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Chicken Milanesa at Cindy's
Photograph: Jason Little Chicken Milanesa at Cindy's

The best restaurants in the Loop

Our favorite Loop restaurants offer more than lunchtime munchies

By Morgan Olsen
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By virtue of being an epicenter of office buildings, hotels and many of the city's top tourist attractions, the Loop is home to a multitude of grab-and-go lunch spots and crowd-pleasing formal dinner destinations. But take a closer look and you'll find so much more: post-theater romps, unsung brunches and some seriously awesome food halls. Despite popular belief, the Loop doesn't shut down at 5pm sharp, so stop sleeping on this 'hood. When your stomach starts to rumble in the Loop, book it to one of these fantastic restaurants.

RECOMMENDED: Our complete neighborhood guide to the Chicago Loop

The best Chicago Loop restaurants

Brown Bag Seafood
Photograph: Neil Burger

1. Revival Food Hall

Restaurants Food court Loop

Consider this expansive Loop food hall a collection of the city's best neighborhood eats under one roof. An impressive 15 food vendors include The Budlong with fried chicken, Union Squared with Detroit-style pizza, Aloha Poke with fish-filled bowls and The Fat Shallot with stacked sandwiches. Stop by for a quick bite or a leisurely cocktail—there's something for everyone with plenty of seating to make your next lunch stop an enjoyable one.

Neil Burger

2. Chicago Athletic Association

Hotels Boutique hotels Loop

On the surface, Chicago Athletic Association is a stunning historic hotel conveniently located across the street from Millennium Park. But once inside, you'll realize the building is home to some stellar restaurants and bars. Looking for sprawling views, family-style plates and top-notch cocktails? Head upstairs to rooftop restaurant Cindy's. If it's a steak and martini you're after, book a table at Cherry Circle Room. There's even a Shake Shack located on the first floor of the hotel for all your late-night burger cravings. Better yet, book a room and stay a while.

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3. Everest

Restaurants French Loop

For years, Everest has lived up to its name for those looking for a lavish experience, and in the process it has become the pinnacle of high-end French dining in Chicago. Situated atop the Chicago Stock Exchange, it is still the height of elegance, with views of the rooftops that made the city famous. The menu offers carefully executed dishes such as roasted rack of lamb, baked wild sea bass and hand-harvested sea scallops, each given some sort of Alsatian flair or French accent. If you’re looking for fancy, you found it.

1213.chi.rb.100best.SaucyPorka.jpg
Photograph: Crystal Garcia

4. Saucy Porka

Restaurants Fusion Loop

Former food truck chefs Amy Le and Rafael Lopez blend their childhood food memories at this Asian-Latin fusion restaurant in the Loop. The lunchtime favorite serves imaginative dishes like the chorizo egg rolls, which are stuffed with queso fresco, sweet potato and red cabbage and served with a side of avocado aioli. No order is complete without a few Bacos (a.k.a. bao tacos): Choose from flavors like pork carnitas, Thai chicken curry and soy-ginger tofu.

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5. Cochon Volant Brasserie

Restaurants Brasseries Loop

There's a lot going on at Cochon Volant, so follow along: This Loop restaurant offers weekday breakfast, lunch, dinner, weekend brunch, bar bites and a full cocktail and wine menu. Get the full experience at dinner, when you can order signature plates like chicken liver and foie gras mousse, pommes frites, orecchiette with country pork ragu and a selection of dry-aged steaks. If you haven't figured it out already, Cochon Volant isn't for the calorie-conscious—plan to splurge. 

6. Pastoral

Shopping Specialist food and drink Loop

Small-batch artisan cheeses are cut to order at this friendly, well-stocked wine-and-cheese shop. The place is attitude-free, and menu items, like the Nut N’ Chutney sandwich of spiced almond butter and cranberry chutney on cracked wheat bread, are perfect for a quick lunch in one of the handful of seats on the outdoor patio. 

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Wells St. Market
Photograph: Marcin Cymmer

7. Wells St. Market

Restaurants Loop

Chicago's newest food hall is small but mighty. Hungry visitors can grab bites from 10 vendors, including doughnuts at Firecakes, sandwiches at Tempesta, gyros at Piggie Smalls, maki rolls at Tabo Sushi and fresh, seasonal salads at Fare. The sunny space is also home to Flowers for Dreams, offering sweet and stunning floral arrangements on the go. There's plenty of seating inside the hall, but if the weather's nice, take your meal to go and have a seat along the Chicago Riverwalk, located just steps away from this Loop cafeteria.

