This is not a guide to the best restaurants in Humboldt Park, Noble Square, Ukrainian Village, or Wicker Park. It’s a guide to our favorite places in that little section connecting all of those areas. Realtors are calling it simply “West Town,” but another good name for it would be, “That Neighborhood With All The New Restaurants That Everyone Is Moving To.” Whatever you call it, here are the places to eat when you’re there. If you like enough of them, consider moving before the rent shoots up.
If you’ve had a bad week (or just want a meal that’s guaranteed to put you in a good mood), go to Soule. The upbeat atmosphere and delicious soul food (like shrimp and grits, fried green tomatoes, and peach cobbler) will comfort you whether or not you actually need comforting. This place is small and gets really busy, so you might need to wait for a table. But just wait at Cleo’s next door, or use that time to pick up some wine and beer, since Soule is BYOB.
For someplace fun but not too sceney, check out Funkenhausen - a German-inspired restaurant that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Try things like the French onion spaetzle, rabbit with ricotta dumplings, or the huge platter of cider-glazed pork shoulder with roasted apples. This place works for date night, a group dinner, or even just meeting friends over German beers before a night out.
All Together Now is a useful all-day spot that’s right on the border of this part of West Town and Ukrainian Village. It’s both a restaurant and a market, with a bar that works for dining solo and/or getting some work done, and also some tables for small groups. The food is delicious (for example, well-seasoned lamb meatballs, and a juicy roasted chicken with black garlic bread pudding), and this place works well for everything from a casual weeknight dinner to just picking up some wine and cheese.
Vajra is an Indian and Nepalese restaurant that’s great for a casual date night or weeknight dinner with friends. You’ll find creative small plates like a samosa chaat topped with pomegranate seeds, and charred cumin-rubbed duck, along with very good curries like the sweet and spicy madras and the cashew tikka masala. They’ve been trying to get their liquor license, so check ahead of time to see if you should BYOB.
This upscale Korean restaurant is perfect for a special occasion, or even a Tuesday when you decide it’s time for a nicer date night. There’s an $87 seven-course tasting menu, along with a la carte options like tteokbokki with a quail egg, and kalbi with confit turnips and a carrot veloute. Whatever you end up getting, you can count on it being delicious and well-prepared. Just be sure to make reservations ahead of time - it’s small, and books up quickly.
Boeufhaus is not a traditional, huge Chicago steakhouse. Think of it as more of a little, steak-centric tavern. It definitely feels like a neighborhood spot, with its dim lights and exposed brick - it’s the kind of place you’d visit with a small group of friends or a date, not a corporate card. You’ll find classics like steak tartare and fries, but the menu also has a German twist, so you can get things like sauerkraut spaetzle, too. It’s a worthwhile destination if you’re looking for a steak but don’t want the usual suspects.
This place is big on atmosphere, to the point that you may even feel like you’re in a themed hotel. But unlike the spaceship room at the Adventure Inn off I90, the design at Beatnik - which in general we’d describe as “Wes Anderson movie chic” - is tasteful, and adds to the fun of the place. So come ready to drink cognac slushies in a jungle of tropical plants, or eat dishes like a rabbit arepa or fried quail on a gigantic daybed from Bali. The food and drinks don’t disappoint, so this place is perfect for cocktails or a bohemian-feeling group dinner.
This West Town brew pub in a remodeled old theater has enough historical touches to fit in with the neighborhood, but still seems modern: the space is open and airy, with cool steampunk light fixtures and brewing vats visible in the back. The food and beer are both great - they have a fantastic burger as well as interesting bar snacks, like fried giardiniera. It’s an easy option for a post-work drink with friends, since if you end up wanting to get a full dinner, you don’t need to find another place.
JJ’s is a very small, casual, BYOB restaurant. Their specialty is Thai street food, so you can expect dishes like khao mun gai (chicken with rice) and gai satay (chicken on skewers). The food is a little pricey, but it’s worth it. Come here with a friend and a bottle of wine.
You could go to Yuzu and order simple, traditional sushi, but that’s not the best way to enjoy this restaurant. Instead, come for the massive, crazily artistic rolls. A Dragon Roll with shrimp tempura, avocado, and unagi sounds basic - until it shows up with an elaborate dragon drawn out of colorful spicy mayo. It’s a little over-the-top, but it looks cool, and it tastes good. That’s pretty much Yuzu. Not sushi worth driving across town for, but a great, not-like-everywhere-else spot for a group hang in the neighborhood.
This is an old-school red sauce joint - complete with white tablecloths, pictures of celebrities, and heaping portions of pasta and veal parmigiana. Everything on the menu is tasty and satisfying, and the neighborhoody space is just really likeable. It’s always crowded, but that adds to the upbeat charm. Just be sure to make a reservation.
At Flo’s, the New Mexican specialities are what you want. They do breakfast six days a week (they’re closed Mondays), and we endorse the huevos rancheros or anything with chorizo. For dinner, get the enchiladas or the green chili stew. And if you’re here on a weekend for brunch, you’ll also find some over-the-top sweet dishes, like their Fruity Pebbles French toast. Unless you’re a true fiend for sugar, split that with the table and order something savory as your main.
Roots is a solid neighborhood option for dine-in pizza. The pies are Quad Cities-style, which means they’re round but cut into rectangles, and the toppings are under the cheese. The menu is huge, with a decent selection of salads and rotating roster of pizzas designed by local chefs. A huge bar area and large patio, as well as the interesting specialty pies, make it a great local spot for a hangout - especially if you’re with a large group.
This restaurant is right above Roots, and the entrance is actually inside the pizza place. But the two spots couldn’t be more different. Homestead on the Roof is a hardcore farm to table spot that even has its own rooftop organic garden. The menu changes often, but you can expect rustic, vegetable-heavy food like sweet pea risotto, as well as simple meat and seafood dishes. Try and eat on the patio if the weather permits, and/or you want to feel like you’re in Country Living magazine.
Whisk is a versatile restaurant that works for a lot of different situations. For brunch (which you can get here seven days a week), expect Mexican dishes like chilaquiles and poblano omelettes, along with sweet options like Snickers French toast. At 5pm, it switches over to its dinner menu, which is mostly burgers, plus a couple of breakfast items and sandwiches. It’s a casual, BYOB, and kind of goofy space, with a lot of art on the walls dedicated to Ron Swanson. Pop in here with some beer and friends anytime of the day or night.
West Town has a lot of taquerias, but Traspasada is by far our favorite. It’s a cash only, small counter spot with around 15 stools. Focus on the tacos, particularly the chorizo and al pastor. One of the best things about this place is that it’s open late - until 1am during the week and 3:30am Friday and Saturday nights. So tell your friends if they lose track of you while you’re drunk, this is where you’ll be.