Get us in your inbox

Search
Tables face large windows overlooking the Chicago River at Beatnik on the River
Photograph: Courtesy Beatnik on the River

The best restaurants in the Loop

From casual breakfast through pre-show dinner, these Loop restaurants have got you covered all day long.

Morgan Olsen
Written by
Samantha Nelson
Contributor
Morgan Olsen
Advertising

The COVID-19 pandemic was particularly transformative for the Loop as Chicago’s downtown business district largely shut down when offices closed, leaving restaurants to pivot to catering primarily to residents rather than workers. The Loop remains in flux with most companies still following hybrid models, but there are plenty of reasons to visit even if you’re not on the clock. Besides offering plenty of great food halls for lunch breaks and bars for happy hours, there are elegant restaurants to visit before catching a show in the theater district, plus decadent brunches you can enjoy before strolling along Michigan Avenue or visiting one of Chicago’s top tourist attractions. Whatever brings you downtown, these restaurants are worth a visit.

RECOMMENDED: Our complete neighborhood guide to the Chicago Loop

The best Chicago Loop restaurants

  • Restaurants
  • Loop

Soak in the beautiful views from an oasis decorated with more than 600 living plants and antique furniture to create a lively space inspired by the styles of France, Morocco and Italy. DJs add to the vibe by playing music from around the globe. The adventurous spirit extends to the menu, which includes Lebanese-style roasted lamb with pickled seasonal vegetables and scallops with jamon iberico and green curry, plus bottles of sangria and natural wine.

  • 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 Electric Greens with salads, Familiar Bakery with doughnuts, Aloha Poke Co. with fish-filled bowls and The Fat Shallot with stacked sandwiches. Stop by for the Off the Record happy hour at Revival Bar featuring DJs, specials and giveaways. The space also regularly hosts pop-up activities including yoga classes, wine tastings and vintage shopping.

Advertising
  • 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.

  • Restaurants
  • Russian
  • Loop
  • price 2 of 4

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 honey cake accompanied by a superb selection of teas. Be sure to order a flight of house-infused vodkas (horseradish, black currant tea, coriander and more). 

Advertising
  • Restaurants
  • Fusion
  • Loop

Former food truck chefs Amy Le and John Keebler 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 chihuahua cheese and served with jalapeno aioli. No order is complete without a few Bacos (a.k.a. bao tacos): Choose from flavors like pork carnitas, panang chicken curry and soy-ginger tofu.

  • Restaurants
  • American
  • Loop
  • price 2 of 4

Executive chef Jason Paskewitz 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 melted onions, fire-roasted jalapeno and white cheddar.

Advertising
  • Restaurants
  • Cuban
  • Loop
  • price 1 of 4

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.

  • 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 beef short rib with root vegetable pappardelle, flank steak with bone marrow or pan-roasted chicken with house-made gnocchi. Try to save room for dessert or grab an order of triple chocolate chip cookies to bake at home.

Advertising
  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Loop
  • price 2 of 4

Sibling spot to The Gage and The Dawson, Acanto offers excellent Italian fare just steps from Millennium Park. 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.

  • 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, chili coconut curry and more), base (rice, noodles, greens), protein (chicken, steak, tofu, veggies) and vegetables and top it off with 'shrooms, a crispy egg or housemade sweet potato fritters. 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.

Advertising
  • Restaurants
  • Sandwich shops
  • Loop
  • price 1 of 4

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.

  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Lake View

Prepare to get messy at this seafood boil spot where you can design your own bag packed with shrimp, mussels, crawfish, snow crab, sausage, corn and potatoes and customized based on your preferred heat level and flavor profile. Cool your mouth with a side of garlic noodles or just add them to the pile and cover them with more of the thick “everythang” sauce made from butter, garlic and Cajun seasoning. Lowcountry also has locations in Lakeview and Chinatown.

Advertising
  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Loop
  • price 1 of 4

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.

  • Restaurants
  • Spanish
  • Loop
  • price 1 of 4

Explore Catalan fare in this gorgeous Michigan Avenue space, which is popular for date nights, happy hours, and big group celebrations. Tasting menus for $60-$75 per person offer eight or 10 courses ranging from simple pan con tamate to mussels steamed in Spanish beer. Add on a pitcher of sangria or a gin & tonic made with hibiscus syrup. The restaurant offers a “valet and play” package where you can stash your car for hours after your meal, giving you the day free to explore downtown.

Advertising
  • Restaurants
  • Mediterranean
  • Loop
  • price 1 of 4

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).

  • Restaurants
  • Steakhouse
  • Loop
  • price 2 of 4

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, though there are plenty of salads and a blackened cauliflower “steak” with roasted garlic so vegetarians don’t feel left out. If you really want to splurge, the restaurant offers three cuts of Wagyu.

Advertising
  • Restaurants
  • American
  • Loop

Leather booths and chandeliers bring old school elegance to this Theater District staple located within the historic Roanoke Building. The menu centers on rotisserie and hearth-roasted fare like prime rib with horseradish while the drink list emphasizes old fashioneds and flights of bourbon and Scotch. Dine on the cheap with a $39 three-course Sunday dinner featuring clam chowder, rotisserie chicken and gelato, or come for a boozy brunch with blood orange mimosas paired with a prime rib hash skillet.

  • Restaurants
  • Near South Side

A haven for the indecisive, Epic Kitchens lets you put together a meal from multiple restaurant chains. Come in early for a breakfast burrito from Egghead or visit for lunch and dig into a Korean barbecue bowl and kimchi fries from bopNgrill. Meanwhile, your friends can opt for a poke bowl or a Beyond Meat burger. Online or kiosk ordering makes it easy to mix and match between the concepts. Epic Kitchens also satisfies eclectic cravings with a Lakeview location.

Recommended
    You may also like
      Advertising

      The best things in life are free.

      Get our free newsletter – it’s great.

      Loading animation
      Déjà vu! We already have this email. Try another?

      🙌 Awesome, you're subscribed!

      Thanks for subscribing! Look out for your first newsletter in your inbox soon!