The Essential West Loop Dining & Drinking Guide


The Essential West Loop Dining & Drinking Guide
The Essential West Loop Dining & Drinking Guide

Kailley Lindman/Thrillist
Kailley Lindman/Thrillist

In recent years, the West Loop has attracted many of Chicago’s greatest culinary talents, and rightfully acquired the “restaurant row” label. The neighborhood now houses more critically acclaimed restaurants and bars than any other part of the city, which means you'll need some help sorting out the crème de la crème. These 13 eating and drinking spots rise to the top.

Courtesy of Josh Eidenberg

Best sushi: Sushi Dokku

823 W Randolph St
This 2014 Michelin Bib Gourmand recipient's sleek, minimalist aesthetic allows its sushi to do the talking. The tuna truffle nigiri is luxurious and artful, and the maki, ranging from the vegetarian Panko Onion Roll to the spicy Hot Daisy, packs a serious wallop of flavor.

Best creative Asian: Embeya

654 W Randolph St
With Executive Chef Mike Sheerin now in charge, the menu is more innovative than ever. The chilled squid noodle dish (yes, noodles of thinly sliced squid) tossed with curried cauliflower, cherries, and toasted peanuts is all the proof you’ll need.

Courtesy of RM Champagne Salon

Best Champagne bar: RM Champagne Salon

116 N Green St
Tucked away at the end of a fairy light-lined alley, this hidden boite is prime for sipping bubbly, slurping oysters, and devouring luxurious cheeses. During the warmer months, its patio is tops; in winter, few things are better than cozying up near the candlelit fireplace.

Best brewpub: Haymarket Pub & Brewery

737 W Randolph St
Sample an assortment of its very own award-winning beers, as well as a few from the deep-cut international and domestic list that spans from Tyranena Hop Whore to Chimay White. Team your suds with smoked chicken wings glazed in your choice of Buffalo, Memphis barbecue, or honey-cinnamon hot sauce and ale-steamed littleneck clams.

Courtesy of Lone Wolf

Best neighborhood bar: Lone Wolf

806 W Randolph St
It may reside on Chicago’s trendiest street, but this actually laid-back watering hole has just enough polish to entice the upscale set, without upsetting regulars. Snag a seat for a pre- or post-dinner beer and one of the tavern’s famous savory pies.

Best Spanish: Salero

621 W Randolph St
This modern Basque resto keeps the focus on heartily portioned starters and entrees, such as chorizo-stuffed quail and grilled pork collar coated in an orange-chili glaze and paired with grilled butifarra sausage, baby carrots, and pickled ramps.

Courtesy of Tete Charcuterie

Best Italian: Formento’s

925 W Randolph St
Expect updated classics inspired by Chicago’s bygone era of family-owned Italian-American joints. Think: s relish tray with bagna cauda-stuffed olives, miniature sweet potato cannoli, Calabrian chili-infused rigatoni vodka, and the best damn chocolate layer cake you’ll ever have.

Best carnivore-friendly restaurant: TÊTE Charcuterie

1114 W Randolph St
Plan for a wicked case of the meat sweats at this industrial-chic destination for all things encased and cured. The menu evolves with the seasons, but you can always count on a wealth of charcuterie options, meaty entrees, and inventive sausages like a Moroccan number stuffed with lamb merguez.

Best restaurant for a super-fancy occasion: Grace

652 W Randolph
With three Michelin stars, this fancy spot is a must for special celebrations, like commemorating the anniversary of that time you quit Pop-Tarts four years ago (your palate sure has evolved since then). Choose between the meat-free “flora” tasting menu and the meat-heavy “fauna” menu.

Courtesy of Girl & The Goat

Best restaurant from a Top Chef winner: Girl & The Goat

809 W Randolph St
From wood oven-roasted pig face to goat empanadas laden with smoked blueberry tapenade to braised beef tongue and Copper River salmon with unagi and goat sausage, Top Chef Season 4 winner Stephanie Izard’s coveted creations are so on-point, even the pickiest of eaters will be seduced.

Best burger: Au Cheval

800 W Randolph St
Yes, the rumors are true: the single cheeseburger (which confusingly has two griddled patties) at this trendy diner really is next-level, and worth the inevitable wait to procure. Upgrade it with a couple slabs of thick-cut bacon and a runny fried egg for the proper yolk-and-grease-drenched effect, and revel in triumph -- you just devoured one of the best burgers in America!

Sean Cooley/Thrillist

Best distillery: CH Distillery

564 W Randolph St
Whether you drop by for cocktails and fluke tartare, a tour of the distillery, or simply buy a bottle to go (might we suggest the Amaro?), no visit to the West Loop is complete without a trip to this booze emporium.

Best cocktails: The Aviary

955 W Fulton Market
Brought to you by the team behind Alinea and Next, this ultra-swank cocktail lounge pours some of the most intricate sips you’ll ever try, often presented in unique, whittled vessels. Be forewarned: most cocktails here will run you about the price of three Chipotle steak burritos, or $25, but between top-shelf ingredients, top-notch service, and bartenders who flirt with molecular gastronomy, they’re worth it.

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Kailley Lindman is a contributing writer for Thrillist Chicago, as well as a food blogger, bacon enthusiast, and devout user of the Oxford comma. Follow her at @KailleysKitchen.

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1. Sushi Dokku 823 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60607 (West Loop)

The same folks who brought you long-running, Sushi Wabi bring you Sushi Dokku. The restaurant has bathhouse-style stools that sit below ceilings covered in cedar planks, and features a fresh menu with spicy tako w/ ground beef, nigiri bites, and a bar stocked with 15 brands of sake.

