River North restaurants do not always have to break the bank, especially on Hubbard Street

For all of the high-end choices River North offers, the neighborhood is also home to some casual dining destinations well worth visiting.

The newest of the bunch is BB’s (22 E. Hubbard St., 312-755-0007), which sports a classic pub feel with several beers on tap, vintage rock’n’roll photographs and memorabilia on the walls, and a menu that doesn’t go above $16. There’s plenty of outdoor seating, too, for next week, when the warm weather returns.

Across the street, the timeless Shaw’s Crab House (21 E. Hubbard St., 312-527-2722), offers the decadence of the main dining room but also the no frills budget-consciousness of the Oyster Bar, where a spirited after-work crowd often congregates for drinks, raw seafood specials and lighter dinner fare.

Head one block west to find yet another bar rolling out tasty food. At Rockit (22 W. Hubbard St., 312-645-6000), the delicious butternut squash soup keeps the chill away, but there are also plenty of salads, sandwiches and full entrees available. The room has a gothic warehouse feel, with exposed beams and antler chandeliers. And at night the upstairs turns into a thumping nightclub.

At the corner of Hubbard and State, VTK (6 W. Hubbard St., 312-644-8664) should not be overlooked. The name has been abbreviated (from Vong’s Thai Kitchen) but the compact menu remains the same, with relatively few but adequate choices of Thai specialties done well. Of course those specialties are priced higher than your average storefront in Lakeview, but then again VTK does Thai food better than most of those places, too.

It’s the age-old dilemma. You want to try chef Jean Joho’s legendary food at Everest but you don’t have $350 to drop on you and your date: Brasserie Jo (59 W. Hubbard St., 312-595-0800) to the rescue. Also run by Joho, this River North staple features by-the-book French brasserie fare. And if you dine at a sidewalk table and bring your pooch, the pooch dines on steak tartare, water and ice cream for free.

More River North restaurants tomorrow and Friday.

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