CHIReview

photo credit: Jeff Marini

The dining room at Maxwells Trading with wooden tables and large windows on the left side
8.6

Maxwells Trading

AmericanFusion

West Loop

$$$$Perfect For:Date NightDinner with the ParentsImpressing Out of TownersLiterally EveryoneSmall Plates
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Maxwells Trading sounds like Mad Libs: Chicago Restaurant Edition—you can eat clay pot rice alongside french onion dip and drink from a curated wine list while listening to "Smooth Operator" on vinyl in a chic warehouse space. Overambitious? Maybe at any other place. But this West Loop spot delivers on every fill-in-the-blank aspect of a great meal, especially the food. Much like Sade's catalog, each seemingly straightforward dish contains multitudes. And while plenty of Chicago spots serve fantastic food in brick buildings that look like failed startup headquarters, the best thing about Maxwells Trading is that it doesn’t really feel like anything else.

A spread of food at Maxwells Trading with sweet potato, French onion dip, and scallion pancakes.

photo credit: Kim Kovacik

Half of a sweet potato with the top bruleed, sitting on top of three basil leaves and a pool of curry sauce

photo credit: Kim Kovacik

Table with a plate of griddle bread and a bowl of smooth hummus topped with beets

photo credit: Kim Kovacik

Plate with roasted carrots and a line of spoon bread next to them

photo credit: Sandy Noto

Big bowl of pasta tossed with lamb and parmesan
A spread of food at Maxwells Trading with sweet potato, French onion dip, and scallion pancakes.
Half of a sweet potato with the top bruleed, sitting on top of three basil leaves and a pool of curry sauce
Table with a plate of griddle bread and a bowl of smooth hummus topped with beets
Plate with roasted carrots and a line of spoon bread next to them
Big bowl of pasta tossed with lamb and parmesan

Italian pasta, Thai curries, southern spoon bread, and sauces like kombu beurre blanc are all given equal attention. It makes for surprising individual plates—like a Japanese sweet potato masquerading as crème brûlée, or fazzoletti with lamb and chili crisp—that add up to a pleasantly unconventional meal overall. And because the food here is never boring, we’re even willing to withstand rare misses like a not-so-stuffed stuffed pappardelle.

Spread of food at Maxwells Trading

photo credit: Kim Kovacik

Open kitchen at Maxwells Trading

photo credit: Kim Kovacik

A neutral-toned dining room full of light-colored wooden tables and chairs, with modern light fixtures hanging from the ceiling.

photo credit: Kim Kovacik

The front dining room at Maxwells Trading with wooden tables and a bar on the right side

photo credit: Jeff Marini

Spread of food at Maxwells Trading
Open kitchen at Maxwells Trading
A neutral-toned dining room full of light-colored wooden tables and chairs, with modern light fixtures hanging from the ceiling.
The front dining room at Maxwells Trading with wooden tables and a bar on the right side

Maxwells’ thoughtfulness extends to the intangibles, too. Despite the high ceilings and open kitchen, the volume is loud enough to be fun, but not so loud your first date turns into a screaming match. Staff will take the time to play Jenga with chairs to accommodate groups large and small, and tables are spaced far enough apart so you’re not knocking over your neighbor’s precariously filled martini when you put on your parka. And while primetime reservations are tough to get, there’s a good chance that walking in before 5:30pm means getting a seat at the large bar. Take advantage of that option, because you’ll want to become a regular here.

Food Rundown

Bowl of french onion dip topped with chives and a plate of thick scallion pancakes on the side

photo credit: Kim Kovacik

Griddle Bread And Dunks

The griddle bread is essentially a very doughy scallion pancake—light on the scallion—and is something we’ll always order. Get it with the french onion dip or the hummus, which reminds us of tahini soft serve. Resist the urge to eat it plain with a spoon.

Half of a sweet potato with the top bruleed, sitting on top of three basil leaves and a pool of curry sauce

photo credit: Kim Kovacik

Japanese Sweet Potato

The menu has a surprising number of vegetarian plates. With respect to the grilled broccoli, the Japanese sweet potato is our favorite of the bunch—it’s like a vegetable crème brûlée swimming in a clove-heavy Thai-style curry.

Maxwells Trading image

photo credit: Sandy Noto

Clay Pot Rice

Each component in this dish is cooked perfectly, from the tender kale to the just-fatty-enough pork belly. Use the housemade sriracha and chili crisp to amp up the flavor because the rice arrives slightly (purposefully) underseasoned.

Piece of blackened cod sitting on a puree topped with mushrooms, endive and fennel

photo credit: Kim Kovacik

Black Cod

This piece of fish is incredible. It’s flaky and soft, and comes perched on an even softer fennel purée, but there’s plenty of crunch from the light crust and enoki mushroom strings on top.

Square of tiramisu topped with candied hazelnut halves sitting in a thick chocolate sauce

photo credit: Kim Kovacik

Dessert

Dessert is arguably our favorite course here, and it’s hard to choose between the three options. But the royal milk tiramisu is the most unusual—the slight bitterness of the black tea mousse is perfectly balanced by the brown sugar hazelnuts and a pool of sauce that tastes like Cocoa Krispies milk.

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FOOD RUNDOWN

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