The West Loop is like the Disney World of neighborhoods when it comes to restaurants. In fact, there’s so much going on that it was hard not to list every restaurant in the neighborhood and tell you to eat at them all. But just like Disney World, some rides are still better than others (It’s A Small World > everything else).
With that in mind, we’re here to help you sort through all of the restaurants in the neighborhood for the next time you need to make plans. These are the best spots in the West Loop to cover you for any occasion.
We’d travel across town for this burger. Hell, we’d travel across the country for this burger. That’s how good we think it is. They don’t take reservations and waits can be a pain, but sometimes you just need to commit.
The newest restaurant from the Alinea squad is pretty awesome. Roister is their “casual” restaurant to rival the formalities at Alinea, but casual is a relative term. It’s not casual compared to most other places, but it is a lot of fun. There’s a set menu starting at $85, but you can also order a la carte. Make sure to order the fried chicken and a foie gras candy bar. If you’re curious about dipping your toes into the Alinea/Next waters without a big commitment, or simply want to try one of Chicago’s best restaurants, you absolutely need to eat at Roister.
Like Jay Z on his 2000 record The Dynasty, Monteverde has gone and changed the game. The pasta game, not the rap game. And not only for West Loop restaurants, but for all restaurants serving pasta in the city. Monteverde can go toe-to-toe with the best of ’em, and even better, it’s not that expensive. Order all of the pastas, which change seasonally but are always great.
Girl & the Goat is an excellent restaurant, but not for shock value reasons. It’s not great because it’s cheap, or because it’s BYOB, or because they do some 400-course tasting menu that will blow you away. Instead, at Girl & The Goat, you’ll find an eclectic menu of things done exceptionally well all of the time, which is hard to do. Make sure to try a few goat dishes.
El Che Bar belongs in the West Loop. This Argentinian spot is fun and a little loud, with a live-fire grill putting out some delicious food in the open kitchen. Everything it touches is worth ordering. We like the steak, but don’t overlook the grilled oysters or pork ribs, and breaking up the meat-fest by ordering plenty of sides is a good idea. El Che works for a group since everything is meant to be shared, but it’s great for a lively date night option too. No matter why you’re here, it’s an easy place to have a good time.
When all else fails, Avec. You can never go wrong here, and we encourage you to eat at Avec every now and then to remind yourself how reliable and great it is. New menu items keep the romance alive and interesting, but it’s the staples like chorizo-stuffed bacon-wrapped dates that keep us hooked.
Eating vegetables while surrounded by foliage sounds more like a trip to Brookfield Zoo than dinner in the West Loop, but the excellent vegetable-focused menu and trendy vibe make Bad Hunter a great restaurant. While you’ll be eating mostly vegetables, don’t necessarily expect your meal here to be healthy (see: butter dumplings with corn and kimchi). If you need a meat safety blanket, it’s available - you can even put bacon on their veggie burger. But we actually suggest coming here and going full-veg.
The Publican is like a fancy European beer hall that serves a whole lot of meat, but also shows its softer side with a quality selection of oysters. It’s great for all occasions, so sit at the giant communal U-shaped table and make sure to try a bit of everything.
PQM is a butcher shop, cafe, bakery, mini market, and even the private dining room for The Publican at night. But its best role is as a small and casual cafe from morning until early in the evening. With quality coffee, fresh-baked bread, sandwiches, charcuterie, and more, PQM is the kind of place where seemingly simple dishes taste more complex than they sound on paper.
Next is the follow-up restaurant from the Alinea team, and while it’s not as ridiculous, it’s still not a normal restaurant. You have to buy tickets to one of the usually four different menus a year. Recent menus have ranged from “Ancient Rome” to “Hollywood” and the upcoming “World’s 50 Best”. Do a bit of research and plan a night around whichever menu sounds best to you.
We don’t concern ourselves too much with Michelin stars, but it’s worth knowing Grace is the only Chicago restaurant other than Alinea that has three of them. The fine dining tasting menu is great for any special occasion, and there are two to choose from: Flora (vegetable-focused) and Fauna (animal parts). If you and your date can’t make a choice, get one of each and share. But we almost always prefer the Fauna, so make sure it’s special enough for the $400 a person price tag assuming you get the wine pairing.
