What's New in the West Loop
The West Loop has been a red-hot dining destination for years now, but the neighborhood has kicked into hyper-drive lately, with rampant new construction paving the way for a slate of new restaurants, bakeries and bars. Considering the flurry of activity, it can be hard to keep tabs on such a fast-moving ‘hood. Here are 11 new restaurants to check out, and even more upcoming spots to get excited about in the West Loop this year and next.
Beatrix: The opening of Chicago’s third Beatrix on Fulton marks Lettuce Entertain You’s first foray into the West Loop, a sure sign of bigger things to come. The beloved all-day restaurant, cafe and bar brought its people-pleasing wares to one of the hottest dining districts in the nation, and it holds its own with its broad pastry selection, intricate coffee program, cocktails by revered barkeep Julian Cox and a wide array of wholesome local greens, grains and sprouts. It’s also one of the few all-day eateries in the area, providing a welcome alternative for hungry West Loopers in the morning and afternoon.
Proxi: One of the biggest openings of the year comes by way of the folks behind Sepia. After 10 years in business, the adept hospitality team branched out next door with a more casual endeavor, Proxi. Inspired by street food culture across the globe, the eclectic restaurant features dishes from chef Andrew Zimmerman and pastry chef Sarah Mispagel, with a wine list curated by Arthur Hon. The space is a real stunner; sprawling, sunny and warm, with a bustling bar area, lounge space, banquettes, tables and a partially open kitchen.
Do-Rite Donuts: For its third location, one of Chicago’s premiere donut shops set up shop in the Fulton Market area of the West Loop. A flurry of new construction at the corner of Morgan and Lake has begun filling up with a handful of new eateries, including a Shake Shack and a 2,000-sq.-ft. outpost of Jeff Mahin and Francis Brennan’s wildly popular donut emporium. As one of the city’s fried dough pioneers, Do-Rite built a reputation and a fanbase for its decadent array of invigorated classics, like fritters studded with Michigan apples, glazed yeast donuts with Valrhona chocolate frosting and maple-glazed donuts flecked with candied bacon. It’s also popular among vegans, with an impressive roster of butter-free products like maple-chai donuts and cinnamon crumb cake.
Kuma’s Corner: Chicago’s cultishly adored burger bar brought its beefy wares to Fulton Market, expanding into big territory for its latest venture. Similar to its Avondale original, the motif is dark, intense and heavy on the metal music. It’s a little less dive-y and grunge-y than the original though. Of course, the same menu of mammoth burgers piled high on pretzel buns is present and accounted for.
Blind Barber: Part hip barbershop, part restaurant and part speakeasy, New York City’s famed Blind Barber is en route to Fulton Market this summer. By day, it’s a slick space to get a trim and a snack. By night, it shifts into a dark, alluring bar filled with potent cocktails and dinner plates. Chicagoans can expect a food menu centered on contemporary grilled cheese sandwiches, plus dips, snacks and unique tacos. Cocktails will skew both seasonal and classic-inspired.
Restaurant From the Giant Team at Ace Hotel: Portland’s impossibly hip Ace Hotel is set to open its Chicago outpost late summer/early fall, and with it comes the promise of cool bars and restaurants. This includes a restaurant run by the folks behind Logan Square’s smash-hit Giant, with acclaimed chef Patrick Sheerin manning the kitchen. There’s also an impending outpost of Stumptown Coffee, which will mark Chicago’s first cafe for the Portland-based coffee company.
honeygrow: Also coming to that same booming block is honeygrow, the Philadelphia-based fast-casual spot specialized in stir-fries and salads. Considering its neighbors are serving burgers and donuts, it’ll be a welcome reprieve to have some vegetable options in the area. Due this fall, the restaurant’s first Midwestern location plans to ingratiate itself into the Chicago dining community by sourcing local products seasonally and employing ramen chefs to make noodles.
BLVD: A taste of Hollywood is coming to the West Loop later this season by way of BLVD. Inspired by restaurants and lounges on Sunset Boulevard in the 1950s, the restaurant features art deco elements and an air of luxury. The food will be contemporary American, with a focus on small, shareable plates, and the music and decor will offer a blend of old and new.
Nobu: Although it took several months after a groundbreaking ceremony with Robert De Niro, the hotly anticipated Nobu Hotel and Restaurant is finally inching along. Likely the most high-profile development in the West Loop, the building will eventually contain 11 stories, 119 rooms, a rooftop bar and lounge and a 10,000-sq-.ft. ground floor restaurant from celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa. The brand is famous for its high-end Japanese cuisine and hip, sexy ambience.
The Bellemore: One of the biggest restaurant groups in the city is taking over the Embeya space for what is sure to be one of the biggest openings of the year. The Bellemore is Boka Restaurant Group’s dive into New American cuisine with chef Jimmy Papadopoulos. After amassing acclaim for his cooking at Bohemian House, Chicagoans have been hungrily clamoring for news on the chef’s next move, and his partnership with Boka bodes very well indeed.
Tex-Mex Spot from Parlor Pizza Bar: One of the most feverishly popular casual restaurants in the neighborhood is branching out into new territory in the West Loop. Details are scant at the moment, but Parlor Pizza Bar has signed a lease for a space on Randolph where they plan on opening a Tex-Mex restaurant and bar with a country music vibe. It’s something unique to the area and the city at large, as Chicago’s Tex-Mex scene is virtually non-existent.