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Best restaurants in the West Loop

From sleek Japanese restaurants to fine dining spots, you'll eat well at these West Loop restaurants

Photograph: Martha Williams
Avec

Once strictly an industrial area, the West Loop has transformed into Chicago's dining epicenter. The offerings are varied, from sleek Japanese restaurants to some of the best burgers in the city, and plenty of fine dining spots to boot. If you've tried all these West Loop restaurants, tackle our picks for the best bars next.

RECOMMENDED: Our complete guide to the West Loop

Best West Loop restaurants

1

Oriole

Located just off the beaten path of restaurant-crowded Randolph Row, Oriole is a lauded dining destination that's fit for special occasions or treat-yourself moments (the tasting menu will run you $190 per person sans drinks). If we can offer one piece of advice, it's this: Don't peek at the 13-course tasting menu before you go. Instead, allow every dish to be a surprise, as intended by the kitchen. Each bite is more surprising than the last, and the service is so personalized that you'll feel like you're the only table in the house. The cherry on top? The pastry chef sends each guest home with sweet morsel; save it for breakfast to extend the luxury of this unforgettable meal. 

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2

Roister

Let’s get this out of the way: Roister is not your typical fine dining establishment. It’s loud, it’s boisterous and you sit at a bar. The concept that occupies the former iNG space comes from Alinea’s Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas, with chef Andrew Brochu (Alinea, EL Ideas). “The kitchen is the restaurant, the restaurant is the kitchen,” is the slogan on the website, a nod to the fact that for the most part, seats surround the open hearth. We'll make this easy on you: Pick either the whole chicken and chamomile or the Rohan duck and a handful of sides (the Yukon fries, aged cheddar rillettes and hushpuppies are to die for).

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3

avec

This nationally acclaimed small-plates spot is now under the watch of chef Perry Hendrix, who mostly sticks to the Mediterranean formula that original chef Koren Grieveson put into place (and has wisely held on to her most famous dishes, such as the chorizo-stuffed, bacon-wrapped dates). The addition of lunch during the week has meant one thing: one more meal to enjoy Avec's cuisine almost whenever you please.

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4

Elske

The cozy spot from husband and wife David and Anna Posey (he of Blackbird, she of the Publican) has a name that comes from the Danish word for “love”—a nod to David’s heritage and the fact that the couple got engaged in Copenhagen. The food, however, is not Danish; the menu was made with simple fare and seasonal ingredients in mind. You can choose from a prix fixe menu (eight courses) or à la carte options. Elske is a perfect intro to fine dining, with reliable and approachable dishes that will school diners new to coursed meals on what to expect—with complicated ingredients that are still complex in flavor, but without overly meticulous plating.

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5

Proxi

Be forewarned: A trip to Proxi will undoubtedly leave you wanting more. It’s not that the menu is lacking; on the contrary, it’s rife with so many tough decisions that you’ll have to book a second visit to try it all. Tempura elotes or roasted baby potato carbonara? Baby octopus or raw tuna? BBQ lamb ribs or Wagyu sirloin? It’s not for the indecisive, but Proxi has officially landed on the short list of restaurants we’d gladly frequent every weekend if we could. 

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6

Monteverde

Sarah Grueneberg left Spiaggia to open her own restaurant in 2015, and while she brought along the masterful Italian techniques she honed there, she left the fine dining trappings on Michigan Avenue. Monteverde is warm and welcoming, making it ideal for a boozy weekend brunch or an indulgent date night dinner. It'd be a crime to visit and not try the house-made pastas—from wok-fried arrabbiata with gulf shrimp to the massive egg yolk-filled raviolo to the pecorino-showered cacio whey pepe. Balance out the meal with a few piattini (small plates) and stuzzichini (snacks); just be sure to save room for dessert. 

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7

Bad Hunter

Chicago is a meat and potatoes city. We love our burgers and steakhouses deeply and unabashedly. So when we found out that Heisler Hospitality (Pub Royale, Queen Mary Tavern, Sportsman’s Club and others) was opening a vegetable-focused concept on Randolph Street, we were curious how local diners would react. As it turns out, this meat-loving city has a thing for veggies, keeping Bad Hunter regularly packed most nights of the week. We’re also going to tell you something you won’t hear often—skip the meat. Chef Dan Snowden (Nico Osteria) makes veggies the main course here, and it totally works. 

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8

Blackbird

This iconic West Loop kitchen is still one of Chicago’s best. The beautiful, seasonal plates are full of surprising elements—chilled sweet corn soup with arctic char roe; barbecued sturgeon and pork belly with snap peas, marinated shiitake and peanut consommé—which makes for exciting and, sometimes, challenging eating. 

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9

Grace

Curtis Duffy is no stranger to fine dining, and this lush eatery (which Duffy owns with sommelier Michael Muser) traffics in a lot of upscale tropes: textured fabrics, a hushed room and long, multicourse tasting menus. Yet Grace makes a few subtle tweaks to the fine-dining formula. However fussy the food may be, it is plated to appear as if it came from nature. And though much of it leans sweet, it’s ultimately balanced and clean. Still, perhaps the biggest achievement is that even with three dessert courses, you don’t feel stuffed when you walk out of here. You simply feel satisfied.

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10

Au Cheval

You practically trip over all the perfectly executed, endlessly cravable food at Brendan Sodikoff’s “diner:" the exemplary matzo ball soup. The devastatingly delicious chopped chicken liver. The gloriously messy double-decker burgers. But there’s not a whole lot of lighter fare to start a meal here with. Likewise, there aren’t many dishes that won’t make you feel as if you’ve just eaten a pound of butter. So head to Au Cheval when it will serve you best: for a burger and a beer at the bar, for a plate of fried chicken after hitting the bars, or both.

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