Blackbird is the modern fine-dining Mafia Don of the West Loop. It was a crazy idea to open this place up in 1997, or at least that’s what the general public said. Blackbird is still chugging along though, and it’s always good for an elegant night. The ten-course tasting is $130, but there’s an a la carte menu as well where you can stick to a standard appetizer and entrée.
How into super fancy, intimate, and elegant dinners are you? If the answer is very, then you won’t want to miss Oriole. You’ll get at least 15 dishes in a small but friendly 28-seat dining room. The menu is $175 per person (add on a wine pairing and you’ll hit $300-plus a head) but it’s worth eating Cup Noodles for a week (or three) to give it a try.
A new addition to the West Loop, Elske’s a worthy contender as a special occasion spot. You can order a la carte, but Elske’s tasting menu is the move. At $85, it’s reasonably priced especially compared to the other tasting menus in the neighborhood, and it’s the best way to try this spot’s interesting Scandinavian food. Without the tasting menu we would never have started our meal with a “tea of lightly smoked fruits and vegetables,” and we’re glad we did. The space is bright and airy, and they have an outdoor area with a fireplace that’s great for drinks before or after dinner.
A modern take on a traditional French brasserie is what you’ll find at Maude’s. They do classic dishes like moules frites and cassoulet, as well as creative interpretations - the “French onion fondue” is a version of the soup you can spread on bread. It’s a top choice for any date night and is sure to win you brownie points with whomever you take. Downstairs has a French bistro vibe if you’re feeling more casual, and the upstairs has a more intimate thing going on that’s similar to Bavettes. We can’t promise you a successful date, but we can promise Maude’s is a step in the right direction.
Texas BBQ meets West Loop warehouse at Green Street Smoked Meats. The entrance is in a somewhat mysterious alleyway entrance, and you instantly feel like you stepped into a hip but low-key warehouse party. The music is loud and the open, battered looking space is good for a number of occasions. Rather than argue over the best barbecue styles, we’ll just argue that you should eat here and see for yourself.
Loud, cool, hip, and not always easy to get into – that’s High Five. The ramen bar is a sixteen-seat basement restaurant below Green Street Smoked Meats, which makes it an awesome choice, if not always a practical one. We suggest hitting it solo to take in the experience, or if you’re coming with friends, make a night of it by adding in drinks at Green Street upstairs.
This is the Chinese restaurant follow-up to Girl & The Goat and Little Goat. Like everything in the Stephanie Izard goat empire, Duck Duck Goat is a fun spot with an unusual menu and delicious food. Here, you’ll find Chinese food with interesting twists- for example, shrimp wonton soup with a blueberry base. Of course, several dishes have goat in them, and you can order any of those with confidence.
Bar Siena combines a trendy crowd and vibe with easy, crowd-pleasing Italian food. A heavy focus on the menus’ pizza and pasta is the best way to go. All the house-made pastas are solid choices, and the pizzas are easy to share (you can do them half and half) making it a great place for food and drinks with friends. Post up at the downstairs bar with one or two other people, or gather a bigger group for a table upstairs.
Momotaro is basically the Japanese restaurant version of a three-level club, and most of the people are packed into the main floor that serves great sushi and small plates. There’s also a more lounge-like izakaya in the basement, which is low-key a very cool spot. You should look like you’re hitting the club after dinner, even if deep-down you know you’re heading straight to bed.
We admit that Tanoshii can be a bit sterile at dinner, but the sushi itself is good enough that we can overlook the lack of vibe. And that’s all that matters here – excellent sushi. We suggest sticking to the basic stuff and mixing in a funky roll or two. The sushi chefs have a tendency to get carried away with truffle sauce if left to their own devices, so make sure to keep them in check.
