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Listings are excerpted from the Reader Restaurant Finder, an on-line database of over 1,200 Chicago-area restaurants. Restaurants are rated by more than 2,000 Reader Restaurant Raters, who feed us information and comments on their dining experiences. Web ratings are updated daily; print listings reflect the most current information available at publication. Reviews are written by Laura Levy Shatkin (LLS), staff, and individual Raters. Though reviewers try to reflect the Restaurant Raters' input, reviews should be considered one person's opinion; the collective Raters' opinions are best expressed in the numbers.The complete listings and information on how to become a Reader Restaurant Rater are available at www.chicagoreader.com/restaurantfinder.

Something Fishy

Seafood restaurants around town

Atlantique

5101 N. Clark | 773-275-9191

f: 8.5 s: 7.1 a: 7.0 $$$ (25 reports)

Seafood, American Contemporary/Regional | Dinner: seven days | Open late: Friday & Saturday till 11

RRR Jack Jones, chef and owner of Jack's on Halsted and the now defunct Daniel J's, explores new territory with this upscale contemporary seafood restaurant. Chef Tuan Thai, former sous chef at Le Francais, consulted on the menu, which pulls together Asian, Italian, and French influences to create distinctive dishes such as warm lobster salad with Yukon Gold potatoes, braised fennel, and truffle oil in a sea urchin-lemon vinaigrette, and seared dry-pack scallops with mushroom polenta and a Thai basil-infused lobster sauce. The aquatic theme is carried throughout the space: someone's huge catch is mounted above the bar, wall sconces resemble starfish, and colorful ceramic fish decorate the walls above the wainscoting. Most Raters agree that, while the service is sometimes pretentious and the prices are high, the fare is worth it. LLS

Benz Bar

3937 N. Lincoln | 773-549-5599

f: 6.6 s: 6.4 a: 7.6 $ (9 reports)

Seafood, Burgers | Dinner: seven days; Saturday and Sunday brunch | Open late: Friday & Saturday till midnight, Thursday till 11 | Reservations accepted for large groups only

Formerly Benedict's, this casual bar and grill underwent a face-lift and name change, but it's still under the stewardship of the owners of Poor Phil's in Oak Park. The room's a bit more casual now, but the deco bar and semicircular booths remain, along with the sidewalk cafe and a wide variety of domestic, microbrew, and imported beers. The seafood-oriented menu is extensive--fried calamari, black pepper peel-and-eat shrimp, and spicy wings for appetizers plus burgers and a broad selection of fish and pasta for more substantial entrees. The weekend brunch menu is alluring, with offerings like "eggz Benzedict" and a variation called "snow flakez": eggs with snow crab and seafood on an English muffin with hollandaise sauce. There are pancakes and French toast too. LLS

Blue Point Oyster Bar

741 W. Randolph | 312-207-1222

f: 7.9 s: 7.2 a: 7.8 $$$ (20 reports)

Seafood | Lunch: Monday-Friday; Dinner: seven days | Open late: Friday & Saturday till 11

The cursed corner at Randolph and Halsted has been home to many restaurant attempts, most recently this oyster bar and seafood restaurant heavily influenced by Shaw's Crab House. The menu is broad and the fish are abundant and fresh, if somewhat predictably prepared. But the menu category entitled "Prime Seafood" is baffling--it seems to offer the same fish as the regular menu but with slightly more descriptive entries and significantly higher prices. The subdued, dark, contemporary room needs a burst of energy. Raters praise the fish, but say the tabs are shocking. LLS

Bob Chinn's Crab House

393 S. Milwaukee, Wheeling | 847-520-3633

f: 7.3 s: 6.9 a: 5.6 $$$ (11 reports)

Seafood | Lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: Friday & Saturday till 11:30 | Reservations not accepted

RRR "It's pretty unique," says one Rater, "but not necessarily in a good way." This north-suburban fish house has perfected a wildly successful formula consisting of exquisitely fresh fish, a huge menu (including some nonfish items), and quick, efficient service. The ambience is loud and chaotic, but obviously plenty of people like it that way: the hungry hordes line up around zigzagged dividers for up to two hours, and Raters give it high marks overall. The catch of the day is always a great option, as are the famed Mai Tai's. Fresh fish is available for cooking at home, and the adjoining retail shop sells souvenirs and knickknacks. LLS

