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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
1. Sushi Dokku823 W Randolph St, Chicago
2. Embeya564 W Randolph St, Chicago
3. RM Champagne Salon116 N Green St, Chicago
4. Haymarket Pub and Brewery737 W Randolph, Chicago
5. Lone Wolf806 W Randolph St, Chicago
6. Salero621 W Randolph St, Chicago
7. Formento's925 W Randolph St, Chicago
8. TÊTE Charcuterie1114 W Randolph St, Chicago
9. Grace652 W Randolph St, Chicago
10. Girl & The Goat809 W Randolph St, Chicago
11. Au Cheval800 W Randolph, Chicago
12. CH Distillery564 W Randolph St, Chicago
13. The Aviary955 W Fulton Market, Chicago
From the team behind Sushi Wabi, Sushi Dokku is a small, modern restaurant in the West Loop offering traditional and contemporary Japanese cuisine. The diverse menu features classic cuts of sashimi, signature maki, creative nigiri bites (as well as traditional, for the less adventurous of diners), and grilled fish, chicken, and steak (for the less raw fish-inclined of diners). Their cocktail menu boasts Japanese-inspired cocktails -- many with sake foundations -- and a sizeable sake list, as well. And the Booze Box -- the bonus bar located below Sushi Dokku -- features live music and drinks (and izakaya-style small plates if you’re still hungry) for your after dinner entertainment.
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.
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.
With a dining room that requires you to walk past the brew house and fermentation room, Haymarket is all about showcasing the artistry of its craft (craft beer, that is). The brewpub's 32 taps, however, available once you surpass the stretch of mosaic-tiled hallway, are well worth the journey. While the spot's bourbon-barrel-aged imperial stout has won them some serious acclaim, the brewers as a whole specialize in contemporary American and Belgian style beers. Notorious for his ability to pair dishes with specific beers -- a beer sommelier, of sorts -- Haymarket's head chef has designed the restaurant's full menu around the draft offerings. The kitchen serves up house-cured seasonal sausages, smoked hot wings with cinnamon, and wood-fired pizzas as late as 2am. And best of all, the spot doesn't deliver -- the beers are only available right in house.
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.
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.
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.
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.
With three well-deserved Michelin stars, Curtis Duffy and Michael Muser’s Grace is a destination for the highest end fine-dining in the West Loop. An evening at Grace is an experience in culinary performance: the white tablecloth-dressed tables are angled towards the glass-enclosed kitchen, encouraging guests to watch tweezer-wielding hands compose dishes with whimsy and precision. At Grace, elegance is defined by exemplary service, refined New American menus, and the wondrous presentation of Duffy’s dishes. The two multi-course tasting menus are called Flora and Fauna (you can guess the highlight of each), and Muser’s wine pairings are highly, highly recommended. (His cellar is impassioned and versatile in origin and price, if the pairings don’t strike your fancy). The menus present dishes wherein complex technique and molecular gastronomy are downplayed -- but still very much in place -- to make the ingredient the star of the plate. And just an aside, at some point during your multiple hour meal, you’ll find that the bathrooms are themed to the seasons. Big spenders, this one’s for you.
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.
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.
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.
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.