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Six dates sitting in red sauce in a cast iron skillet.
Avec’s dates are an iconic taste of the West Loop.
One Off Hospitality Group [Official Photo]

Where to Eat in the West Loop

Randolph Restaurant Row has evolved, but the strip still draws diners during a pandemic

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Avec’s dates are an iconic taste of the West Loop.
| One Off Hospitality Group [Official Photo]

Before the pandemic, West Loop’s dining scene was in transition. Randolph Restaurant Row remained prestigious, but the arrival of companies like McDonald’s and Starbucks threatened to rewrite the neighborhood’s DNA. The pandemic further reshaped the area, with street dining and the closing of Politan Row, one of the area’s food halls.

While some notable continue to hibernate (for example, the owners of Elske, a Michelin-starred Scandinavian-inspired restaurant, are waiting for patio weather; El Che Steakhouse is also waiting), many set up tents with heaters, while others expanded takeout operations.

These are just some of the best the West Loop has to offer. It’s a crowded space, so restaurants considered in Fulton Market were omitted.

As of February 16, Chicago restaurants are permitted to serve customers indoors with a 40 percent maximum capacity per room, or 50 people — whichever is fewer. At the same time, despite winter weather, a number of Chicago restaurants continue to offer outdoor seating. Regardless, the state requires reservations for indoor and outdoor dining. The level of service offered is indicated on each map point. However, this should not be taken as an endorsement for dining in, as there are still safety concerns. For updated information on coronavirus cases in your area, please visit the city of Chicago’s COVID-19 dashboard. Studies indicate that there is a lower exposure risk when outdoors, but the level of risk involved with patio dining is contingent on restaurants following strict social distancing and other safety guidelines.

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SoJu BBQ

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SoJu BBQ is a carnivore’s dream, with the owner sticking behind his mission to use high-caliber cuts of meat in Korean food. Find brisket, bulgogi, and a few different cuts of short ribs. Available for pickup and delivery.

Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

One of Chicago’s finest restaurants has switched to-go operations to barbecue, where customers can order up ribs and brisket. The Smyth also serves a sophisticated meal kit so diners can masquerade as workers at the Michelin-starred restaurant. The Loyalist, the owners’ basement bar, also offers one of the best burgers in the city to go.

Monteverde Restaurant & Pastificio

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Monteverde chef and Top Chef alum Sarah Grueneberg is no stranger to the spotlight, and this year was no exception — she took the title for “Best Chef: Great Lakes” at the James Beard Awards for her work at this buzzing Italian eatery. An in-house pastificio means pasta reigns here. There’s a heated and tented patio, as well as expanded to-go offerings.

Bonci Pizzeria

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Gabriele Bonci has allowed his famed al taglio-style pizza — a crispy, airy crust — that comes in 20 different varieties. Cut-to-order portions are perfect for every appetite, and a menu stretches beyond pies with sandwiches, salads, and suppli — Roman-inspired rice and pasta balls stuffed with cheese and meats.

Formento's/Nonna’s

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Formento’s is an Italian-American favorite inside a spacious dining room that has reopened for indoor dining (its owners were very frustrated by the government’s restrictions). Find chops, pastas, and salads — the appetizers (meatballs, tempura fried calamari) are great, quick snacks. Outdoor dining is also available. For those who love sandwiches, Nonna’s is located around the corner. The turkey sub might be the best in the city.

J.P. Graziano Grocery

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Randolph Street is filled with fine-dining restaurants, but Graziano’s continues to thrive. The old Italian grocer has pivoted toward using those artisan ingredients in some of the city’s best sandwiches. The Mr. G is their signature submarine, something all Chicagoans should try.

Leña Brava/Cruz Blanca

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Rick Bayless may have exited the operation, but that doesn’t mean Leña Brava and Cruz Blanca (the more casual beer and taco spot next door) aren’t firing on all cylinders. Cruz gets particularly spotlight during a pandemic because tacos and beer travel so well.