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

700 E. Grand | 312-595-5500

f: 6.9 s: 7.3 a: 6.5 $$ (8 reports)

Seafood, Cajun | Lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: Friday & Saturday till 11 | Reservations not accepted

Paramount Pictures comes to Navy Pier, bringing along a lot of shrimp. There are Dumb Luck Coconut Shrimp (with Cajun marmalade), Lt. Dan's Drunken Shrimp (in bourbon sauce), and Jenny's Sweet Ginger and Garlic Shrimp (with fancy rice). Shrimp-free salads, sandwiches, and smoothies are also available. The kid-friendly restaurant is done up like a bayou shrimp shack, with galvanized buckets of paper towels and seasonings on the picnic tables. A souvenir shop near the entrance sells "Run Forrest Run" ball caps and other Gumpian paraphernalia. Martha Bayne

Cape Cod Room

140 E. Walton | 312-787-2200

f: 8.1 s: 8.3 a: 6.6 $$$$ (7 reports)

Seafood | Lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: Every night till 11

Neither the menu nor the decor at this long-standing seafood restaurant have changed much since it opened in 1933. The rustic yet refined Cape Cod-style room inside the Drake Hotel still features red checked tablecloths, weather vanes, and stuffed fish. The menu includes standard appetizers like New England clam chowder, oysters Rockefeller, and raw oysters, along with the famous Bookbinder red snapper soup served with a shot of sherry. Most fish dishes are prepared simply--there's Dover sole, New England scrod, and shrimp a la Drake, a somewhat heavy casserole with shallots and Parmesan cheese in a Newberg sauce. Raters find the food steady but not particularly innovative, and extremely expensive. Patrons are mostly tourists, business lunchers, and regulars who've been going for years. Service is always attentive and professional. LLS

Carmine's

1043 N. Rush | 312-988-7676

f: 6.6 s: 5.6 a: 6.2 $$$ (9 reports)

Italian, Seafood | Lunch: Monday-Friday; Dinner: seven days; Saturday and Sunday brunch | Open late: Friday & Saturday till midnight, Monday-Thursday till 11

A mysteriously popular and crowded Rush Street Italian restaurant. As one Rater cracks, "Whoever does their PR should be hired to hype the Bears." The atmosphere is lively and bustling, with tables so close that Raters have reported on their neighbors' dishes; the crowd spills out onto a sidewalk cafe in nice weather. The cuisine is classic Italian--with abundant seafood offerings--but nothing out of the ordinary. Portions are often large enough to share, with prices to match. A chunky bruschetta is an appealing starter; predictable entrees include veal marsala, shrimp and asparagus risotto, and chicken Vesuvio prepared on the bone or off. The mostly male servers are professional, to the point of being stern. LLS

Catch 35

35 W. Wacker | 312-346-3500

f: 8.3 s: 7.8 a: 8.2 $$$$ (9 reports)

Seafood | Lunch: Monday-Friday; Dinner: seven days

RRR It's mostly a business crowd at this massive seafood restaurant nestled inside the Leo Burnett building. The flashy room is finished with an oceanscape mural, art deco fixtures, and a revolving piano bar displaying Burnett advertising accomplishments. Dishes include soft-shell crab with Szechuan glaze, Chilean sea bass with ginger-scallion sauce, grilled Atlantic salmon with tarragon-buttermilk sauce, and king crab with pasta in a light cream sauce. Raters waver on the quality of the food--some say it's the best around, others find it uninspired--but most agree that it's best experienced on an expense account as it's all extremely pricey. LLS

Cy's Crab House

3819 N. Ashland | 773-883-8900

f: 6.4 s: 5.7 a: 5.8 $ (14 reports)

Seafood, Middle Eastern | Lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: Friday & Saturday till midnight, other nights till 11 | Reservations accepted for large groups only

Prices are extraordinarily low at this Lakeview seafood shack. Raters disagree about the food, but there seems to be a consensus about the service: it's lacking. The menu also features several Persian dishes--lamb shank and a variety of marinated meat kabobs--which are often a better deal than the fish. The expanded front room has an open feel but lacks warmth. LLS

Davis Street Fishmarket

501 Davis, Evanston | 847-869-3474

f: 7.8 s: 6.9 a: 6.8 $$$ (25 reports)

Seafood | Lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: Friday & Saturday till 11 | Reservations accepted for large groups only

