If there's one thing we've learned this month about the current state of food in Chicago, it's that the Loop -- long known for its lack of innovative dining options -- is finally creeping toward culinary destination status. With a massive new food hall, a beer-focused addition to an existing food hall, and a South American rooftop restaurant perched atop the Kimpton Gray Hotel, August proved pivotal for the neighborhood's image. Here are the best new spots in the Loop, and beyond, that opened in August.
If the arrival of this sprawling food hall is any indication, it's looking like the Loop's culinary landscape has been changed for the better. The 24,000sqft food haven houses over a dozen local vendors, including Aloha Poke Co., ramen favorite Furious Spoon, and Irving Park's acclaimed Smoque BBQ, as well as a rotating pop-up stand currently occupied by The Budlong, a cafe-bar by pastry chef Mindy Segal (Mindy's Hot Chocolate), and a small book and record shop. Check out the details here.
Backed by ex-Alinea group vets, this ivy-covered food truck is one of the most buzzworthy rolling food purveyors to hit the streets of Chicago this summer. The truck remains parked at the three-way intersection of Division, Milwaukee, and Ashland, and serves breakfast from 7-11am and lunch from 1-5pm daily. Fuel up on avocado toast topped with Aleppo pepper and finger lime, soy-glazed chicken banh mi, and a note-perfect Cuban sandwich alongside Bow Truss coffee and Mighty Leaf tea.
This long-awaited twofer from husband-and-wife team John Shields and Karen Urie Shields offers the best of both worlds, with upscale, tasting menu-driven Smyth and quaint, casual The Loyalist. Smyth's opening multi-course menu spotlights local ingredients in a series of plated courses and snacks ranging from sunchoke cannoli, Dungeness crab and foie gras with scrambled kani miso to slow-cooked lamb shoulder with kelp marmite and frozen tomato mousse with noyaux and spicy flowers. The Loyalist, which technically opened last month, maintains the same level of sophistication with unique yet approachable dishes like a house cheeseburger on a sesame seed bun, crispy chicken thighs with Carolina Gold rice grits, and pickled tripe, and an aromatic lemongrass sundae with blueberries and salted black licorice.
With its lounge-y vibe and farm-to-table approach, this Division St newcomer in the former Bob San space invites guests to not only enjoy fresh, seasonal food, but to also kick back, relax, and stay awhile. The menu boasts an unmistakable Eastern European lean -- an homage to the lounge's proximity to the Polish Triangle-- with everything from sage breaded turkey schnitzel with pickled cranberry and crystallized ginger relish to corn spoonbread with pink peppercorn creme and a "monstrous" pecan macaroon filled with butternut squash mascarpone and garnished with candied pecans. The beverage program is short and sweet, and showcases an Illinois-only beer list and small selection of simple, refined cocktails.
With reservations booked months out, this carryout window attachment to Stephanie Izard's latest concept is a welcome opportunity for us mere mortals (read: those of us who haven't yet managed to score reservations) to get in on a piece of the delicious action. The weekdays-only window is currently open between 11am and 2pm, and promises plenty of street food eats, including a shrimp toast sandwich on griddled Little Goat bread, a scallion pancake wrap stuffed with marinated beef, hoisin, cucumber, and fresnos, and xi'an fried potatoes. Pro tip: arrive early, and still be prepared to wait.
This 80-seat beer hall is a collaborative effort between Latinicity and Denver-based Crazy Mountain Brewery, and offers a solid lineup of canned, bottled, and draught brews, as well as Latin-inspired bar fare. High notes include Peruvian-style ceviche, a chorifrita slider packed with manchego and bacon mojo, and tostadas. Unlike the rest of the food hall, Cerveceria is only open between 3 and 7pm, and caters to the after-work set.
