The Best Restaurants In The West Loop
Our favorite places in the neighborhood.
If Chicago had a restaurant district, the West Loop would probably be it. This neighborhood has a disorienting number of great places to get food, and it’s hard to not just list every restaurant in the area and tell you to try each one. But we’re here to help you sort through it all. From casual cafes to fine dining, here are the best spots for every occasion.
The West Loop has more restaurants run by former Top Chef contestants than any other neighborhood in Chicago. Our last count was eight, and they’re all operating within two blocks from each other. And, despite our trust issues with reality shows, they’re all really good. Rose Mary, a Croatian spot, is another one of those restaurants. They have things like a refreshing and flavorful salad with tomato, farro, and asparagus, a delicious crni rizot that tasted like it was made with stock from the tears of a hundred lobsters (that’s a compliment), and incredible pastas. Most dishes range from $10-$25, and it works for a casual date or a fun night out with friends.
photo credit: Sandy Noto
Monteverde has some of the best Italian food in the city. Every pasta dish here is fantastic, in particular the cacio e pepe, which is a menu staple. But the non-pasta is great, too (try the stuffed cabbage appetizer or the pork shank), and what makes this place even better is that you can buy their fresh pasta, sauces, and pantry items to take home. Come here on a date, come here with a group, or come here by yourself. You’ll be happy.
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photo credit: Sandy Noto
J.P. Graziano Grocery & Sub Shop
This is an iconic market and sub shop in the West Loop. J.P. has been around since 1937, and is a great option if you need a quick sandwich. The Italian is our favorite, but you can’t go wrong with anything (the muffaletta is also excellent). Order a cannoli, too, while you’re at it.
photo credit: Libby Vision
Sushi By Bou
Sushi By Bou has a down-and-dirty format: a timed omakase experience with tasty, straightforward sushi. The 10-seat Sushi By Bou in the Emily Hotel is no different. You get a choice of either a 60-minute 12-course omakase for $60, or a 17-course for $100—with a chance to add on pieces of nigiri if one unagi wasn’t enough. Along with rapid-fire sushi, a meal here also consists of a lot of ‘90’s hip hop, and banter with the charming chefs. It’s a fun time, the food is good, and given how expensive Chicago omakase restaurants are, any opportunity to eat a bunch of great sushi without feeling the urge to check your bank account halfway through the meal is worth knowing about.
This busy West Loop Italian spot is from the same chef as Boka, which means the food is great. And while the menu isn’t going to blow your mind with creativity (it’s mainly pizza, pasta, and a handful of entrees) what’s on it is delicious. The cacio e pepe ricotta dumplings are now the reigning definition of “decadent.” The pizza has a chewy crust, and the chicken parmesan stays crispy even while sitting in a rich tomato sauce. It’s in the former Bellemore space (which is huge) and it’s decorated with hanging plants and a very cool fabric wave ceiling. The bar is full of people dining solo, and the restaurant is buzzing with staff and everyone from couples to large groups. Reservations are few and far between, so plan on booking a month or so in advance, or snagging a seat at the bar right when they open.
The rumors are true—Au Cheval has an excellent burger. But, this casual spot has a lot of other fantastic things on the menu, too. Dishes like the chilaquiles, chicken wings, and foie gras with eggs should also be on the table. They don’t take reservations, and waits can be a pain, but sometimes you just need to commit.
Trivoli Tavern is in Gin Alley, and from the same team as Au Cheval and Green Street Smoked Meats. This means they have a twinkly-lit cobblestoned patio. Or you could sit inside, where it’s dark and full of overstuffed leather furniture. The menu has a lot of dishes you’ll find at their other restaurants. They serve upscale bar food like fish and chips, handmade pastas, steaks, and a very good burger. This place works well for a date or dinner with a small group when you can’t get a reservation at Bavette’s or Gilt Bar.
How into expensive and fancy dinners are you? If the answer is very, then you’ll really like Oriole. The $285 tasting menu at this West Loop spot changes regularly, but you can expect everything on it to be both simply presented and delicious. Another thing you can expect at Oriole is service that’s highly attentive without ever feeling overbearing. Come here for a special occasion that makes it worth eating Cup Noodles for a week (or three).
Smyth offers a fantastic tasting menu experience in a casual atmosphere. It’s $285 for about 10 courses, and while it’s expensive it doesn’t feel formal. In fact, the dining room feels like someone’s very nice family home, with wildflower-filled vases on top of bare wooden tables, and an open kitchen with drawings on the fridge. You’ll find dishes like beef tongue served alongside brioche doughnuts, and a cured-egg yolk meringue dessert that’s in the running for one of the best ways to finish a meal, ever.