"Very good seafood in a fun, energetic environment where eating with your fingers is not taboo," says one Rater of this popular Evanston fish house. The daily specials are superfresh and usually more innovative than the standard menu options, which are simply boiled, broiled, or fried. Raters single out the clean, well-stocked raw bar for special praise. Waits can be long at dinner, but the bar area is large, which eases the crunch. Locals in the know come for lunch and to patronize the small retail counter. LLS

Don's Fishmarket and Tavern

9335 Skokie, Skokie | 847-677-3424

f: 7.1 s: 7.5 a: 7.5 $$ (5 reports)

Seafood | Lunch: Monday-Saturday; Dinner: seven days | Open late: Friday & Saturday till midnight, Monday-Thursday till 11 | Smoke free

Don's is something of a Skokie institution, a long-standing seafood restaurant conveniently located next to the Howard Johnson's motel across from the Old Orchard multiplex. The location no doubt contributes to its success, but the menu does offer a variety of fish and seafood prepared simply and well. Biannual "Lobsterfest" weeks, and one week of "Crabfest" in the summer, are very popular. Beware, the crowds can be brutal. The bar area, open an hour later than the restaurant, is good for a quick bite before or after a movie. LLS

437 Rush

437 N. Rush | 312-222-0101

Not Rated $$

American, Steaks/Lobster, Seafood | Lunch, dinner: Monday-Saturday | Closed Sunday | Open late: Friday & Saturday till 11:30, Monday-Thursday till 11

Phil Stefani brings his vision of a 40s steak house to the space formerly home to the legendary Riccardo's. The $6 million renovation resulted in a sleek, decoesque space with windows that open onto the street, artist Gregg Gove's giant mural hanging above the bar, and dozens of black-and-white photos of Chicago personalities on the walls. The menu, full of steak and chop options, resembles Stefani's Tavern on Rush, but there's also a hint of the original Stefani's on Fullerton in the multiple pasta offerings. Chef Jerry Pisacreta (Blue Point Oyster Bar) also draws in Mediterranean flavors with several fresh fish specials and a tabbouleh salad that's redolent of fresh lemon. It's all a far cry from the ambience and fare (and prices) of Riccardo's, but old-timers and newbies alike are showing up in droves. LLS

Half Shell

676 W. Diversey | 773-549-1773

f: 7.5 s: 6.9 a: 5.1 $$ (7 reports)

Seafood | Lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: Every night till 11 | Reservations not accepted | Cash only

It's not easy to find a true dive in Lincoln Park, but this cash-only seafood restaurant fits the bill with a low ceiling, a long, crowded bar, and an entrance eight steps below street level. It seems like it's been there forever, serving consistently tasty crab legs, decent shrimp, and raw oysters on the you-know-what. Some prefer the fried fish offerings, served in generous portions with fries. Service has that familiar diner feel, if you know what I mean, hon. LLS

Hugo's Frog Bar

1024 N. Rush | 312-640-0999

f: 7.6 s: 8.0 a: 6.9 $$$ (9 reports)

Seafood | Dinner: seven days | Open late: Till midnight every night

This sibling to neighboring Gibson's attracts a similarly mature and moneyed crowd. The kitchen produces large portions of fresh fish and seafood in unadulterated preparations. There are huge crab cakes, classic sides like baked potatoes and creamed spinach, fish dishes--blackened grouper, grilled mahimahi, baked halibut with crab meat stuffing--and, of course, frogs' legs. The decor takes a maritime theme and runs with it--model ships stand on raised shelves, old photos of someone's sea voyage hang on the walls, and with the low ceilings and frequent crowds you might as well be below deck. LLS

Joe's Crab Shack

745 N. Wells | 312-664-2722

f: 5.4 s: 5.8 a: 6.7 $$ (11 reports)

Seafood | Lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: Friday & Saturday till 11

This family-oriented crab shack features bargain seafood in a festive atmosphere. Kids are welcome, and there's a reasonably priced menu just for them. Waitstaff entertains at times, singing in the aisles with trays in hand. The food is what you'd expect: OK for what you pay. LLS

King Crab

1816 N. Halsted | 312-280-8990

f: 5.7 s: 6.3 a: 6.0 $$ (13 reports)

Seafood | Lunch: Sunday, Saturday; Dinner: seven days | Open late: Friday & Saturday till midnight, other nights till 11 | Reservations accepted for large groups only

