Chicagoans touring Politan Row, the food hall that opened this morning in the West Loop, may see some familiar faces and taste familiar flavors as they peruse the nine restaurants, coffee shop, bar, and beer garden around the corner from McDonald’s global headquarters. Many of the vendors are behind popular Chicago restaurants like Cafe Tola, Bayan Ko, and Fat Shallot. But the name recognition may fade as with a few exceptions (Passion House Coffee Roasters is using its original name), many vendors are spinoffs of successful restaurants or pop-ups with a mix of new and old items inside the food hall.
Politan Row is also a spinoff. The company behind the Chicago project at 111 N. Aberdeen Street opened a New Orleans food hall, St. Roch Market, in 2015. They’re taking a similar approach in Chicago, finding a mix of upstart chefs who are looking to build a name for themselves and eventually open their own full-service restaurants. The chefs get a chance to introduce themselves to new customers while Politan Row fills its stalls with unique items. It’s part of food hall invasion in Chicago with three planned for the West Loop/Fulton Market area.
The result is a snapshot of Chicago with one African-American vendor (Chris Reed of Bumbo Roux is biracial and serves a fusion of Creole and Indonesian; seven of nine are people of color and women). No, there isn’t deep-dish or tavern-style pizza. There aren’t Chicago-style hot dogs either. Though a new vendor, Loud Mouth, is serving gourmet sausages using encased meats from popular suburban butcher Carnivore out of Oak Park.
The hall features plenty of international tastes. Piko Street Kitchen is an outgrowth of a food truck and serves modern Asian cuisine with baos and other items. Thattu serves Kerala-style South Indian food with spicy fried chicken and more from chef Margaret Pak. She’s held pop-ups at Kimski in Bridgeport and Saigon Sisters in the West Loop. LaShuk Street Food serves fluffy fresh pita with hummus garnished with mini falafels. Floriole, the Lincoln Park nestled near DePaul University from Sandra Holl, is the most established of the vendors.
The space is wide open with the bar as the centerpiece. There’s plenty of communal benches and some comfy couches near the entrance. A beer garden that doubles as a patio for outdoor eating is in front. The outdoor bar serves a selection of German beers on tap. Management plans to offer happy hour specials.
Next week, Politan Row hopes to unveil a phone app. Seated customers could use it to order food and drink without needing to get up and stand inline.
Check out the space and a list of vendors below. Politan Row is now open.
Politan Row, 111 N. Aberdeen Street, open 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday to Thursday; 6:30 to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.