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2. Embeya 564 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60661 (West Loop)

This Asian eatery sports a bar, lounge, and private dining area in its roomy, 7,000-square-foot space, and the menu features a fusion of Asian cuisines crafted by Executive chef Thai Dang.

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3. RM Champagne Salon 116 N Green St, Chicago, IL 60607 (West Loop)

This secluded alleyway bar/restaurant in West Loop is a prime spot for sipping bubbly, slurping oysters, and devouring luxurious cheeses. The French-inspired menu is filled with sharable plates and classic brasserie mains like croque monsieur and steak frites. If sparkling wine isn't your thing, don't worry, the bar serves its fair share of craft beers and cocktails. RM's picture-perfect interior features chandeliers, a cozy fireplace, and white tablecloths, and the secluded outdoor patio is a prime spot during the warmer months.

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4. Haymarket Pub and Brewery 737 W Randolph, Chicago, IL 60661 (West Loop)

Haymarket gives you no choice but to do your homework about how and where their brews are made -- you must be led through the brewhouse and fermentation room in order to get to the bar/dining area. Twenty-one tap handles, though, make the trip worth it.

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5. Lone Wolf 806 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60607 (West Loop)

Lone Wolf is ready to feed you with some stick-to-your-bones food paired with a cocktail. Plus, it's got lots of beer.

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6. Salero 621 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60661 (West Loop)

With modern takes on traditional staples like roasted beef short ribs, seas bass and potatoes a la plancha (translation: pan fried), and grilled flat iron steaks, Salero is a little piece of Spain right in the Chicago's West Loop. Helmed by Chef Ashlee Aubin, this stylish restaurant and bar avoids the trend factor of tapas and sticks to starts and main courses, so for once you won't have to feel the selfish guilt that one can only get when refusing to share their sweetbread.

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7. Formento's 925 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60607 (West Loop)

Executive Chef Stephen Wambach heads up this bright and expansive Italian restaurant. His menu keeps things classic, offering quality dishes like a four-cheese tortellini and a prosciutto-wrapped veal filet. The white tablecloths add to the traditional feel of the space, and collect crumbs from Formento's must-try chocolate layer cake. No, really, try it -- it comes with chocolate pudding frosting and hazelnut praline.

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8. TÊTE Charcuterie 1114 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60607 (West Loop)

TÊTE has that something extra -- actually, multiple somethings extra. There's a dedication to making sure all the selections -- peppery coppa, rich fromage de tête, silky duck rillette -- are all given the proper attention. There're also international encased meats from French boudin blanc to Moroccan merguez that'll push you further toward your meat coma, plus dishes like Peking duck with white miso and rutabaga mostarda that don't seem to really fit the concept, but are too tasty for anyone to get upset.

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9. Grace 652 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60661 (West Loop)

With luxury abound in the form of cushy seating, romantic lighting, and a wallet-busting price range, Grace is the kind of restaurant where marriage proposals get popped as frequently as champagne. Diners dressed to impress and on their best behavior (they don't take kindly to cell phone use) enjoy a three-star Michelin meal from either the flora (vegetable) or fauna (meat) side of the menu. Presentation takes preference over portions -- your roasted rabbit or black truffles might be small, but it'll come with a smattering of olive oil polka dots or a flower made of chives.

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10. Girl & The Goat 809 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60607 (West Loop)

Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard's West Loop restaurant is a perennial hot spot that defines the Chicago food scene. The menu is filled with incredibly innovative meat, vegetable, and fish small plates meant to be shared and devoured. Of course, a meal at Girl & the Goat isn't complete without an order of goat, served a variety of ways (in empanadas, as carpaccio). Reservations are hard to muster but you'll snag one eventually and find that the wait is so worth it.

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11. Au Cheval 800 W Randolph, Chicago, IL 60607 (West Loop)

This upscale West Loop restaurant is known for its European flair and sophisticated American diner-style eats. Au Cheval usually has a wait out the door at peak dinner hours because it's home to iconic signature items like the fried house-made bologna sandwich and the so-called single burger, which actually comes with two thin patties and is topped with American cheese, house Dijonnaise, pickles, and if you know what's good for you, the optional bacon and fried egg add-ons. The brasserie-like space includes an open kitchen and a bar where local, domestic, and international beers are all on tap.

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12. CH Distillery 564 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60661 (West Loop)

CH Distillery is Chicago's first distillery/cocktail bar, serving up house-made vodkas with carefully curated concoctions, as well as small plates from other renowned Chi-town eateries. The distillery makes vodka (distilled 40 times for ultimate purity!), rum, whiskey, and two kinds of gin, all in-house. The bar then pours them into inventive, Chicago-inspired craft cocktails such as the Rhymes With Orange, made with Serrano chili vodka, orange Curaçao, lime, and watermelon. The small plates eats include corned duck on black rye, and charcuterie from West Loop Salumi. Does the CH in CH Distillery stand for Chicago? No! No it does not. The CH stands for the periodic symbols for carbon and hydrogen, the fundamental components that make alcohol. And if you can remember that after you've had a few of these cocktails, you might be almost as impressive as the cocktails themselves.

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13. The Aviary 955 W Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60607 (Lincoln Park)

From James Beard Award-winning chef Grant Achatz (of Alinea fame), The Aviary is an ultra-posh cocktail bar that uses molecular gastronomy techniques to craft some of the prettiest cocktails you’ll ever have. To get a full taste of The Aviary, splurge on the multi-course cocktail tasting menu that pairs drinks with small bites. The speciality cocktails are pricey but the swanky experience is worth it.