Let’s get it out of the way: yes, the name is insufferable. That aside, we forgive Lunatic, The Lover & The Poet because it’s such a likeable place in the West Loop for drinks and a meal. High wooden ceilings and a bunch of random sh*t piled about the space makes it seem like a really nice attic, but the extensive wine list and excellent food will prevent you from feeling like kids from the Goonies. You’ll find small plates on the menu like foie gras and confit chicken, along with a great burger. They don’t really do dessert, but there’s a huge cheese menu meant to finish of your meal. It’s worth coming out of your way for a meal here.
The West Loop was missing a steakhouse, and Swift & Sons filled that void. It combines everything we like about a traditional steakhouse with everything we like about Fulton Market. That means great food, service, and action, all in a revamped warehouse space. It’s a great combination, which makes it one of our favorite steakhouses in town.
Cold Storage is really just a classy oyster bar, and you’ll want to post up at the actual bar and eat oysters the whole time. But all of the cooked items are good too, like clams with chorizo and an extremely affordable shrimp bahn mi. Your biggest challenge will be trying not to fill up on the delicious homemade chips they’ll continuously put in front of you - we have a tendency to eat 1,000 too many.
Beatrixs are popping up in Chicago like mushrooms, and we’re not mad that this versatile restaurant is now in the West Loop. The well-rounded menu has solid options for brunch, lunch, and dinner, and many of the dishes fall into the “health conscious” category. It’s a great choice for catching up with your gluten-free friend, or if you don’t want to undo the spin class you just took by brunching at The Publican. We even like stopping by for coffee at their cafe. It’s an agreeable choice for all situations.
Parlor is a quick return to college in the West Loop. Although the pizza is good enough, you should mostly be eating at Parlor because it’s a ton of fun. Come with a group, drink a bunch of beer, and wash it all down with some pizza and cheesy bread. And yes, you’re washing the beer down with the food, not the other way around.
The O.G. Italian sub spot in the West Loop, and the go-to move if you need a quick sandwich. The basic turkey is our favorite, but you can’t go wrong with anything. Give the special Mr. G a try if you’ve never had it.
Nonna’s is a modern version of J.P. Graziano. The one difference? They also offer hot subs. If you’re looking for a meatball or chicken parm sub, then Nonna’s is your spot.
Forno Rosso does some of the best Neapolitan-style pizzas in town. The space is bright and modern, and the vibe is friendly and low key. It’s under the radar, but is absolutely a spot you should check out if you like thin-crust Italian style pizza
Come to Cruz Blanca for plateful of tacos and a couple of beers when you have a group looking for Mexican food. Downstairs is a casual and quick taco spot where you could grab some food and get out. But what you want to do is head upstairs, where there’s much more of a beer hall and party vibe.
People lose their sh*t when Rick Bayless grows a tomato in his backyard, let alone opens a restaurant in the West Loop. In this episode of Rick Doing Things, you’ll find a nicer but not too fancy restaurant focusing on “fire and ice.” And no, it doesn’t mean there’s a Dragons vs. White Walkers battle inside - we’re disappointed too. But it does mean a menu divided into two distinct parts - cold dishes like ceviches and seafood salads, plus meats and veggies all cooked on an open flame.
The West Loop churns out new restaurants at an almost alarming rate, so it’s easy to forget about the ones that have been around a few years. But don’t do that to La Sirena Clandestina. It’s a place that’s intimate enough for date night, but fun enough that you can go with a couple of friends, and the Brazilian-inspired food is something a little different for a change. Have some caipirinhas.
Saint Lou’s is a modern take on an old-school “meat and three.” In layman’s terms: Saint Lou’s is modeled after a 1950’s-style cafeteria where you can order one meat (like prime rib or fried chicken) and add any three sides, one of which should always be mac & cheese. It’s not an actual cafeteria and there’s a waitstaff who will deliver your food, but it’s still very casual. We’re also very into the excellent patio out back, which is the best part of Saint Lou’s.
Most of the good fried chicken spots in town aren’t really places you sit and eat. They’re better for a carry-out or delivery situation. But not Gus’s. At Gus’s, you want to take a seat, dine in, and enjoy your fried chicken and sides in their big Fulton Market space. Make sure to enjoy their full bar and pies as well.