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Photograph: Jeff Marini

The 24 best West Loop restaurants

From an old-school sandwich joint to the city's top fine dining destinations, these are the best West Loop restaurants

By Morgan Olsen

People who have lived in Chicago all of their lives will tell you all about how the West Loop used to be a run-down, derelict part of town. These days, Chicagoans new and old flock to the area to enjoy the bevy of West Loop restaurants that now populate the happening neighborhood. Home to some of the best restaurants in Chicago, the West Loop has established itself as Chicago's dining epicenter over the last decade, and Randolph Street has even earned the nickname "Restaurant Row." With some of the best new restaurants in Chicago moving in every month, this area shows no signs of slowing down. The best West Loop restaurants run the gamut from sandwich shops and wine bars to the hottest fine dining Chicago has to offer. We narrowed down the options and ranked our all-time favorite West Loop restaurants. Psst! While you're waiting for your reservation, check out the best bars in the West Loop for a drink.

The best of the city under one roof and a West Loop restaurant we love so much we welcomed them in

Photograph: Sandy Noto

Time Out Market Chicago

We've rounded up the best chefs in the city to join us at Time Out Market Chicago, a culinary and cultural destination in the heart of Fulton Market. The 50,000-square-foot space houses 18 kitchens, three bars and one drop-dead gorgeous rooftop terrace—all spread across three floors. Our mission is simple: Bring the pages of Time Out Chicago to life with the help of our favorite chefs, the ones who wow us again and again. (You can read more about our delicious curation process here.)

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

El Che Steakhouse & Bar

Housed in the former Checker Taxi building, El Che Bar is Chef John Manion’s Argentine-American restaurant, a love letter to his time traveling throughout the country. Locally sourced vegetables, grilled meats and whole seafood are cooked on custom-built grills and chapas in an open hearth. Menu standouts include herbed Parisian gnocchi with mushroom stroganoff, grilled Deleware oysters topped with garlic aioli and the smoked pork ribs glazed with apple cider. 

John Manion also now has a signature eatery at Time Out Market Chicago.

Best West Loop restaurants

Photograph: Erica Gannett

1. avec

Restaurants Mediterranean West Loop

There are a few things you should know before visiting Avec. First and foremost: Prepare to give up any notion of personal space upon entering. The cozy, always-packed, Mediterranean-skewing West Loop restaurant offers communal seating and shared plates (fear not—you don't have to share with your neighbors). Whether it's your first visit or your 15th, you must order menu mainstays chorizo-stuffed medjool dates and the "deluxe" focaccia with taleggio cheese, airy ricotta, truffle oil and fresh herbs.

2. Oriole

Restaurants Contemporary American West Loop

Chicago is home to oodles of fine dining experiences—from big names like Alinea to newcomers Smyth and Elske. But no foodie's checklist is complete without Oriole, a West Loop restaurant from chef Noah Sandoval. The $215 multi-course menu is filled with clever, beautiful, indulgent bites that allow guests to be swept up in the experience. If we may offer just one piece of advice, it's this: Don't peek at the menu before visiting; allow each plate to be a surprise, as the kitchen intended.

Photo: Martha Williams

3. J.P. Graziano Grocery

Restaurants Italian West Loop

The old school vibe at this corner shop isn’t manufactured—the Graziano family has been doing its thing here since 1937. While it’s hard to go wrong with any of their sandwiches, the Mr. G—prosciutto, salami and sopressata, with biting aged provolone and marinated artichokes tucked into crackly-crisp bread anointed with hot oil and truffle mustard vinaigrette—claims house specialty status for a reason.

Photograph: Sammy Faze Photography

4. Kikkō

Restaurants West Loop

You're going to need a reservation if you want to experience this omakase experience that's located below Kumiko in the West Loop. It's worth the small hassle when you see the seven-course tasting menu that's filled with hits, like the pristine salmon sashimi and the show-stopping Japanese milk bread dessert, which arrives topped with shaved truffles and fermented honey ice cream. Go ahead and add beverage pairings from mix master Julia Momose, who makes spirit-free cocktails taste just as good the fascinating sakes behind the bar.

Photograph: Martha Williams

5. Blackbird

Restaurants Contemporary American West Loop

The unshakable Blackbird set down roots in the West Loop before it was the place to be for restaurants. These days, chef Ryan Pfeiffer helms the menu, crafting "elegant and imaginative Midwestern cuisine." Translation: Grilled sturgeon paired with kimchi and mustard greens or country fried veal sweetbreads with artichoke pistou. Wanna feel like a baller on a budget? Go for the best deal in town: a $28 three-course lunch menu.

