West Loop Restaurants
1350 W. Randolph St., West Loop
Chicago hasn’t been immune to the Nordic food craze of the past few years, and it reaches new heights at Elske, a Danish-influenced West Loop restaurant from husband-and-wife team David and Anna Posey (formerly of Blackbird, a few blocks away). The spare, airy dining room is thoroughly Danish, and made warm and inviting with jugs of wildflowers, ferns, and candlelight. The menu, meanwhile, is both curious and comforting, consisting of dishes like fermented black bean agnolotti with morels, sugar snap peas, and sherry and aged duck breast and grilled confit with ember roasted kohlrabi, kraut, and creamed duck fat. After dinner, there’s a huge outdoor fireplace—the perfect place to finish your Pinot Noir.
564 W. Randolph St., West Loop
A newcomer to the fine dining scene in Chicago, Bellemore is the latest from chef Jimmy Papadopoulos (of the Eastern European-themed restaurant Bohemian House). The food is as elegant as the surroundings—an enormous dining room with curved leather banquettes, vases of seasonal flowers and greenery, and a long marble bar that’s perfect for solo dining or drinks while waiting for dinner. Plating is an art form here, and entrees, like an oyster custard topped with Osetra caviar, tiny squares of green apple, lemon, and dill, and desserts (rhubarb shortcake with goat’s milk sorbet, pickled green strawberries and crispy farro verde) are almost too pretty to eat. Almost.
302 N. Green St., West Loop
Hovering above Fulton Market in Ballast Point, Aba is the brand new, 4,000 square foot rooftop restaurant that’s turned into one of the city’s buzziest warm weather hangouts (though with several fireplaces spread throughout, it’ll likely remain a hot spot well beyond the summer season). The best way to tackle the Mediterranean-themed menu is by sharing everything, especially the small plates that includes five kinds of hummus (the avocado and fava bean is our favorite), and the red beet tzatziki with horseradish, dill, and finger limes. For dessert, the frozen Greek yogurt with olive oil and sea salt is simple, but so satisfying.
311 N. Morgan St., West Loop
Tucked inside the Ace Hotel, City Mouse is the latest offering from beloved local triumvirate Jason Vincent, Ben Lustbader, and Josh Perlman of Giant. Here, the guys call upon seasonally-driven Midwestern inspired fare for their all-day menu, which translates to dinner selections like cornbread with parmesan and the "Country Mouse"—a cheddar, caramel, and caviar shooter (a wink to local favorite Garrett Popcorn), plus a particularly satisfying lasagna, layered with lemon ricotta and mushroom duxelles. The crowd-pleasing brunch runs the gamut from gluten-free house doughnuts and avocado toast to sweet cornmeal griddle cakes, and—wait for it—a particularly decadent cinnamon pretzel roll. The dining room itself intentionally blends into the lobby, and there's an outdoor patio with ample fire pits and space heaters for those balmier Chicago days. If you come in for dinner, swing by the Waydown, the hotel's unpretentious rooftop bar for panoramic city views and a solid cocktail list by Caitlin Laman.
800 W. Randolph St., West Loop
Exposed brick, leather banquettes, and mood lighting make this the ideal date spot—whether it’s of the romantic or friendly variety. They don’t take reservations, so we suggest cozying up at the bar for a classic burger (many say it’s the best in town) and a cold beer (there are tons of domestic and international options). The brunch shouldn’t be missed—the fried house-made bologna sandwich with a side of hashbrowns is the restaurant’s most popular order.
615 W. Randolph St., West Loop
Avec is one of Chicago's enduring food destinations. It boasts a sleek all-wood interior, and rows of communal tables that aren't exactly comfortable, but do the job (particularly because long lines dictate that you shouldn't exactly linger). It’s technically a wine bar, so there’s an extensive wine list in addition to a selection of beers and cocktails. Food-wise, the menu is broken up into shareable plates that range from charred octopus to stuffed dates, and large plates like confit chicken paella and whole roasted fish.
Next & The Aviary
953 W. Fulton Market, West Loop
How could we do a Chicago guide without mentioning Grant Achatz, the Midwestern wunderkind of molecular gastronomy? His restaurant, Next, and bar, The Aviary, are tops in our book. Expect flavors, textures, and combinations that you’ve never encountered before. Next is an interpretation of French cuisine harkening back to 1906. The Aviary is more than a cocktail bar or lounge. It’s a lab. To get a coveted reservation (or a ticket, as the website indicates), sign up online.
Maude’s Liquor Bar
840 W. Randolph St., West Loop
It may be billed as a bar (and yes, the cocktails are something else), but there’s a lot more to Maude's than that—mainly, the fact that it has a full dinner menu. On offer you’ll find expertly prepped French classics (escargot, French onion fondue) as well as a great selection of fresh oysters. The space is on the small side, but the exposed brick walls and dim lighting make it exactly the kind of place you’d want to tuck into for a cassoulet on a cold night…followed by the crème brûlée.
Little Goat Diner
820 W. Randolph St., West Loop
This is Stephanie Izard's elevated riff on the classic American diner, so expect to find vinyl booths and all-day breakfast—but know that it’ll be the farthest thing from rubbery eggs and soggy toast. It's more like spaghetti and clams, kimchi bacon & eggs, and a savory bull’s eye French toast. For lunch, go for the build-your-own burger and side of smoked fries…this is a diner after all. There’s a strict walk-in only policy, so be prepared for a wait.
High Five Ramen
112 N. Green St., West Loop
According to High Five Ramen, a good bowl of ramen boils down to the broth. Their version is creamy and miso-y with a nice kick. Thanks to generous helpings of chiles and pepper—as the warning on the menu suggests—the restaurant’s signature namesake dish is guaranteed to set your mouth on fire. If you like your noodles a little less intense, try the no-spice version or the “Special” ramen. Though there are only sixteen seats, the wait is reasonable and the cavernous feel of the space is weirdly romantic. The alcohol offering is pretty skimpy, but the spiked coconut painkiller slushy is really all you’ll need.
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