The more upscale of Cy's crab houses, this Lincoln Park fish joint still has a comfortable neighborhood feel. Some Raters find it better suited to bar nibbling than sit-down dining: it gets loud and crowded but does have a great beer selection. The wide-ranging menu offers straightforwardly prepared, moderately priced crab cakes, clam chowder, peel-and-eat shrimp, and a variety of fish preparations, plus steaks and pasta. LLS

The Local Shack

1056 W. Webster | 773-435-3136

Not Rated $

Seafood, American | Lunch, dinner: seven days | Reservations not accepted | BYO | Smoke free

This casual Lincoln Park newcomer is a welcome addition to the neighborhood. The storefront space (formerly a chocolate shop) is cute, with heavy wood tables, an inviting patio, and potted plants scattered throughout. Fish and seafood are the focus with sandwiches and salads making up the majority of the menu. There's a shrimp po'boy, a grilled grouper sandwich, seared ahi tuna salad, and even swordfish tacos. Patrons serve themselves at the counter and many opt to carry out. It's an easy stop for a quick, interesting meal, and it's stroller friendly in a stroller-heavy neighborhood. LLS

McCormick & Schmick's

41 E. Chestnut | 312-397-9500

f: 7.8 s: 6.8 a: 7.5 $$$ (16 reports)

Seafood | Lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: Friday & Saturday till midnight, Monday-Thursday till 11

This Oregon-based seafood chain arrived in the Rush Street area in late 1998. The ever-changing menu features the freshest seafood flown in daily from around the world. Offerings range from the mundane (sole and whitefish) to the unusual (thresher shark), but preparations such as Alaskan halibut stuffed with scallops and crab, and California sea bass with papaya-mango salsa are always exciting and flavorful. Meals are accompanied by large sides like mashed potatoes and grilled vegetables. Standard fare like surf and turf and even chicken is available as well. Raters report a wide range of service styles from competent to careless, but I experienced only true professionalism, fairly knowledgeable advice on fish and their flavors, and attentive, friendly service. Raters also compliment the desserts. The wine selection is heavily American but the choices are plentiful. Reservations are strongly recommended. Try to get booked into the back near the private curtained booths (large parties only in there) for the best servers and least noisy tables. John Norris, Rater

Nick's Fishmarket

21 S. Clark | 312-621-0200

f: 8.9 s: 8.8 a: 9.3 $$$$ (8 reports)

Seafood | Lunch: Monday-Friday; Dinner: Monday-Saturday | Closed Sunday | Open late: Friday & Saturday till midnight, Monday-Thursday till 11

RRR A move across the First National Bank plaza took this venerable Loop fish house out of the basement. It's no longer dark and cozy--instead the floor-to-ceiling windows offer a great view of the plaza's fountain and Chagall mosaic. The menu sticks to the classics: clam chowder, Dover sole meuniere, several salmon preparations. Prices are exorbitant--one Rater noted that $48 seemed a bit high for her abalone--but it's a convenient stop for business meals or before a show. LLS

Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen

798 W. Algonquin, Arlington Heights | 847-228-9551

f: 7.6 s: 7.5 a: 7.5 $$$ (12 reports)

Seafood | Lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: Friday & Saturday till 11 | Reservations not accepted

This massive, 700-seat suburban seafood house has a theme park feel--multiple dining rooms on various levels, nautical signs and knickknacks, huge tanks of live lobsters, and a boisterous crowd. The menu features a lot of Cajun specialties--alligator fritters, Andouille sausage and seafood gumbo, skewered grilled seafood with Cajun spices, and shrimp etouffee. More straightforward options include the fried shrimp, grilled swordfish, and raw oysters. Raters think many dishes are overly salted--especially the clam chowder--and the service hit-or-miss. LLS

Poor Phil's Shell Bar

139 S. Marion, Oak Park | 708-848-0871

Not Rated $$

Seafood | Breakfast, Lunch, dinner: Monday-Saturday; Sunday brunch | Open late: Friday & Saturday till midnight, Monday-Thursday till 11 | Reservations not accepted

Poor Phil's offers a wide variety of seafood at reasonable prices when you consider the freshness of the fish and shellfish the bar offers. It's adjacent to Philander's, which many consider Oak Park's best seafood restaurant, and although the atmosphere is definitely bar oriented, the food goes far beyond typical bar offerings. If you aren't a big fan of seafood, the restaurant offers salads, chicken entrees, burgers, and pasta. Poor Phil's has one of the best shell-on cocktail shrimp appetizers in the city. The prices are very reasonable and portions are generous. Keri Gold, Rater

