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Inside the Darling, West Loop’s Charming Two-Floor Performance Den

Randolph Row’s latest combines a vintage British feel with European-inspired plates

The Darling opens on Friday in the West Loop.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

“Cool and peculiar” entertainment is one way the owner of the latest restaurant to open along Randolph Restaurant Row hopes to draw in customers. The Darling debuts tonight inside the two-floor space that WonFun/2Fun Chinese occupied at 905 W. Randolph Street. Customers will knock back classic cocktails inside an English manor-styled space, and watch an assortment of performers including magicians, drag queens, and dancers.

Chicago’s performing artists have a legendary work ethic, and that’s impressed Darling owner Sophie Huterstein. After graduating from Northwestern University, she moved to LA to open the Wellesbourne in 2010. Now she’s back in Chicago hoping to give customers a unique experience.

“One of the first things I thought of when we got to Chicago was what if we got puppeteers?” Huterstein said.

The entrance is decorated like a flower shop and once customers step inside they’ll find a pair of fireplaces on the first floor library space. There’s a giant Scrabble board, furniture imported from England, and Persian rugs. The second floor’s called the Ballroom. There are velvet sofas and vintage mirrors there.

When she first opened the Wellesbourne, Huterstein cooked at her LA restaurant, but now she’s enlisted former A10 chef James Martin. He’s concocted a menu with European influences. Huterstein isn’t going after the fine dining crowd, but she hopes customers will be pleased with the “total package” she’s presenting with the Darling.

What’s with the name? Her parents were German immigrants, and when they moved to England, her mother began watching British TV. She picked “the darling” up from a show and then began using “darling” as nicknames for Huterstein and her sister.

“It’s very romantic, elegant, and hopefully feels sweet,” she said.

Take a look at the menu at the link and the space below. The Darling debuts tonight.

The Darling, 905 W. Randolph Street, library open 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Tuesday through Sunday; ballroom open 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Thursday through Saturday; Saturday closes at 3 a.m.

The Darling’s entrance
Customers enter through a hallway decorated with flowers.
There are two fireplaces on the first-floor.
Board games, like chess, are featured on the first floor.
That’s a big Scrabble board.
Many of the trinkets were imported from England.
The ballroom is up these stairs.
Red velvet couches and vintage mirrors decorate the second floor.
It feels a bit like Alice in Wonderland.