West Loop Restaurants
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.
619 W. Randolph St., West Loop
Blackbird is another member of the Avec family, with a Jetsons-level futuristic interior, complete with an architectural slab of a bar lined with chrome swivel chairs. In contrast, the Midwestern menu is super hearty and the service fittingly warm and attentive. On the second floor, you'll find a secluded dining room, where private parties are assigned dedicated serving and cooking staff.
925 W. Randolph St., West Loop
Just-opened Formento's is the latest spot to join The Bristol and Balena family. It's old-school Italian in every way, from the white tablecloths and tufted leather banquettes to the chicken parm and Italian wedding soup. They have a big, open loft upstairs for private events.
Girl & the Goat
809 W. Randolph St., West Loop
We love Stephanie Izard's Girl & The Goat because craft is the key to every single one of the dishes. The food is separated into three categories—meat, fish, and vegetables—with plenty of crossover in between. Combinations are unexpected and bold flavors abound, all with a feminine, comfortable touch. Don’t miss the selection of house-made breads served at the beginning of each meal, and if you’re a beer drinker, you will be pleased with their unusual collaborations with Three Floyds. The "Underground Goat," their private dining space below the restaurant, is one of the most sought-after party venues in town.
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 16 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.
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.
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.
Next & The Aviary
955 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.
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