streets. Explore the photography collections at the Stephen Daiter Gallery and the Catherine Edelman Gallery and admire Asian art at the Andrew Bae Gallery.
River North is just a jump, a jump and a jump from many Chicago attractions including Navy Pier, the Chicago Children’s Museum, 360 Chicago, Lake Shore Drive and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA).