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 area and tell you to try 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 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.
How into expensive and fancy dinners are you? If the answer is very, then you’ll really like Oriole. The 13-course, $195 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).
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.
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 it’s not that expensive. Come here on a date, come here with a group, or come here by yourself. You’ll be happy.
Roister is from the people behind Alinea, but it’s far more casual. Of course, “casual” compared to Alinea is not the same as “casual” compared to other places. The food here is fantastic, and the busy open kitchen in the middle of the dining room keeps the atmosphere lively. If you want to dip your toes into the Alinea/Next waters without a huge commitment, or you simply want to try one of Chicago’s best restaurants, you absolutely need to eat at Roister. Make sure to order the fried chicken and a foie gras candy bar.
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 rare. 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 that grill 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 ideal for a lively date night, 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 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.
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 environment make Bad Hunter a good dinner option. While you’ll be eating mostly vegetables, your meal here doesn’t actually have 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 suggest going full vegetarian.
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 communal table and make sure to try a bit of everything.
The West Loop has a lot of restaurants within restaurants (Cold Storage, High Five, and The Loyalist are just are a few of the 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 loud and crowded 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 two seatings a night. Your meal will be pricey ($130 for 16 courses), but it’s a lot of food, and the experience is worth it.
Omakase Yume is another omakase-only sushi spot that appeared during the Great Omakase Stampede of 2018. 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 $130 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.
PQM is a butcher shop, cafe, bakery, and mini market during the day, and at night, it’s the private dining room for The Publican. Come between morning and early evening for quality coffee, fresh-baked bread, sandwiches, charcuterie, and more. This is the kind of place where seemingly simple dishes taste more complex and delicious than they sound on paper.
Next is the Alinea team’s second spot, and while a meal here isn’t as long or expensive an experience as eating at the mothership, this still isn’t a normal restaurant. You have to buy tickets to one of each year’s special themed tasting menus (there are usually three or four). Recent menus have ranged from “Silk & Spice” to “Hollywood” and the “World’s 50 Best.” Do a bit of research and plan a night around whichever theme sounds best to you.
This sleek-looking spot is the modern American fine-dining grandfather of the West Loop. It’s been around since 1997, and it’s still good for an elegant night out. You can do an 11-course tasting menu (for $125), or order a la carte. Come for a special occasion or to impress an out-of-towner.
A new addition to the West Loop, Elske is another worthy contender for whatever special occasion meal you might be planning. You can order a la carte, but we recommend doing the tasting menu. 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,” for instance, and we’re very 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. 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. The downstairs has a casual-ish French bistro vibe, and the upstairs has a more intimate thing going on, similar to Bavette’s. 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, and you’ll instantly feel like you stepped into a hip but 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.
Loud, cool, hip, 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, which makes it an awesome choice, if not always a practical one, since they don’t take reservations. 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 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 - they’re good. Plus, this spot doesn’t get booked up as quickly as Girl & the Goat, so you can usually get same-week reservations.
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.
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.
Bar Siena combines a trendy crowd and atmosphere with easy, crowd-pleasing Italian food. A heavy focus on the menu’s pizza and pasta is the best way to go. All the house-made 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.
Momotaro is basically the Japanese restaurant version of a club, and most of the people are packed into the main floor, which serves great sushi and small plates. There’s also a more lounge-like izakaya in the basement. You’ll feel like you could be heading downtown for a night out 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 to help you overlook the lack of atmosphere. And that’s all that matters here - excellent sushi. We suggest sticking to the basics 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 just keep that in mind.
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, and it’s one of our favorite steakhouses in the city.
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 banh 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.
Beatrix locations 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 with brunch 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 OG Italian sub spot in the West Loop (it’s been around since 1937), and a great option if you need a quick sandwich. The Italian sandwich 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.
Nonna’s is another casual Italian sandwich shop - it’s the modern version of J.P. Graziano. The big 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 service is friendly. It’s a low-key spot, but gets crowded on the weekends. You should absolutely check it out if you like thin-crust pizza.
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.
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.
It’s hard to find a place in the West Loop that’s not a dive, constant party, or so crowded it takes 45 minutes just to get a drink. Thankfully there’s Eleven Eleven, an upscale wine bar that manages to stay relatively relaxed. They have a long wine list, and helpful bartenders who will talk to you extensively about the selection, and actually serve you before it’s almost last call. But there’s also a very good food menu, with options like lamb sausage stuffed peppers, piri piri chicken and waffles, and a collard green grilled cheese. These dishes are pricey, but tasty enough to justify having dinner here, too.
Ask a real estate agent, and they’ll tell you that the West Loop has everything. And while that might be true in regards to medi-spas, trendy restaurants, and co-working spaces, the one thing this neighborhood is missing is sports bars. Ballast Point does a great job of filling that void. It’s a brewery that started out in San Diego, but it has great beer and above-average bar food (including a “California burrito” that’s just like a regular burrito but stuffed with french fries). The space is huge, and works both for large groups, and just having a burger and beer by yourself.
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, that doesn’t mean there’s a Dragons vs. White Walkers battle inside - we’re disappointed, too. It does mean a menu divided into two distinct parts: cold dishes like ceviches and seafood salads, then meats and vegetables cooked on an open flame. And like everything Rick touches, the food here is fantastic.
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 for a few years. But don’t do that to La Sirena Clandestina. It’s intimate enough for date night, but fun enough that you can go with a couple of friends, and the Brazilian-inspired food is unique in the neighborhood. Get the whole fried fish, and make sure to finish with something sweet - their desserts are outstanding.
Saint Lou’s is a modern take on the old-school “meat and three” concept. In layman’s terms: this place is modeled after a 1950s-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 and cheese. It’s not an actual cafeteria - there’s a waitstaff who will deliver your food - but it’s still very casual. We also like the enclosed patio out back.
Most of the good fried chicken spots in town aren’t really places you sit and eat. They’re more carry-out or delivery situations. Not Gus’s. At Gus’s, you want to take a seat, dine in, and enjoy your fried chicken and sides in the big Fulton Market space. Make sure to utilize the full bar, and get some pie for dessert, too.