If you're planning a visit to Chicago, chances are you'll find yourself at Navy Pier. The #1 tourist attraction in Illinois draws 8.5 million visitors annually (10th most in the U.S. according to Forbes). The legions come year-round for the array of entertainment, the history, the remarkable views of the skyline and $9 key chains. Drinking and dining options are many and the first stop along the way is the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company.
Located next to the pier's main entrance, Bubba Gump Shrimp Company delivers exactly what it promises: boatloads of the cholesterol-laden crustaceans and more Forrest Gump references than you can shake a box of chocolates at. Bubba Gump's Chicago outlet is one of 31 worldwide and the look of the place gives you the feeling there's a standard layout for each. The mildly southern nautical décor is augmented with numerous stills from the movie and other bric-a-brac. A better bet, weather permitting, is the sidewalk café, which runs along the front and side of the restaurant. You'll get prime people-watching real estate and also a quick departure point after the Wednesday (9:30pm) and Saturday night (10:15) fireworks, which run June 3rd to September 6th.
Navy Pier in a shot: The pier was the brainchild of Daniel Burnham. Construction began in 1914 and the pier opened in 1916 under the name Municipal Pier nr2.
Bubba Gump's smallish menu consists of 19 total items including apps, salads, sandwiches and entrées. Of these, at least eight items contain shrimp in some form, though sadly I could not find a shrimp-tini on the drink list. The beer selection is serviceable, with little to grab your attention except the prices. Margaritas are shaken and poured at the table, which is a nice touch, and there are also a number of tropical drinks that pack a punch and satisfy your sweet tooth at the same time. As a bonus, many of the signature drinks come in branded hurricane glasses, which you get to keep. My tip is to ask your server to rinse them out, before you end up lugging a sticky souvenir with you all day and night.
Navy Pier in a shot: The pier was renamed Navy Pier in 1927 to honor WWI veterans. The pier was converted to military use in both the first and second world wars.
If you're game while waiting for your order, the plucky servers will quiz you on Forrest Gump trivia, which can be quite challenging since the movie is 15 years old and counting. (Can you name the other 2 movies that Tom Hanks and Gary Sinise appeared in together? Do you care? Of course you do and the answer is: Apollo 13 and The Green Mile). Bubba Gump's also has a gift shop for those who missed out on the hurricane glasses. If you're looking for some place with a more local atmosphere, you might consider cracking into the crab legs at Half Shell or the heavenly ribs at Twin Anchors. Otherwise, for an upbeat and bustling atmosphere, signature fried shrimp and a cold drink to wash it down Bubba Gump's is as Bubba Gump's does. For more information, check out the Bubba Gump website. Here's to ya' Cap'.
Navy Pier in a shot: Navy Pier is the only place in Chicago where you can drink openly outside an establishment—as long as it's in a plastic cup. Vendors and bars along the way sell drinks to go. Be sure to take advantage of this fact as you stroll along.