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In a restaurant-heavy neighborhood like West Loop, you’ll need more than a pretty facade to make it.
“Ooh, fancy,” my date said as we walked into Ronero. Wearing a jersey pullover dress and leggings, I wasn’t prepared for how underdressed I would feel at this Latin-inspired restaurant in the West Loop. But the sparkling chandeliers and long grey curtains hiding plush booths make the space feel luxurious. Ultra-dim lighting and a sleek black and grey color scheme boost the romance factor, which left us wondering if we’d walked into a Latin eatery or a French restaurant prime for first dates.
It’s decidedly the former, and you’ll know it as soon as you see the menu, which is punctuated with empanadas, ceviches and bolitos. The food here is dreamed up by chef Corey Morris (Mercat a la Planxa, Rural Society), who we’ve come to depend on for his grilled meats and perfectly cooked seafood. Here, though, the dishes aren’t executed with the same precision. The bisteca, an 8-ounce hanger steak served with black bean crema, was tender but somehow totally absent of the rich, meaty flavor you’d expect with a grilled steak. Diver scallops, which should have been tender and delicate, were squishy and rubbery. Worth the $18 price tag? Absolutely not. However, you’ll be just fine if you stick with the small plates. Tender ropa vieja with goat cheese and focaccia was flavorful, and rotating house-made empanadas (filled with potatoes the night we visited) were hearty and delightful. Drinks didn’t disappoint either, with rummy classics and interesting house cocktails designed to grab your attention.
The verdict? If you’re in the neighborhood, there’s no harm in stopping by for small plates and a drink, like the spicy cadejo blanco made with rum and chimichurri greens. But when it comes to the main course, consider taking your business elsewhere. After all, if you’re on Randolph Street, you can do better than a pretty face.
Atmosphere: Dress up a little for this one, and don’t be surprised to see suits and cocktail dresses as the main attire.
What to eat: Stick to small plates like the ropa vieja and empanadas and skip entrees. Desserts are a sure bet, too.
What to drink: The ingredients on the house cocktail menu may seem a tad fussy, but rest assured, they’re tasty. Our favorite was the cadejo blanco, but we also enjoyed the juan quinquín.
Where to sit: The tables in the front and back both look like great options, but you can’t go wrong with sitting at the bar while waiting on a reservation elsewhere. Steer clear of the tables across from the bar—they’re too dark, too loud and too isolated.
738 W Randolph Street
|Transport:||El: Green, Pink to Morgan. Bus: 8.|
|Opening hours:||Tues-Fri 5pm-2am, Sat 5pm-3am, Sun 5pm-2am|
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