The Loyalist is the casual French restaurant and bar in the basement of Smyth. And while the food here is good (with dishes like foie gras-filled eclairs and gnocchi a la Parisienne) the main reason is to come here is for the outstanding burger. The patty is made from a mixture of chuck, short rib, and bacon, giving it a light, smoky flavor and incredible richness. The cheese is gooey and the caramelized onions are plentiful. In other words, this is a good f*cking burger.
photo credit: Christina Slaton
El Che Steakhouse & Bar
This Argentinian spot is fun and a little loud, with a live-fire grill putting out some delicious food in the open kitchen. Everything that grill touches is worth ordering. We like the steak, but don’t overlook the grilled oysters or sweetbreads, and breaking up the meat-fest by ordering plenty of sides is a good idea. El Che works for a group since everything is easy to share, but it’s great for date night, too. No matter why you’re here, it’s an easy place to have a good time. And in case you want to try grilling some stuff yourself, they sell meat and various other things in an online market.
Girl & the Goat
Even though it seems like it opened a long time ago (way back in the summer of 2010) Girl & the Goat is still a good restaurant. You’ll find an eclectic menu of small plates: dishes like goat empanadas topped with blueberries, pig face with a sunny side egg and tamarind, all of the breads—this place is still consistent. So when your friend visiting from out of state wants to come here, go ahead and make a reservation.
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 reliably outstanding it is. New menu items keep the romance alive and interesting, but it’s the staples like chorizo-stuffed bacon-wrapped dates and the taleggio flatbread that we’ll always come back for.
People will lose their sh*t whenever the Girl & the Goat group opens a restaurant, and Cabra, a spot on the roof of the Hoxton Hotel, is from that same team. The space is bright and plant-filled and has a view of the West Loop skyline, which is a thing that suddenly exists, thanks to all the construction in the area. The menu is mainly Peruvian-inspired small plates, and the best things here are the ceviches (the shrimp with leche de tigre and the duck are both standouts), and the crispy pork shank, which might be the opposite of a “small plate” but is a must-order. Cabra is a great spot for a fun date night or a group dinner outside.
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 and a whole section of the menu devoted to vegetables. Sit at the giant U-shaped table with friends, and make sure to order a bit of everything. Another thing you should know? This place has one of the best brunches in the city.
The West Loop has a lot of restaurants within restaurants (High Five and The Loyalist are just are two spots happily squatting inside of other places), and you can add Omakase Takeya to the list. It’s the omakase-only sushi bar in the basement of Ramen Takeya, a very busy ramen shop. The small, quiet space is a nice respite from the bustling upstairs, and the constantly-changing menu of nigiri and Japanese small plates is fantastic. Just don’t plan on eating here without a reservation - there are only seven seats, with four seatings a night. Your meal will be $99 for 15 courses, and the experience is worth it.
Omakase Yume is another omakase-only sushi spot in the West Loop. And it’s also a calm oasis among the crowds of people and pervasive noise of clip-clopping heels that dominate the West Loop. This is where you come for a low-key but still fancy special occasion dinner. The space is simple, the atmosphere is quiet, and the sushi menu is full of expertly prepared usual suspects (i.e. pieces of sake, hirame, and otoro). Like Omakase Takeya, it’s $185 for around 16 courses, but here it’s almost all small pieces of nigiri. This means that unless this is your second dinner, you’ll probably still be hungry at the end. If that’s the case, just order more a la carte.
Even by West Loop standards, this place is a scene. The good news is that Aba is a scene that comes with fantastic food. It’s always crowded, but the space is beautiful, and there’s a huge rooftop patio that’s perfect for hanging out over drinks (even during the winter). And as with its sister restaurant, Ema in River North, a lot of things on the Mediterranean menu are meant to be shared.
This place is from the same chef as Juno and charges $185 for around 15 courses of delicious nigiri, sashimi, and small plates (like a buttery sea bass with charred frisee and seaweed). Compared to the other omakase-only spots in the West Loop, Mako is the largest (it seats 22 people, with 12 at the bar and the rest at tables), and dinner here is long. Plan on a very expensive and enjoyable experience.
photo credit: Sandy Noto
Elske’s is a worthy contender as a special occasion spot. You can order al a carte, but Elske’s tasting menu is the way to go. It’s reasonably priced ($115) especially compared to the other tasting menus in the neighborhood, and it’s the best way to try this spot’s Scandinavian cuisine. Without the tasting menu we might not have started our meal with a “tea of lightly smoked fruits and vegetables” and we’re really 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.
This upscale cocktail bar and restaurant is from the owners of Oriole, a fancy and expensive tasting menu spot that’s right next door. You can order their cocktails, coffee drinks, and tasty little snacks. All the dishes look pretty and artistic, and you’ll find delicious options like tonakastu sandos and karaage.
Green Street Smoked Meats
Texas BBQ meets West Loop warehouse at Green Street Smoked Meats. The entrance is in a somewhat mysterious alleyway, and you’ll instantly feel like you stepped into a low-key warehouse party. The music is loud and the open, industrial-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. The large picnic tables are good for groups, so feel free to bring your friends and argue with them.
