Travel

West Loop

Establishment neighborhood
Punch Bowl Social
310 N. Green St., West Loop
A 1950’s style diner, a bowling alley, karaoke rooms, and an arcade room are all under one roof at Punch Bowl Social, a 30,000 square-foot adult playground in the West Loop. It’s a little kitschy but fun when you’re in the mood to let loose. Even if a round of bowling or belting out a few karaoke tunes isn’t in the cards, it’s worth a visit for the food alone, which leans towards comforting staples, like buttermilk-brined southern fried chicken and big burgers made with grass-fed, hormone-free beef. Otherwise, healthier, lighter fare is available too, including a superfood grain bowl, loaded with quinoa, kale, radishes, sprouts, roasted carrots, pickled chiles, and shiitake mushrooms.
Elske
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.
Bellemore
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.
Federales
180 N. Morgan St., West Loop
It’s always a good sign when you need sunscreen for lunch. Federales is such a place. It has a retractable roof above a massive patio, serves the perfect spicy-but-not-too-spicy margaritas, and the homemade tortilla chips and guacamole are the kind that could sustain you until tomorrow. It’s the kind of place you want to bring a group of friends—or hell, strangers—and stay for an entire afternoon under the sun. Those lively afternoons turn into even livelier evenings once the tequila starts flowing (there are over forty varieties) and the tacos (adobo shrimp, pulled chipotle chicken) are some of the best in the West Loop.
Cowshed at Soho House
113 N. Green St., West Loop
This British import, located inside the Soho House in Chicago's buzzy West Loop, offers extraordinarily comfy treatment chairs and farmhouse vibes. It's particularly popular for its indulgent manis and pedis (60 and 75 minutes, respectively): Each of the chairs features its own TV and freshly brewed tea served in a teapot is available upon request. There are only five treatment rooms, but they'll do everything from facials (some with SkinCeuticals products) to body wraps, scrubs, and deep tissue massages.
Doughnut Vault
111 N. Canal St., West Loop
Doughnuts have been enjoying a pretty awesome resurgence, and nowhere is that more evident than this family of bakeries, where out-the-door lines are a daily occurrence. Flavors run the gamut from buttermilk to gingerbread stack, but the award winning glazed is the long-standing favorite. For diehards, it might be worth it to hop from shop to shop, as the menus and daily specials vary. Keep in mind that all three can shut down unexpectedly if stock runs out, so check twitter if you're planning a visit for later in the day. (The other standing location is in River North.)
Notre
118 N. Peoria, West Loop
Spotlighting what they describe as “well-built, aesthetically driven goods,” the guys responsible for this Andersonville menswear standby have nailed the elusive not-trying-too-hard vibe. The shop offers a thoughtful mix of luxe lines (A.P.C., Common Projects, Steven Alan) and classic standbys (Filson bags and Red Wing Heritage boots), but what sets them apart is their penchant for seeking out unique collaborations, like exclusive knits from S.N.S. and a sizable selection from the Barbour x White Mountaineering line.
R&M Champagne
116 N. Green St., West Loop
R&M Champagne takes its name from a specific variety of bubbly, Grower Champagne, the grapes for which come from a single vineyard, as opposed to dozens. This intimate drinking salon in the West Loop has taken on the ambitious task of building a drink menu focused entirely on exploring this specific corner of the champagne world. Along with a solid dinner offering and a boozy weekend brunch, they’ve put together a romantic outdoor patio ideal for tucking into one of their excellent cheeseboards.
Au Cheval
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.
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