In recent years, the West Loop has acquired a reputation as Chicago’s best neighborhood for eating and drinking, and we know why: no other part of the city is so densely packed with critically acclaimed restaurants and bars. From an off-the-beaten-path boîte where the champagne flows to the home of Chicago’s most sought-after burger, here are our top picks in the vicinity.
This throwback Italian concept from B. Hospitality (The Bristol, Balena) has been getting major buzz since opening in mid-January, and offers a menu filled with both traditional and modern Italian fare. Traditional dishes include Nonna’s meatballs, fettuccini alfredo, and shrimp scampi, while an inventive relish tray with miniature sweet potato cannoli, Ligurian beets, rinforzo salad, and more shines as a modern twist on a classic menu staple. Whatever you do, don’t miss towering chocolate layer cake. 925 W. Randolph St., 312-690-7295
Literally hidden behind Nellcôte and accessible via an alleyway off Green Street, RM Champagne is an urban-chic escape from the hustle and bustle of Restaurant Row. The interior is dimly lit and intimate, and in the summertime, its doors open up onto a café light-strewn patio and outdoor bar. Go for a glass of bubbly and stay for a thorough cheese board that spans mellow Fourme D’Ambert to pungent Roquefort. 116 N. Green St., 312-243-1199
With its sleek, modern interior and anything-but-ordinary sushi offerings, this Michelin Bib Gourmand recipient reigns as Randolph Street's most popular sushi restaurant. Nigiri lovers will lust after the artfully presented tuna truffle, while the Hot Daisy, Fire, and panko onion rolls will satisfy maki fans. The restaurant also recently opened Booze Box, a subterranean late-night establishment, directly beneath Dokku’s dining room; be sure to stop in after your meal for Japanese draft beers, sake, and tunes spun by guest DJs. 823 W. Randolph St., 312-455-8238
Brought to you by the gentlemen behind Lincoln Park’s Alinea, this cocktail bar redefines the art and science of mixology. From deconstructed Moscow Mules and custom-made vessels to ingredients that have been vaporized and manipulated in ways you’d never imagine, you won’t find anything quite like the Aviary anywhere else in the world. 955 W. Fulton Market, 312-226-0868
This larger-than-life, decade-old Latin-inspired restaurant houses a 300+ seat main dining room and multiple semi-private dining rooms, making it ideal for large parties looking for great food and an inviting space. Both the interior and the exterior are washed in vibrant hues, and the menu is packed with flavor-forward dishes that are great for sharing, such as tuna tiradito, oxtail empanadas, churrasco, and caramelized sweet plantains. 702 W. Fulton Market, 312-850-5005
The single burger at this dimly lit Brendan Sodikoff concept has garnered nationwide attention since its inception, and for good reasons: with an on-point bun-to-meat ratio and impossibly juicy prime beef patties (two, to be precise), it’s just about perfect. Add some house-made pickles, cheese, Dijonnaise, thick-cut bacon, and a runny fried egg and you’re there. 800 W. Randolph St., 312-929-4580
One of One Off Hospitality’s many wildly successful concepts, this wine-focused restaurant hit the scene in 2003, and remains a West Loop staple to this day. The honey-hued space is the embodiment of minimalism, with cedar walls, hickory floors, red oak seating, and a 48-foot stainless steel bar providing a streamlined backdrop for chef Perry Hendrix’s inventive dishes. Settle in for a meal of whipped brandade with garlic bread and chives, lamb Bolognese anchored with buckwheat pappardelle and finished with apple, mint, and sheep’s milk cheese, and goat cheese cheesecake, all washed down with a selection off the thorough wine list. 615 W. Randolph St., 312-377-2002
Quaint and warm, chef/owner John Manion’s Brazilian-leaning restaurant and bar is picture-perfect for a romantic night out. The robust beverage program overflows with a diverse range of wines, craft beers, and well-balanced cocktails, such as the Heritage Daiquiri with rum, lime, superfine sugar, and aromatic bitters; pick something that suits your tastes and toast over shareable eats like flaky baked empanadas, moqueca with fish, mussels, and shrimp, and veal sweetbreads laden with house giardiniera. 954 W. Fulton Market, 312-226-5300
A dessert made of passion fruit, pineapple, lemongrass, and coriander blooms.
In late 2014, Grace became Chicago’s second-ever three-Michelin-star restaurant—an honor that has already cemented its place in Chicago history. Chef/owner Curtis Duffy has crafted two nine-course tasting menus: Flora, a vegetarian-friendly menu showcasing dishes like winter squash with enoki, pearl onion, and lemon balm and parsnip with Buddha’s hand, oat, and lemon bergamot, and Fauna, a protein-focused experience including Miyazaki beef, pig tail, lamb, and Alaskan king crab. 652 W. Randolph St., 312-234-9494
PHOTOGRAPHY VIA FACEBOOK.COM/FORMENTOSCHICAGO; ANTHONY TAHLIER (RM); FACEBOOK.COM/SUSHIDOKKU; THE AVIARY; CARNIVALCHICAGO.COM; KAILLEY LINDMAN (AU CHEVAL); FACEBOOK.COM/AVECRESTAURANT; BYTHEBARKERS (LA SIRENA); FACEBOOK.COM/GRACE.RESTAURANT.CHICAGO
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