Combine that Great Lake at the northern end of this Midwestern State with the culinary chops of metropolitan Chicago, and you've got the right combination for delicious dives. We've got the ones you can't afford to miss.
This corner spot in Lakeview is very local-fisherman-meets-beach-chic. The protein on the plate—from the cod in the fish tacos to the raw oysters—is sustainable, wild-caught, or responsibly farmed. Distressed wood covers the walls, and mismatched stools surround the bar, which is topped with various sauces and communal paper towel rolls. But the satchmo po' boys are where it's at: shrimp and crawfish with a potent roasted garlic aïoli and semisweet bread-and-butter pickles; fishbarchicago.com, 773-687-8177
A pub and oyster bar with a casual bistro vibe and outdoor seating, Half Shell serves succulent King Crab, fried catfish, and jumbo shrimp that get rave reviews. And they've been at it since 1968; halfshellchicago.com, 773-549-1773
This one-counter, take-out-only culinary gem is tucked away on West Division Street in the industrial part of town. From the tiled menu overhead, the fried jumbo shrimp is everything the name promises and more: A savory batter creates a seal around the fresh shrimp so that they remain piping hot until the whole order is gone. Fried scallops are sublime—tender on the inside and the size of a fist—and fried frog legs are a delicious treat one wouldn't expect from this tiny hole in the wall; gooseislandshrimphouse.com, 312-642-3640
The smoked fish at this red-roofed building next to a drawbridge packs bold flavor. If you're not a smoked fish fan, the fried offering are ready to make your night. Takeout only; calumetfisheries.com, 773-933-9855
This roomy establishment in the Chicago suburbs offers “jet fresh” seafood from around the world, including Australian lobster tail and large portions of crab. Plus, it’s known for having the best service in town; bobchinns.com; 847-520-3633