Two chefs cook in an open kitchen in the back of a restaurant space
Leña Brava features wood-fired cooking.
Galdones Photography/Leña Brava

The Darling

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The Darling is a club, located on the second floor above sandwich icon J.P. Graziano’s. One of the most inspiring efforts of the pandemic came from its date package. It’s a meal kit that comes with a QR code so diners can stream a burlesque show and enjoy dinner and a show. As restaurants adapt to the pandemic, this was one of the most creative ways to offer customers a dose of what they miss.

Bandit dips into ‘90s nostalgia — it feels like the college keg party that you probably never got invited to — but has very solid bar food that goes beyond boring pub grub. The pull-apart sliders and kung pao cauliflower are highlights. They’re available via Caviar for pickup and delivery. They’re also taking reservations for dine in.

High Five Ramen/Green Street Smoked Meats

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The company that opened Au Cheval, where customers routinely lineup for diner fare (including an infamous burger), have a far tastier option down the street. High Five Ramen serves one of the city’s most popular bowls. In the same complex, Hogsalt also has Green Street Smoked Meats, one of the city’s most consistent barbecues. 

Momotaro

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Boka Restaurant Group created a beautiful and multi-faceted space with Momotaro, which features a sleek basement izakaya with separate bar menu. Indoor dining has returned, and delivery and pickup remain available. Chef Gene Kato is now in charge.

Girl & The Goat

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Out-of-towners and locals continue to line up for a table at Iron Chef Stephanie Izard’s first restaurant, an outpost for the Top Chef winner’s playful takes on contemporary American cuisine. For Izard, that means plates that are just as approachable (e.g. roasted cauliflower, pan fried shishito peppers, pan roasted halibut), as they are daring (wood oven roasted pig face, goat carpaccio, braised beef tongue).

Greek Islands

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Greektown continues to shrink as this once thriving immigrant enclave is threatened by developers. But Greek Islands continues to be one of the best restaurants in the neighborhood, with Greek-American favorites like gyros, moussaka, and grilled octopus. There’s also a suburban Lombard location.

Easter is around the corner and Greek Islands is just the place to enjoy lunch or dinner. Make your reservation soon. Tables fill quickly!

Posted by Greek Islands Restaurant on Wednesday, March 14, 2018

ROOH Chicago Progressive Indian Restaurant & Cocktail Bar

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The modern Indian fare at Rooh continues to impress, pushing the boundaries of staples like butter chicken, while introducing diners to sea bass wrapped in banana leaves, and tandoori-smoked pork belly. The patio features a unique hexagon tent, and they’ve recently reopened indoors. There’s also a new to-go operation that serves Indian-spiced chicken wings and nachos.

Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Chef B.K. Park has taken his omakase from Juno in Lincoln Park, and brought it to a bigger stage in West Loop. Mako brings precision and pristine cuts of fish to a sleek dining room. The to-go omakase comes in wooden boxes with compartments that brings the restaurant experience home.

Yūgen Restaurant

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Yugen is one of the priciest meals in Chicago, but it captured Michelin’s approval in its first year with a one-star rating. Much of the credit falls to chef Mari Katsumura, a veteran pastry chef who has demonstrably proven that her talents extend beyond desserts. It’s an 11-course tasting menu with optional A5 wagyu and truffle pasta supplements.

OMAKASE YUME

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Omakase Yume as quickly earned a loyal following without much fanfare; it’s a rare independent restaurant in a growing sea of chains and hospitality groups in the West Loop. This omakase focused restaurant also earned a Michelin star, with inspectors delighting in “lightly vinegared” fluke. The restaurant is open for indoor dining, but also has a pair of to-go offerings. Chef Sangtae Park developed his customer base while at this suburban Niles restaurant.

