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.
1350 W. Randolph St., West Loop
COVID-19 update: Temporarily closed. 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
COVID-19 update: Temporarily closed. 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.
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.
Ace Hotel Chicago
311 N. Morgan St., West Loop
In Chicago's buzzy and rapidly gentrifying West Loop, Ace Hotel has set up shop right across from Google's Midwest HQ. Fittingly, the 159-room property is a nod to the city's strong architectural history having partnered with LA-based Commune design studio to thoughtfully marry both utility and craftsmanship. Taking inspiration from Mies Van der Rohe and Frank Lloyd Wright, the hotel expertly mixes warm woods, clean lines, and rich textures. Commune and Ace also tapped Chicago's Volume Gallery, which specializes in American Craft, to collaborate on a series of pieces specifically for the hotel by emerging and mid-career area artists. In the guest rooms, the low-slung plywood furniture references Mid-century design with pops of blue, greens, and grays and geometric patterns. (One of our favorite rooms is the Loft, a 545-plus square foot space, where a turntable and selection of curated vinyl and an acoustic Martin guitar are also on offer.) Downstairs, Stumptown Coffee set up shop just off the lobby —it's their first location in the Midwest—making for an ideal pit stop before you explore the neighborhood by foot.
Publican Quality Meats
825 W. Fulton Market, West Loop
Situated next door to its sister restaurant, the Publican, PQM offers a full butchery plus sandwiches and old-fashioned breakfasts. In the evenings, it gets converted into a dining room for the Publican's private events.
1000 W. Fulton Market, West Loop
Cold Storage is actually inside the Swift & Sons steakhouse—it’s their take on a seafood bar, with oysters and tons of shellfish. While the seafood tower doesn’t really make the best to-go order, you can get their excellent grilled fish and sandwiches (crab salad on brioche with avocado and lemon, anyone?) packaged up and ready for take-out. Dangerously, the desserts make for great takeout, too.
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.)