High Five Ramen
Loud, dark, and not always easy to get into—that’s High Five. This is a 16-seat ramen bar in the basement below Green Street Smoked Meats. We suggest hitting it solo to increase your chance of getting a spot. But if you’re coming with friends, make a night of it by adding in drinks at Green Street upstairs.
Duck Duck Goat
This is the Chinese restaurant follow-up to Girl & the Goat and Little Goat. Like everything in the goat empire, Duck Duck Goat is a fun spot with good food. Here, you’ll find Chinese food with twists—like glass noodles with blueberries. Of course, several dishes have goat in them (like the duck and goat spring rolls). Also worth noting is that this spot does a great job with takeout.
La Josie has three full bars and a rooftop deck, and all of them get crowded, even on weeknights. Since this place also happens to serve great food and drinks, it’s ideal if you’re looking for a party but don’t want to be hungry at the end of the night. The best things here are their tacos (all on house-made tortillas) and Mexican classics like enchiladas. The servers and bartenders are really friendly, and they have an extensive cocktail menu. A good option for day drinking or dinner with friends.
Momotaro is an upscale Japanese restaurant with an izakaya in the basement. Come here for sushi, small plates, and robata with friends. Pretend your heading downtown for a night out after dinner—when deep down you know you’re heading straight to bed.
Rooh is an upscale Indian restaurant right on Randolph that’s great for a date, casual business dinner, or getting together with family. You’ll find pretty versions of dishes like jackfruit kofta, and butter chicken. The large space has two levels and each has a different feel—the downstairs bar area is busy and loud, while the upstairs is nicer, quiet, and filled with comfortable velvet booths. Plus, there’s a large tented patio that’s full of plants. It’s a little like a Choose Your Own Adventure, but with more curry.
Bar Siena combines a fun crowd and atmosphere with tasty Italian food. A heavy focus on the menu’s pizza and pasta is the best way to go. All the housemade pastas are solid choices, and the pizzas are easy to share. Stay at the downstairs bar with one or two other people, or gather a bigger group for a table upstairs.
photo credit: Christina Slaton
Tanoshii Sushi Mike's
We admit that the interior of Tanoshii can be a bit sterile at dinner, but the sushi itself is good enough to help you overlook the lack of atmosphere. And that’s all that matters here —great sushi. We suggest sticking with nigiri and mixing in a roll or two. The sushi chefs have a tendency to get carried away with truffle sauce, so just keep that in mind.
Swift & Sons
For a long time, the West Loop was missing a steakhouse. But then along came Swift & Sons to fill that void. It has everything we like about a traditional steakhouse—meaning great food, service, and a rolling dessert cart. It’s a great combination, and it’s one of the most reliable steakhouses in the city.
You come to Perilla for Korean BBQ (tables have a gas grill), but make sure to focus on the other Korean dishes—like the spicy fire chicken, dumplings, or the kimchi pancake, which is one of the best in Chicago. This place is ideal for a date night in the neighborhood (there’s a great back patio), or a group dinner.
Beatrix locations have popped up all over Chicago like mushrooms, and we’re not mad that this versatile restaurant is also in the West Loop. The well-rounded menu has solid options for brunch, lunch, and dinner, and many of the dishes are good for dietary restrictions. It’s a great choice for catching up with friends or even just stopping by for coffee at their cafe. It’s an agreeable choice for all situations.
Forno Rosso does some of the best Neapolitan-style pizzas in town. The bright space is dominated by their wood-fired oven (which is responsible for the excellent pies), and the service is friendly. It’s a low-key spot but does get crowded on the weekends. You should absolutely check it out if you like thin-crust pizza.
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.
Ramen Takeya is very busy, very loud, and very crowded—but it’s a solid neighborhood ramen option. The signature ramens here are all chicken-based, so the broth is on the lighter side, and you can customize your spice level. There’s a bar which is great for grabbing drinks while you wait, and a counter that’s ideal for when you want a quick meal by yourself.
Cruz Blanca Cervecería & Taqueria
Come to Cruz Blanca for a plateful of tacos and a couple of beers when your group wants Mexican food. Downstairs is a casual spot good for grabbing a quick dinner and getting out—but what you want to do is head upstairs, where there’s more of a beer hall and party atmosphere.
This is one of the only spots in the city that specializes in okonomiyaki—savory Japanese pancakes topped with things like shrimp, chicken, and beef. Gaijin has a few different varieties to choose from (for example “Hiroshima-style” where the batter is layered with yakisoba), and we like them all. Be prepared, though—this small place gets very crowded. So definitely plan on making a reservation.
photo credit: Huge Galdones
This is the upscale, Baja-inspired restaurant right next to Cruz Blanca. The menu is full of wood-fired dishes—like charred cabbage and roasted sweet potato, but also has things like enchiladas, ceviche, and empanadas. Come here if you need a business dinner that’s not a steakhouse.