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C Chicago (Photos courtesy of each restaurant.)

Everyone knows that Chicago — smack-dab in the heart of the Midwest and in-between coasts — is a hard-core steak town. But man does not live by red meat alone, especially if he wants to live for a while. So look to the water, be it lake, river or sea, for your next hit of protein. No need to wait for Lent! Here are some of our favorites that specialize in impeccably fresh fish and shellfish.

Angry Crab

This is down-and-dirty Cajun-style seafood, where you order by the piece or the pound and eat with your hands until you’ve had your fill. Choose your spice and your sauce, grab a pair of shellfish crackers for your crab, lobster or shrimp, and go to town. Messy and wonderful. 5665 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, 773-784-6848

Bob Chinn’s

Over 30 years in business and the crowds still come. That’s because the fish is always fresh, well prepared and plentiful. It ain’t cheap, but you won’t go hungry, and the longevity is for a reason. Zero in on the fresh catch of the day. 393 S. Milwaukee Ave., Wheeling, 847-520-3633

Calumet Fisheries

It doesn’t get more bare bones — nor as downright delicious — as this hole in the wall on the far South Side. All fish is brined/marinated/smoked on site, and they’ve been in business since 1948. These folks know their fish. Take out only, no seating on site, no bathrooms. The fried shrimp is the stuff of legend. 3259 E. 95th St., Chicago, 773-933-9855

Catch 35

A longtime go-to seafood restaurant in the Loop — especially for those on expense accounts — that serves up ocean-fresh seafood in a striking setting. 35 W. Wacker Drive, Chicago, 312-246-3500

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C Chicago

This River North newcomer from the guys behind Chicago Cut Steakhouse brings the glamour. Try to nab a table on the mezzanine level for a truly fabulous view as you enjoy your pristinely fresh whole turbot. We’re told new head chef Dean Zanella (312 Chicago) will keep the quality, but lower prices. 20 W. Kinzie St., Chicago, 312-280-8882

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Fish Bar

Brought to you by the good people of DMK Restaurants, they serve only “sustainable, wild-caught or responsibly farm-raised fish and seafood.” So you can feel good about downing the irresistible Crabby Patty Sandwich, Fluke Crudo or the Blackened Red Fish Tacos. Wash ‘em down with Sweet Tea Vodka and Lemonade. (Note: A second location opened this fall at Navy Pier.) 2956 N. Sheffield Ave., Chicago, 733-687-8177

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Photo by Lindsey Becker.

GT Fish & Oyster

Chef Giuseppe Tentori and seafood are a match made in heaven. You’d be hard-pressed to find a clunker on this menu, which is filled with shareable must-orders like the Sunfish Ceviche with tarragon chimichurri and pickled garlic, crispy beer-battered fish and chips, or the perfect Maine Lobster Roll. 531 N. Wells St., Chicago, 312-929-3501

Half Shell

Though it’s been around for nearly 50 years, this place flies under the trendy radar so it might be new to you. But the prices are incredibly reasonable on this compact menu, from King Crab Legs ($16) to fresh Blue Point Oysters ($9/six, $17/dozen!). 676 W. Diversey Parkway, Chicago, 773-549-1773

Luke’s Lobster

The name makes it clear: you’re coming here for the lobster. More specifically, the Lobster Roll, served as God intended on a split-top, buttered and toasted roll, with just a hint of mayonnaise and a bit of lemon butter. Yes, they also do crab and shrimp rolls, both tasty, but Luke is all about the Maine-style lobster. 134 N. LaSalle St., Chicago, 312-982-2977

Joe’s Stone Crab

I remember (way back) in my youth waiting in line for hours at the original Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami; a partnership with Lettuce Entertain You brought them to town years ago, and the stone crab is every bit as delicious as I remember, if a bit far afield from the source. But this location has it all: fresh and fried oysters, tuna tartare and tuna prepared filet mignon style, scallop ceviche and seared scallops with bacon jam, even — heresy — hamburgers and prime steaks. 60 E. Grand Ave., Chicago, 312-379-5367

Nico Osteria

Another stunner from Paul Kahan and Donnie Madia’s One Off Hospitality, Nico specializes in Italian seafood preparations, most notably the crudo bar, perhaps the city’s most extensive. On the “hot” side of the menu, the Salt-Crusted Branzino, Italian Fish Fry, Sardinian-Style Seafood in Brodo and Squid Ink Chitarra are standouts. 1015 N. Rush St., Chicago, 312-994-7100

Oceanique

Chef Mark Grosz is a remarkable talent, reflected in his beautiful plate presentations and his ability to get to the essence of each ingredient. This place takes seafood to a higher level, with exquisite service and a dedication to delivering a true dining experience. 505 Main St., Evanston, 847-864-3435

Pearl Tavern

This little gem on Wacker opened in 2014, and it’s a winner. Each fish house standard is given a welcome twist, like the Pink Peppercorn-Crusted Ahi Tuna with green papaya, Asian pear and blood orange vinaigrette, the Lobster Roll with Charred Corn Relish or the Smoked Trout Caesar. And the oysters … oh, the oysters! Impeccably fresh and ever-changing. 180 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago, 312-629-1030

Riva

You’d be hard-pressed to find a better view in the city than this airy dining room overlooking the lake. This is “dinner and a show” whether or not you head afterward to the nearby Chicago Shakespeare Theater. The menu is extensive, especially when you figure in the “fresh sheet” of daily specials. I love the current Alaskan Halibut preparation with toasted faro, wilted arugula, piquillo peppers and heirloom tomato fondue. 700 E. Grand Ave., 312-644-7482

Shaw’s Crab House

This Lettuce Entertain You stalwart still draws them in with great cocktails and well-prepared seafood that runs the gamut from sushi rolls and glistening tableaus of fresh clams and oysters to fried shrimp and pan-seared scallops. 21 E. Hubbard St., Chicago, 312-527-2722

Sink|Swim

Chef Matt Danko has created a modern seafood-focused restaurant with his takes on classics like Shrimp Toast (here spiced up with n’duja and radish and smoothed out with avocado and aioli) and intriguing creations such as his Bacalao Tamale, where the classic salt cod is combined with masa and squid ink. This fish really is brain food; it makes you think. 3213 W. Armitage Ave., Chicago, 773-486-7465


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