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Don't Be Scared of Navy Pier

by Erica Bethe Levin – August 5, 2012
700 E. Grand Ave., Chicago

Crab Legs at Riva ChicagoYou can’t pay me money to go to Navy Pier. I won’t touch it with a ten-foot pole. Screaming children. Dripping ice cream cones. Tourists reading maps…wearing pink Cubs T-shirts. Unless, of course, you take me on an all-you-can

-drink boat trip on Lake Michigan… or wave crab legs in front of my face.

On a pier full of cotton candy, chatzkes and tourist traps, Riva is a breath of fresh air, a pearl in the water. As a local, if you’re going to make the trek to Navy Pier, head here… and only here.

After living in Chicago for 11 years, I ventured to Riva for dinner for the very first time. I didn’t know what to expect – in my mind, it was like going to the fanciest restaurant at DisneyWorld.

Boy, was I wrong. I loved Riva – every Navy Pier-filled second of it. After the hostess sat me and my lovely foodie friend at a very romantic booth just overlooking the lake, the super friendly and very accommodating server took our drink order. I was please beyond pleased to see one of my favorite wines of all time, Frog’s Leap Sauvignon Blanc, as a “by the glass” pour. This touristy gem was off to a great start.

I’ll give you three reasons why it continued to get better.

Chocolate Cake at Riva Chicago1.  We went on a Wednesday night, which during the summer months means it’s firework night at Navy Pier. Fellas, if you’re looking to impress a date, forget about those $300/person prix fixe menus and book a table by the window overlooking Chicago’s famous fireworks. You’re guaranteed to score some major chivalry points.

2.  Alaskan. Red. King. Crab. Legs. Choose between 1 or 1.5 pounds and your choice of side and go to seafood heaven for the evening. Remember when I mentioned my accommodating server before – he cracked and de-shelled my little crustaceans of joy; all I had to do was squeeze some lemon (butter not necessary!) and enjoy the succulent legs of crab. All 16-ounces of them (with a side of delicious grilled vegetables). As a Floridian, I was thoroughly impressed by the quality of this seafood.

3.  Chocolate cake the size of your head. Enough said.

Although you’ll think you’re surrounded by kids, tourists and families of five, they’re really just chilling by the Haagen Dazs stand. Smart and sophisticated locals know that Riva is the reason to head to Navy Pier. And if we’re smart, we’ll make reservations in advance and weed out those wearing pink Cubs tees.

About the Author: Erica Bethe Levin

Erica Bethe Levin is the Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of She loves to write, but she also really loves her dog Pippin, spaghetti, wine and Billy Joel.