The Best Restaurants In The South Loop  guide image


The Best Restaurants In The South Loop

Our favorite places in the neighborhood.

The South Loop might not be a hotbed of restaurants like Wicker Park or the West Loop, but chances are you’ll need to eat here at some point. Maybe you're at Soldier Field, stuck at the Morningstar Investment Conference at McCormick Place, or perhaps you value easy access to I-55 and live in one of the million new highrises that sprung up over the past 10 years. Either way, there are lots of great options to visit after you abandon a Bears game at halftime.


photo credit: Sandy Noto

Manny’s Cafeteria & Delicatessen imageoverride image

Manny's Cafeteria & Delicatessen


1141 S. Jefferson St, Chicago
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Manny’s opened over 75 years ago, and this iconic Jewish deli is still a destination spot. It has all the things you’d want from a classic deli: it’s family-owned, has a long history, and you order your food cafeteria-style from someone whose sole purpose in life is making sure you get enough brisket. There are sandwiches stacked with piles of corned beef and pastrami (a popular combo for their Reuben), matzo balls the size of your head, latkes, and black and white cookies. Plus, Manny’s has a rotating menu of daily specials, served from 10am until they run out.

The X Pot is a futuristic hot pot restaurant with elaborate light projections and thematic soundscapes. So yes, this place is a rather absurd production, but it's also fun and the hot pot is pretty good. The pots are served individually (each seat has its own burner) and you get your choice of soup. We like the medium spicy Szechuan, which has a nice amount of spice and goes great with the wagyu ribeye, lamb shoulder, and ox aorta. And while the robots might bring you your selection of ingredients, humans are on hand to take orders.

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You might already be familiar with S.K.Y in Pilsen, a fantastic restaurant that feels like a sexy basement. Apolonia, a mostly Mediterranean restaurant, is from the same team. Unlike S.K.Y., Apolonia is bright and airy, with tall windows and high ceilings. There are dishes like mussels on toast, buttery truffle puff bread, and fiorentini topped with a rich pork sugo. McCormick Place isn’t known for having a plethora of upscale restaurants in its vicinity, but this is where you can have a fun dinner with your coworkers after a conference, or catch up with visiting family who spent the day touring the Museum Campus.

When you’re looking to escape the harsh reality that is winter in Chicago, AO Hawaiian Hideout should be on your list. This spot really leans into the tropical island theme, so you’ll see straw huts, fake fish, and sunset murals all over the place. But don’t let the kitschy decor distract you from how good the food is here, with great poké bowls, beef short ribs, and panang curry. The menu is long—besides their signature Hawaiian plates, you’ll find dishes from across East Asia, Southeast Asia, and Polynesia, plus a dedicated vegan and gluten-free section.

While there are other places to get sushi in the South Loop, Umai is the best at blending above-average food with a versatile ambiance. This Japanese restaurant serves sushi, ramen, udon, and dishes like katsukarē in a space that feels like a showroom for the West Elm lighting department. Are the trendy chandeliers giving off a soft glow that’s exactly the type of flattering you want on a first date? Yes. Can you hear a table of roommates discussing a potential lamp purchase? Also yes. This spot is cozy, but not so much that it would make a group of coworkers feel awkward about being here together.

Located a block away from picturesque “Millionaire’s Row”, the main draw at Spoke & Bird is their excellent patio and the park next door where you can forget that you’re a block away from freight train tracks. But this coffee shop is open year-round, and there’s a surprisingly extensive food menu. Breakfast (served until 5pm) has options like cheesy grits with vegetables, spiced apple french toast, and biscuits and gravy. There are salads, soups, and sandwiches for lunch and dinner, plus booze to numb the pain of not investing in Bitcoin in 2014 and becoming a millionaire yourself.

This is the South Loop location of the very popular dim sum restaurant. Each MingHin follows the same format: a large space with plenty of seating, a long menu of consistently well-made dim sum, and an iPad ordering system at the table that helps you wade through the seemingly endless array of choices. The dining room looks dark and sleek, but it’s casual enough for a family-style meal where you'll feel comfortable having a debate about climate change with your uncle while fighting a secondary battle with your sister for the last dumpling. All of the above (plus little to no wait time) makes MingHin one of the best places in the neighborhood for groups.

The tagline at Flo & Santos is “Pizza & Pierogi,” because, well, they’re the best things here. This Italian and Polish pub has tavern-style pizzas with toppings like kielbasa and sauerkraut or Italian beef and hot giardiniera. You can also get pierogies, with fillings like potato and cheese, beef, or ones masquerading as ravioli in a tomato-bacon-vodka sauce. This spot gets crowded on Bears’ game days, but that’s nothing compared to what you’ll see during the summer. With outdoor TVs, heat lamps, string lights, and live music, Flo & Santos has one of the most popular patios in the neighborhood.