6. Smyth + The Loyalist

Restaurants American creative West Loop

John Shields and Karen Urie Shields’s two-for-one special in the West Loop offers elevated tasting menus upstairs and the city’s best burger (yeah, we said it) in the dark, sultry basement. Talk about a winning combination. Here's your game plan: Hit the Loyalist on any ole Friday night for patties and a cocktail, and save Smyth for a very special occasion.

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

7. The Press Room

Bars Wine bars West Loop

If you've ever found yourself wishing that your neighborhood wine bar had a more robust food menu, snag a table at the Press Room, situated below Publishing House hotel. The tiny kitchen cranks out top-notch eats to pair with their lengthy wine list, including strip steak with chimichurri puree, mussels studded with calabrese salami and roasted carrots served with smoked feta. Those looking to chit-chat the night away over bottles should order the Le Grand Board, with a curated mix of charcuterie, cheese and all the fixings.

© 2016 Galdones Photography
Photograph: Huge Galdones

8. Elske

Restaurants Contemporary American West Loop

Meaning love in Danish, Elske is an appropriate name for a venture from husband-and-wife team David and Anna Posey. Though the relatively affordable tasting menu (priced at $90) is a no-brainer for special occasions, the à la carte menu makes Elske surprisingly accessible for an average weeknight. Piece together a progression of savory plates from David—they're always changing and loaded with farmers-market fresh produce—and save room for Anna's otherworldly desserts. The sunflower seed parfait with sour honey and bee pollen has been on the menu since day one, and it's easy to see why after just one bite.


9. Greek Islands

Restaurants Greek Greektown

Half the joy of eating at this Greektown stalwart is seeing how many times you can get your server to say “Opa!” The other half comes in the form of the savory saganaki and the keftedakia—small, luscious meatballs simmered in tomato sauce. Honey-laden desserts are solid across the board, so order with confidence. But for maximum “Opa!” make sure you finish with a cup of potent coffee.

10. Bellemore

Restaurants American West Loop

At Bellemore, chef and partner Jimmy Papadopoulos balances resourcefulness and evident skill with an unmatched knack for layering textures and flavors. The seasonal menu boasts unexpected combinations like the butter-poached Alaskan Halibut, which is served with black rice, blood sausage, chanterelles and clams. Don't sleep on Lee Zaremba’s thoughtfully balanced cocktail menu and pastry chef Leigh Omilinsky's adventurous roster of desserts.

Photograph: David Burke

11. Sepia

Restaurants Contemporary American West Loop

Sepia has become a bona fide West Loop stalwart for elegant dining. The warm and sophisticated room is a destination for dishes like duck breast with foie gras and blueberries—not to mention a cocktail and wine program that sets the bar for Chicago. No time for dinner? Opt for a smooth pisco sour alongside a plate of cheese and charcuterie in the lounge.

Photograph: Reilly Drew

12. Bad Hunter

Restaurants Vegetarian West Loop

Chicago is a meat and potatoes city. We love our burgers and steakhouses deeply and unabashedly. So when Heisler Hospitality opened a vegetable-focused concept on Randolph Street, we were curious to see 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 makes veggies the main course here, and it totally works.


13. Proxi

Restaurants West Loop

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. 

monteverde, jason little, burrata e ham
Photograph: Jason Little

14. Monteverde

Restaurants Italian West Loop

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. 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. 

Photograph: Matt Taplinger

15. The Publican

Restaurants American West Loop

Diners come to this megaproject from Paul Kahan, chef Cosmo Goss and crew for three things: to sample the massive list of brews while basking in the golden-hued, beer hall–like space; run through the current roster of impeccable charcuterie and oysters; or begin their weekend days with arguably the best brunch in town (think housemade ricotta with buttery tea cakes and thick slabs of housemade bacon).

Soho Hosue Chicago
Photograph: Martha Williams

16. The Allis

Restaurants Cafés West Loop

No matter which of the Soho House doors you enter on Green Street, you’ll walk straight into the Allis, the all-day space that spans the width of the building. There are high ceilings and big windows, plus tables, lounge chairs, a bar and couches. The Allis seems designed for two purposes: For people to settle in with a laptop during the day or to get all dressed up and be part of the scene on weekends. It’s also the kind of place you could spend an entire day, with a croissant and coffee in the morning, a salad or sandwich for lunch, or small plates like carrot hummus or burrata on toast over cocktails in the evening.