8. The Gage

Restaurants American Loop

Owner Billy Lawless nailed the gastropub with this Michigan Avenue hit. The whiskey list is lengthy, beer options reach beyond the basics, and wines are accompanied by clever, straightforward descriptions. The food is rich and aggressively flavorful, from the perfect-for-snacking Scotch egg to the Gage venison burger, served a juicy medium-rare and dripping with pickled onions and gouda.

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9. Gayle's Best Ever Grilled Cheese

Restaurants Sandwich shops Loop

There's something about a homemade grilled cheese sandwich that takes us back to simpler times, which might be why we're constantly flocking to Gayle Voss's restaurant inside Block 37. Order from a menu of 13 cheesy creations, including our personal favorite, the Southport, which is crammed with Prairie Pure butterkase cheese and smoked onion marmalade from Southport Grocery and Cafe.

10. The Dearborn

Restaurants Seafood Loop

Whether you're looking for a pre-theater snack at the bar or a new weekend brunch option, The Dearborn has you covered with its versatile menus and sprawling dining room. Go casual with a burger and fries or turn things up with rich options like braised veal cheeks, a 28-ounce dry-aged porterhouse or house-made Parmesan gnocchi. Just be sure to save room for dessert—the caramel apple churros are divine.

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The pastries at Cafecito make it a top Cuban restaurant in Chicago.
Photograph: Jason Little

11. Cafecito

Restaurants Cuban Loop

Sure, Cafecito's sides of roasted eggplant, cannellini bean salad and briny artichokes are flavorful, but there’s no confusion over the star of the show: The Cubano’s crusty bread is toasted just right, its roast pork juicy, its pickles thick, and its mustard and gooey cheese plentiful. And once it’s devoured, only a potent café con leche will keep you from calling the café’s comfy couch home for the day.

12. Luke's Lobster

Restaurants Seafood Loop

Channel the East Coast over your lunch hour at Luke's, where the menu includes sea-kissed delights like creamy clam chowder and a killer lobster roll. Sample a little bit of everything when you order Luke's Trio, which includes a half lobster roll, half crab roll and half shrimp roll.

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13. Russian Tea Time

Restaurants Russian Loop

A classy choice for the symphony set and couples looking to indulge, this institution proves excess is best. Slide into a cozy booth and start the assault with classic borscht, sour cream–slathered dumplings and caviar blini. Follow up with creamy beef Stroganoff or oniony, nutmeg-laced, ground beef–stuffed cabbage rolls. Finish up with hot farmer’s-cheese blintzes or Klara’s apricot-and-plum strudel, a family recipe. Be sure to order a flight of house-infused vodkas (horseradish, black currant tea, coriander and more).

Photo: Mark Ballogg

14. Prime & Provisions Steakhouse

Restaurants Steakhouse Loop

If you're looking to impress a client or take advantage of having mom and dad in town for the evening, Prime & Provisions is worth your consideration. The posh, new-age steakhouse specializes in beef, hearty sides, decadent desserts and strong drinks. It's worth noting that there's a special gluten-free menu available, so no one feels left out. 

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15. Acanto

Restaurants Italian Loop

Meet The Gage's little sister, Acanto, offering a casual but quality dining experience on Michigan Avenue. Start with a cheese plate, which comes with an array of accompaniments, before moving onto well-executed pastas, fried artichokes and tender octopus. End with the smoothest, creamiest gelato in town.

Naf Naf Grill
Photograph: Jordan Balderas

16. Naf Naf Grill

Restaurants Mediterranean Loop

With a falafel joint on every corner, the Loop is competitive territory in which to open a Middle Eastern restaurant. Fortunately, Naf Naf is a veritable lion, a place whose creamy falafel, juicy chicken shawarma or crispy chicken schnitzel can easily go head-to-head with any existing quick-serve spot in the city. The secret to the success: exceptional condiments and the just-out-of-the-oven pitas (rolled and baked on site).

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17. Brightwok Kitchen

Restaurants Pan-Asian Loop

Lunch isn't a snore at Brightwok Kitchen, where build-your-own bowls are the main attraction. Simply choose your sauce (Thai basil, creamy cashew, golden miso and more), base (rice, noodles, greens), protein (chicken, steak, tofu, veggies) and vegetables and top it off with 'shrooms, a crispy egg or caramelized pineapple. The menu is gluten-free, dairy-free and peanut-free, making it a vibrant option for health-conscious folks who don't want to sacrifice taste. 

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