Haidilao is a Chinese hot pot chain famous for its robot servers and noodle dancers. It has an extensive menu, with nine soup bases to choose from—and you can get up to four. There’s also a long list of options like shrimp paste stuffed with salted duck egg, omasum, boneless duck feet, and various other fun things that are begging to be dunked into boiling broth. The space is large and perfect for groups, and the condiment bar is as robust as the menu. It has snacks like little fruit leathers that act as great palate cleansers between spicy bits. Also worth noting is that Haidilao accepts reservations, and will give you free soft serve at the end of your meal.

Cafe Bionda is the type of inoffensive Italian restaurant that won’t piss anyone off. You’re bound to see a lot of families, couples at varying stages in their relationships, and solo diners watching whatever game is on in the separate bar area. It’s earned its reputation as a neighborhood staple: service is friendly, dishes are consistently good, and the menu is full of pastas, steaks, and entrees like braciole that are ideal for leftovers. The dimly lit dining room might make you think this place is formal, but the massive fake swordfish on one wall and random mix of INXS and Dean Martin in the background say otherwise.

This low-key (but fun) bar is ideal for a post-work drink or dinner, and has events like trivia, bingo, and comedy nights. Weekend brunch can get crowded, especially during the summer when the outdoor patio is a big draw. But, Half Sour is open during the day on weekdays, so if you want to do some work while eating a pretty good bagel or a cheeseburger that tastes like a Big Mac in the best way possible, you can.

Like its sister location in Pilsen, this Mexican restaurant in Printer’s Row is perfect for a casual dinner or date when you're in the mood for some al pastor tacos and straightforward, well-made margaritas. The narrow space is kind of dark, but also lively thanks to energetic Latin music and at least one table with someone who doesn’t know how to use their inside voice. You’ll find regulars at the bar cracking jokes with the bartender, and groups taking advantage of the daily drink specials—like $7 mojitos, sangria, or palomas. This makes Señoritas a great Happy Hour option, but there’s a solid selection of tacos and enchiladas, plus a separate vegan menu for lunch and dinner, too.

Lowcountry is a casual seafood boil restaurant, and the South Loop location feels like a backyard party, complete with picnic tables, fake trees, astroturf, and a great playlist of early ‘00s hits. It’s a counter-service spot, but you can sit in a separate section if you want a server (and easier access to the bar). Either way, choose from a variety of shellfish and sauces, and a short while later you’ll get a bag of buttery, garlicky seafood delivered to you. It’s messy—but watching the people at neighboring tables fighting with a crab shell makes it worthwhile.

Located in the basement of a six-floor office building, buzzing to be let into Tak feels like visiting an accountant. But in fact, this place has five private karaoke rooms and great Korean food. Their menu has a wide range of dishes, like comforting budae jeongol, crispy seafood pancakes, and sweet and savory galbjjim with short ribs. Plus, they also have a bar with a variety of soju and makgeolli if you just want to come here for drinks. It's ideal for a casual night out or birthday where you can troubleshoot your American Idol audition.

Roots is a solid option for dine-in pizza, especially for those who want to rep their love for the Midwest, but aren’t into the deep dish scene. The pies here are Quad Cities-style, which means they’re round but cut into rectangles, and the toppings are under the cheese. The menu is pretty long, and includes a decent selection of salads, mozzarella sticks that frequently appear on social media, plus a rotating roster of pizzas designed by local chefs. A huge bar area, massive rooftop patio, as well as the drink deals and interesting specialty pies are why this is an ideal spot for a group hangout.

Eleven City Diner is a deli/restaurant hybrid that really leans into the retro diner vibe: It has 1950s music, neon signs, and counters with glass cake stands and huge jars of old-timey penny candy for sale. Come here for the all-day breakfast dishes like omelets and challah french toast, or things like pastrami and corned beef sandwiches. Brunch on the weekends tends to be very crowded, with a pretty strict seating policy (everyone in your party must be present before they’ll seat you, and once you’re seated, no one else can join), but they start serving lunch at 10am during the week in case you need a break from your sad work-from-home desk salad.

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Suggested Reading

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The Best Restaurants In Chinatown

The greatest restaurants in Chicago’s Chinatown.

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Our favorite places for a meal in the neighborhood.

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You have a conference at McCormick Place. Here’s what you need to know.

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