Aba, rooftop, patio, outdoor dining, outdoor, restaurant
Photograph: Jeff Marini

17. Aba

Restaurants Mediterranean West Loop

The sister restaurant to Ēma in River North, Aba is a collaboration between chef CJ Jacobson and Lettuce Entertain You. Like Ēma, Aba offers Mediterranean-inspired bites like pumpkin hummus with brown butter and a spread made from avocado and fava bean. But the menu here offers something different, too: Diners will notice a larger focus on steaks and seafood, with dishes like skirt steak shawarma, char-grilled lamb chops and toasted sesame shrimp. On the beverage front, expect summer-ready sippers like the Aloe? It's Me, a tantalizing blend of mescal, aloe, green juice, lime and jalapeño.

18. Roister

Restaurants Contemporary American West Loop

If you need a break from the traditional (read: hoity-toity) fine dining experience, book a seat at Roister in the West Loop. There are no white tablecloths, the music is loud and you can totally get away with wearing jeans. Brunch and lunch are available, but you'll want to go for dinner, when you can fully appreciate the open-hearth kitchen and everything it has to offer. The whole chicken is a must for first-time visitors and includes perfectly braised, poached and fried poultry. Toss in an order of aged cheddar rillettes and hamachi crudo, and you'll see what all the hype is about.

Photograph: Marina Makropoulos

19. Girl & the Goat

Restaurants Contemporary American West Loop

Few Chicago restaurants possess the staying power that Girl & the Goat has been able to maintain since 2010, when it opened on Restaurant Row in the West Loop. It's still tough to nab a reservation at Top Chef Stephanie Izard's flagship spot, where diners can nosh on wood-grilled broccoli, smoked apple pierogies, duck tartare and wood-oven–roasted pig face. 

20. Momotaro

Restaurants Japanese West Loop

The Boka group's (Boka, GT Fish & Oyster and others) foray into Japanese fare is a huge success, with a variety of elegant raw fish dishes and other classics of the cuisine. The namesake momotaro tartare melds dehydrated tomato, a spicy hit of Dijon and onion puree into a slightly sweet, savory spread, while roasted crab legs come to the table dripping in butter.


21. Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken

Restaurants Soul and southern American West Loop

Just when it seemed that the fried chicken bubble was dangerously close to bursting, here is Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken, a storied Memphis import that serves tender chicken cocooned in a light, thin exterior that shatters when you cut into it. It’s spicy, with heat that gently sneaks up on you, though not remotely close to the incendiary Nashville-hot style at the Roost and not so hot that it doesn’t benefit from a squirt of Crystal hot sauce out of a plastic packet.

Photograph: Anthony Tahlier

22. Yūgen

Restaurants Japanese West Loop

Helmed by chef Mari Katsumura, Yūgen melds contemporary Japanese cuisine with classic French techniques, resulting in a beautiful tasting-menu experience in the West Loop. The address and dining room may look familiar: The space formerly housed three-Michelin–starred Grace. At Yūgen, guests can select a five- or 10-course tasting menu, which include dishes like the photo-worthy crab rice, which is decorated with salmon roe and puffed grain furikake.


23. High Five Ramen

Restaurants Japanese West Loop

When temperatures drop, many feel the urge to escape to somewhere remote and exotic. After one (or four) slushies in this hidden oasis under Green Street Meats in the West Loop, you can almost pretend you’ve been transported to a gritty basement ramen shop in Tokyo. Reminiscent of the cautioning one might find from a buffalo wing-centric sports bar, the menu begins with a stern warning of how spicy the soup can be—and spicy it is, but worth the momentary pain. Balance the flecks of chili in the classic High Five Ramen with one of the milder bowls like the Shoyu or Special Ramen, which are still impressive without the seductively creamy tonkotsu broth. The bracingly chilly bite of the fruity slushy cocktails will help tame the heat, too.

Photograph: Anjali Pinto

24. Beatrix

Restaurants American West Loop

Sure, this Lettuce Entertain You concept has locations all over the city, but if you're ever in the West Loop over the lunch hour, you'll find that the masses flock to Beatrix and its adjacent Market concept for fresh, feel-good eats that actually taste good. Hit the loaded salad and hot bar for grab-and-go goodies or take a seat inside Beatrix proper for miso-caramel salmon, vegan truffled mushroom risotto or the Straight "A" salad, with arugula, avocado, Asian pear and asiago. 


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