The Raw Bar & Grill

3720 N. Clark | 773-348-7291

f: 7.8 s: 7.6 a: 7.3 $$ (9 reports)

Seafood, American | Dinner: seven days | Open late: Till 1 every night Raters find this seafood place more of a bar hangout than a destination restaurant. The menu offers top neck clams, bluepoint oysters, and steamed Alaskan Dungeness crab, all at market prices. There is also a variety of appetizers, steaks, and chicken. Several Raters complain about oversalted food, but most enjoy the lively ambience, with jazz and blues piano every Friday and Saturday night. LLS

Riva

700 E. Grand | 312-644-7482

f: 8.0 s: 6.9 a: 7.1 $$$ (7 reports)

Seafood, Steaks/Lobster | Lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: Till midnight every night

Phil Stefani's upscale seafood restaurant on Navy Pier has a captive clientele of tourists and conventioneers and prices that seem to capitalize on it. The menu is awash in seafood options including lobster, a raw bar, and a wide variety of mesquite-grilled fish, but also features steak and game dishes (including, on occasion, ostrich). Two prix fixe pretheater menus--$26.95 and $36.95--are available for Chicago Shakespeare Theater patrons. Specials such as the chilled "Buckingham Fountain" appetizer--a plate of smoked scallops, assorted oysters and clams, scampi, and crab claws available for $15.95 per person, with a two-person minimum--exemplify the luxe aesthetic. The setting is almost worth the price. Perched on the second floor near the east end of the pier, Riva is surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows affording spectacular lake and skyline views. Martha Bayne

Santorini

800 W. Adams | 312-829-8820

f: 6.3 s: 6.9 a: 7.1 $$ (7 reports)

Seafood, Greek | Lunch: Sunday-Friday; Dinner: seven days | Open late: Friday & Saturday till 1, other nights till midnight

A fireplace, woven baskets, and rustic artifacts give a warm Mediterranean character to this Greektown seafood restaurant, which offers an impressive array of fish. The whole roasted options--usually red snapper and black sea bass--are the strongest of the bunch, although the lemon sole and char-grilled calamari can hold their own and the grilled octopus gets raves. Several Raters find the fare heavy and a bit greasy, but overall the food is competent and the room is pleasant. LLS

Shaw's Crab House & Blue Crab Lounge

21 E. Hubbard | 312-527-2722

f: 8.0 s: 7.9 a: 6.9 $$$ (31 reports)

Seafood | Lunch: Monday-Saturday; Dinner: seven days | Open late: Friday & Saturday till 11

RRR This River North restaurant is thought by many to serve some of the best (and priciest) seafood in town. The classic 40s-style room, with tile floors and dark wood paneling, is inviting if somewhat cramped due to close tables. The professional staff cordially serves daily specials consisting of the freshest available fish along with a global assortment of ocean-fresh oysters on the half shell (from Prince Edward Island Malpeques to British Columbia Malspinas). The Blue Crab Lounge offers a scaled-down menu in a more casual bar atmosphere featuring live entertainment on weekday evenings. LLS

Zella

1983 N. Clybourn | 773-549-2910

Not Rated $$$

American, Seafood | Dinner: seven days; Saturday and Sunday brunch | Open late: Saturday till 3, Thursday & Friday till 2, other nights till 11 | Reservations accepted for large groups only

A newcomer on the busy corner of Clybourn and Racine, this restaurant in the space formerly inhabited by Moran's is still more bar than restaurant. The front room's been gussied up with a dozen tables, white tablecloths, and candles. The menu is mostly bar appetizers like buffalo chicken wings, jalapeno poppers, teriyaki skirt steak skewers, and shrimp egg rolls. Caesar salad comes classic or with chicken, and sandwiches include some interesting options like a marinated grilled tuna with wasabi-soy vinaigrette, roast pork with homemade barbecue sauce, and a hot pastrami with provolone. A few pastas and steaks make up the small entree selection. The linguine with shrimp, fresh tomatoes, basil, and garlic in a creamy white wine sauce is decent if a bit too rich. The back room is more barlike, and opens onto a spacious bi-level beer garden, which is a real draw in warm weather. LLS

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