Overlooking the city from the 15th floor of The Kimpton Gray Hotel, this rooftop restaurant and bar brings the flavors of South America to the Loop. The airy interior comes complete with a retractable roof, while the menu boasts bold, flavorful takes on Peruvian and Argentinian street fare, such as salmon tiradito, comforting arroz chaufa studded with chorizo, and causas. Head bartender Jess Lambert's cocktail program spans from the pisco-based Chilcano with guava and strawberry to a playful coconut Negroni, and beautifully complements the vibrant dishes.
This DC-based chain makes its foray into the Midwestern market with a sleek, minimalist Chicago outpost. The salad-focused fast-casual spot is the chain's 50th store, and seeks to uphold a commitment to locally sourced ingredients wherever possible. Score light, healthy eats ideal for lunch during the workweek, like a kale Caesar salad and a peach and goat cheese number, that'll make you feel good about the inevitable bad decisions you'll make come the weekend.
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This 24,000-square-foot, chef-driven food court on the ground floor of landmark building The National highlights local Chicago vendors, including fast-casual spin-offs from beloved chefs, a coffee shop/bar, and a record store. The impressive line-up includes Antique Taco, Smoque BBQ, The Furious Spoon, Aloha Poke Co, and more -- be they original concepts or outposts of well-known spots. The circa 1907 building, originally home to the Commercial National Bank, has been completely reinvented but original features, like the bank vault in the basement, are still intact.
This twofer in West Loop is made up of the upscale, tasting menu-driven Smythe and the more quaint and casual Loyalist. Husband-and-wife team John Shields and Karen Urie Shields unite the two restaurants with locally-sourced, market-driven menus, but while the Smythe revolves around innovative plated courses, The Loyalist emphasizes more approachable comfort foods like a house cheeseburger on a sesame seed bun and crispy fried chicken.
Not far from the Polish Triangle, this Wicker Park lounge gives farm-to-table fare a touch of Eastern European flavor with seasonal dishes like turkey schnitzel with pickled cranberry and caramelized onion pierogi. The chef-driven menu includes a variety of meat and seafood plates, plus salads and sandwiches. As for drinks, Harvest Moon showcases an Illinois-centric beer list and a small selection of refined cocktails.
Richard Sandoval's Latin-themed food hall in the Loop features separate vendors for tortas and cocas; sushi and ceviche; Peruvian-style stir fry; seafood, and includes a taqueria, coffee shop, and Pata Negra, a full-service tapas restaurant. The sleek, sprawling space is also home to Cerveceria, an 80-seat beer hall collaboration with Denver-based Crazy Mountain Brewery that pairs canned, bottled, and draught brews with manchego-topped sliders and tostadas.
Perched atop The Kimpton Gray Hotel, Boleo serves a peacock-colored menu that emphasizes South American, specifically Argentinian and Peruvian, flavors. The cocktail program is equally vibrant as the street food-inspired small plates menu, featuring tropical-flavored drinks like the pisco-based Chilcano with guava and strawberry. The rooftop lounge is sprawled across a 4,000-square-foot space, complete with a retractable, sun-filled, roof.
Based in DC, Sweetgreen is known for its customizable salads and grain bowls topped with locally-sourced ingredients. The fast-casual chain changes its menu seasonally, but signatures like the wild rice- and kale-based Harvest Bowl and mesculin Guacamole Greens are always available, as is the option to create your own bowl from scratch. Your order is prepared assembly line-style behind a glass counter, and you can usually see greens being washed and vegetables being chopped in the open kitchen. The Chicago outpost marks Sweetgreen's 50th location and its first foray into the Midwest.
As you might guess from the name, this Chinese-inspired restaurant is from the mastermind behind Girl & the Goat, Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard. The 100-seat West Loop space is undeniably cool and stylish with portraits hanging on the walls, lazy Susan tabletops, and a jade-accented cocktail lounge. Izard describes the menu as "reasonably authentic," which means elaborate takes on dim sum, fried rice, and noodles, plus various small and large dishes. The food is meant to be shared, and if you're with a big group, definitely order the Peking duck or goat of the day.