Kumiko is a Chicago pioneer when it came to pushing for to-go cocktails, and the bar’s maestro, Julia Momose, continues to mix up the finest drinks for off-site consumption. The food is a charming companion to Momose’s beverages — comforting Japanese classics that satisfy well during the winter. Fried nori and honey cashews provide snacks. There’s a tonkatsu sandwich and yakisoba for light suppers and solid lunchtime fare.

avec Restaurant

Copy Link

Avec’s focus is the same now as it’s always been: Mediterranean and Midwestern-influenced shared plates made possible with a wood-fired oven. Those dishes take the form of established go-tos, such as chorizo-stuffed medjool dates with bacon and piquillo pepper-tomato sauce. Chef Dylan Patel has taken over Paul Kahan and Donnie Madia’s now-oldest restaurant.

This neighborhood spot features global, street-food inspired eats from executive chef and partner Andrew Zimmerman (who also helms the kitchen next door at Sepia). Find sweet potato chat, shrimp dumplings, and more.

A large dining room
Proxi has earned a loyal neighborhood following.
Marc Much/Eater Chicago

SoJu BBQ

SoJu BBQ is a carnivore’s dream, with the owner sticking behind his mission to use high-caliber cuts of meat in Korean food. Find brisket, bulgogi, and a few different cuts of short ribs. Available for pickup and delivery.

Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Smyth

One of Chicago’s finest restaurants has switched to-go operations to barbecue, where customers can order up ribs and brisket. The Smyth also serves a sophisticated meal kit so diners can masquerade as workers at the Michelin-starred restaurant. The Loyalist, the owners’ basement bar, also offers one of the best burgers in the city to go.

Monteverde Restaurant & Pastificio

Monteverde chef and Top Chef alum Sarah Grueneberg is no stranger to the spotlight, and this year was no exception — she took the title for “Best Chef: Great Lakes” at the James Beard Awards for her work at this buzzing Italian eatery. An in-house pastificio means pasta reigns here. There’s a heated and tented patio, as well as expanded to-go offerings.

Bonci Pizzeria

Gabriele Bonci has allowed his famed al taglio-style pizza — a crispy, airy crust — that comes in 20 different varieties. Cut-to-order portions are perfect for every appetite, and a menu stretches beyond pies with sandwiches, salads, and suppli — Roman-inspired rice and pasta balls stuffed with cheese and meats.

Formento's/Nonna’s

Formento’s is an Italian-American favorite inside a spacious dining room that has reopened for indoor dining (its owners were very frustrated by the government’s restrictions). Find chops, pastas, and salads — the appetizers (meatballs, tempura fried calamari) are great, quick snacks. Outdoor dining is also available. For those who love sandwiches, Nonna’s is located around the corner. The turkey sub might be the best in the city.

J.P. Graziano Grocery

Randolph Street is filled with fine-dining restaurants, but Graziano’s continues to thrive. The old Italian grocer has pivoted toward using those artisan ingredients in some of the city’s best sandwiches. The Mr. G is their signature submarine, something all Chicagoans should try.

Leña Brava/Cruz Blanca

Rick Bayless may have exited the operation, but that doesn’t mean Leña Brava and Cruz Blanca (the more casual beer and taco spot next door) aren’t firing on all cylinders. Cruz gets particularly spotlight during a pandemic because tacos and beer travel so well.

Two chefs cook in an open kitchen in the back of a restaurant space
Leña Brava features wood-fired cooking.
Galdones Photography/Leña Brava

The Darling

The Darling is a club, located on the second floor above sandwich icon J.P. Graziano’s. One of the most inspiring efforts of the pandemic came from its date package. It’s a meal kit that comes with a QR code so diners can stream a burlesque show and enjoy dinner and a show. As restaurants adapt to the pandemic, this was one of the most creative ways to offer customers a dose of what they miss.

Bandit

Bandit dips into ‘90s nostalgia — it feels like the college keg party that you probably never got invited to — but has very solid bar food that goes beyond boring pub grub. The pull-apart sliders and kung pao cauliflower are highlights. They’re available via Caviar for pickup and delivery. They’re also taking reservations for dine in.

