The West Loop has rapidly become the city's hottest dining neighborhood, but the drinking scene is no slouch either. From molecular gastronomy cocktail bars to several awesome beer bars, you won't go thirsty at these West Loop watering holes. Already been everywhere? See our picks for the best West Loop restaurants.
RECOMMENDED: Our guide to the West Loop
Best West Loop bars
When Grant Achatz does a cocktail bar, it should go without saying that it's no ordinary cocktail bar. At the Aviary, which opened next door to Next in 2011, cocktails receive the same innovative treatment from beverage director Micah Melton as the food at Next or Alinea. That is to say, you should expect to drink cocktails like the Junglebird, a science experiment in liquid density, with layers of rum, campari, pineapple-lime syrup and rum "pearls" suspended in the drink. You've never seen a drink like it, and given how rare a visit to the Aviary is, you may never again.
Doing its part to keep the West Loop from succumbing to all the glitz and glamour of Randolph Street is this good-natured, low-key tavern, which carries upwards of 100 beers, including Rochefort 10 and Unibroue La Fin Du Monde. Don’t have a clue what that means? Ask the beer-geek bartenders and they’re happy to explain (just don’t ask during Sunday afternoon football).
CH is the most innovative distillery in Chicago—you just need to look to spirits like aquavit, fernet, limoncello and more to see that. But its focus is on a spirit that many distilleries don't get too excited about—vodka. Try it at the sleek but comfortable tasting room, where it's served ice cold alongside a soft slice of rye bread and two skewered cornichons on a thick wooden board. If you prefer cocktails, they have classics plus a signature selection with creations like Rosemary's Baby with CH peppercorn vodka, lemon and rosemary. There's plenty to graze on while you try the spirits too, including charcuterie from West Loop Salami, mussels in a white wine and CH Key Gin sauce and a housemade lemon olive-oil ice cream.
The big, colorful Fulton Market hangout is part restaurant, part lounge and part art gallery. Snag a seat on the soft leather couches or at the bar and admire the rotating lineup of artwork from local artists and a street art-inspired mural. But this is a bar and restaurant first and foremost, so make room for a acorn squash ravioli and pork shoulder while sipping well-made drinks.
There’s no doubt Pete Crowley is a great brewer. For his breakout bar, Haymarket, the former Rock Bottom brewmaster amassed an amazing bottle list, and some of the beers he’s brewed are awesome. Now, with so many restaurants dotting the surrounding storefronts, it's a comfortable spot to wait for a table as well.
If you’re wondering what sets this friendly West Loop bar and grill apart from every other pub that’s packed tightly with graduate- and law-school types, it’s the selection of 40 draft beers (including tasty styles from our Hoosier fave Three Floyds). The large food menu goes beyond the average pub, with eats like baby back ribs, a hummus platter and an assortment of salads.
With straightforward cocktails and a strong selection of beers, you'll probably wind up going to Lone Wolf quite a bit, thanks to its location among the top restaurants in the city. If you need to wait at Girl & the Goat or Au Cheval, put your name in then head here for a drink. If it's nice, sit at the small patio out front, while there's plenty of cozy bar seating for the rest of the year. With a menu of fries and artisanal
hot dogs, you might be inclined to skip your other dinner plans and just eat here.
You enter through an unmarked alleyway, glowing strings of lights leading you to a cobblestone courtyard and ornate parlor that resembles a Parisian hideaway. You forget where you are. You order glasses of champagne you’ve never heard of, you gently unhinge oysters from their shells, and when dessert comes, your selection is plucked from a fanciful cart, replete with bite-size macarons and cakes and meringues. Heaven? Who needs it when there’s RM?