High Five Ramen/Green Street Smoked Meats

The company that opened Au Cheval, where customers routinely lineup for diner fare (including an infamous burger), have a far tastier option down the street. High Five Ramen serves one of the city’s most popular bowls. In the same complex, Hogsalt also has Green Street Smoked Meats, one of the city’s most consistent barbecues. 

Momotaro

Boka Restaurant Group created a beautiful and multi-faceted space with Momotaro, which features a sleek basement izakaya with separate bar menu. Indoor dining has returned, and delivery and pickup remain available. Chef Gene Kato is now in charge.

Girl & The Goat

Out-of-towners and locals continue to line up for a table at Iron Chef Stephanie Izard’s first restaurant, an outpost for the Top Chef winner’s playful takes on contemporary American cuisine. For Izard, that means plates that are just as approachable (e.g. roasted cauliflower, pan fried shishito peppers, pan roasted halibut), as they are daring (wood oven roasted pig face, goat carpaccio, braised beef tongue).

Greek Islands

Greektown continues to shrink as this once thriving immigrant enclave is threatened by developers. But Greek Islands continues to be one of the best restaurants in the neighborhood, with Greek-American favorites like gyros, moussaka, and grilled octopus. There’s also a suburban Lombard location.

Easter is around the corner and Greek Islands is just the place to enjoy lunch or dinner. Make your reservation soon. Tables fill quickly!

Posted by Greek Islands Restaurant on Wednesday, March 14, 2018

ROOH Chicago Progressive Indian Restaurant & Cocktail Bar

The modern Indian fare at Rooh continues to impress, pushing the boundaries of staples like butter chicken, while introducing diners to sea bass wrapped in banana leaves, and tandoori-smoked pork belly. The patio features a unique hexagon tent, and they’ve recently reopened indoors. There’s also a new to-go operation that serves Indian-spiced chicken wings and nachos.

Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Mako

Chef B.K. Park has taken his omakase from Juno in Lincoln Park, and brought it to a bigger stage in West Loop. Mako brings precision and pristine cuts of fish to a sleek dining room. The to-go omakase comes in wooden boxes with compartments that brings the restaurant experience home.

Related Maps

Yūgen Restaurant

Yugen is one of the priciest meals in Chicago, but it captured Michelin’s approval in its first year with a one-star rating. Much of the credit falls to chef Mari Katsumura, a veteran pastry chef who has demonstrably proven that her talents extend beyond desserts. It’s an 11-course tasting menu with optional A5 wagyu and truffle pasta supplements.

OMAKASE YUME

Omakase Yume as quickly earned a loyal following without much fanfare; it’s a rare independent restaurant in a growing sea of chains and hospitality groups in the West Loop. This omakase focused restaurant also earned a Michelin star, with inspectors delighting in “lightly vinegared” fluke. The restaurant is open for indoor dining, but also has a pair of to-go offerings. Chef Sangtae Park developed his customer base while at this suburban Niles restaurant.

Kumiko

Kumiko is a Chicago pioneer when it came to pushing for to-go cocktails, and the bar’s maestro, Julia Momose, continues to mix up the finest drinks for off-site consumption. The food is a charming companion to Momose’s beverages — comforting Japanese classics that satisfy well during the winter. Fried nori and honey cashews provide snacks. There’s a tonkatsu sandwich and yakisoba for light suppers and solid lunchtime fare.

avec Restaurant

Avec’s focus is the same now as it’s always been: Mediterranean and Midwestern-influenced shared plates made possible with a wood-fired oven. Those dishes take the form of established go-tos, such as chorizo-stuffed medjool dates with bacon and piquillo pepper-tomato sauce. Chef Dylan Patel has taken over Paul Kahan and Donnie Madia’s now-oldest restaurant.

Proxi

This neighborhood spot features global, street-food inspired eats from executive chef and partner Andrew Zimmerman (who also helms the kitchen next door at Sepia). Find sweet potato chat, shrimp dumplings, and more.

A large dining room
Proxi has earned a loyal neighborhood following.
Marc Much/Eater Chicago

Related Maps