If you’re planning a trip to Chicago, make sure you plan to spend more time in the West Loop neighborhood. Once you hit these 7 food and drink spots, you won’t be disappointed!
Places For Lunch Near Me
As much as I hate that my sister and her family moved to downtown Chicago and away from me, one good thing did come out… I went to visit them in Chicago! It’s been twice since they’ve moved, and on my last visit we ate a lot of good food around town, especially in the West Loop and many other places in Fulton Square. I’ve put together a list of 7 places to eat in Chicago’s West Loop (OK, one place is where you have to drink!), but it’s not a complete list. I can’t wait to go back for more (and I’m still hungry at every Stephanie Izard restaurant). Yes, I know the West Loop has more to offer than the Fulton Market area, but as you can see, that’s where we hang out.
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To be clear, I am not an expert on the food aspects of Chicago. There are so many great places in the city and I’m always amazed at what to do…and what to eat! I love Boston with all my heart, but in terms of new restaurants and happenings, Chicago definitely wins. I’m not saying these are the best sites because I don’t have anywhere near to test them. But I want to say that if you visit all of these places on your next trip to Chicago’s West Loop, you won’t be disappointed.
When my sister asked me if there was anything special I wanted to do in Chicago, I made a list of things I wanted to eat. Fortunately, he and I were on the same page and he quickly made all my dreams come true. I want to go to Jeni’s ice cream shop forever. I got her first cookbook in 2009 and since then I’ve been dreaming of trying her ice cream. Although Jeni’s is an Ohio institution, it operates nationwide and now has several stores in Chicago. I told my sister that the first thing we wanted to do when we got into town was to pack our things into our hotel room and walk the 2 miles to Jeni’s West Loop. It was a lovely walk along the river on a lovely afternoon and the shop was very pleasant.
It was almost impossible to pick a flavor at Jeni’s, so I texted my friend Grace, who is from Ohio and is a Jeni expert. I ended up taking his advice and ordering the Flecks Chocolate Salted Peanut… I also tried the Cold Brew with Coconut Cream. My sister also got a PB with a dark chocolate cake. Oh my god, the ice cream is amazing.
We’ll be back in Jena in a few days when we’re back in town! After walking through it with my siblings, Charlie really wanted to go (the store was really attractive!). Henry wanted a donut, so we got donuts first, then went back to Jena’s and got some ice cream. Yes, it’s the best day ever! This time I have Brambleberry Crisp (another Grace suggestion) and Wildberry Lavender. It’s amazing!
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But I think I like Charlie’s Peanut Butter and Strawberry Jam the best. It tastes like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
I was going to start a petition to bring Jeni’s to Boston, but now I found out that Whole Foods and Wegman’s sell ice cream in my area. I can’t wait to pick some up!
If you haven’t heard of Roister, maybe you’ve heard of Alinea? Often considered one of the best restaurants in America, Alinea holds three Michelin stars and Chef/Manager Grant Achatz is a leader in nutrition/food development. I haven’t been to Alinea, but from what I’ve heard, eating there is amazing and a real treat for your senses. So what to do with Roister? Well, Roister also belongs to Grant Achatz (note, if you haven’t watched Chef’s Table, watch it now! His story is amazing). Roister is a Michelin star restaurant (1 star) and is a bit easier to book (and cheaper). Beth had already been there and we thought about trying something completely new for both of us, but in the end she decided that she was glad to be back and that I should try.
The restaurant is famous for its open kitchen, so guests can see how everything is being prepared. The first time my brother went to Grant’s it was really in the kitchen! He wasn’t there when we ate and we sat away from the kitchen but it was nice to see all the action. I have to finish my drink first. It’s called Could’ve Had a Fern-8 and it’s made with aviation gin, fernet-brance, carrots and beets. I’m a big fan of fernet-brance and would love to see it used in new cocktails. It’s the perfect way to start a meal and I couldn’t get enough of the beautiful colors.
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Roister has a great sharing menu, so Beth and I decided to order several dishes (mostly based on the staff’s instructions) and share everything. The first thing we tried was the white cheddar rillettes and I think we both closed our eyes and died a little the first time we ate them. But I’m actually pretty sure that after everything we tasted, we said, “Omg, that tastes delicious!” Besides the beautiful presentation, each dish has the perfect combination of ingredients that come together well and stand out with every bite. The rillot is at the top right of this photo with the salsify (salsify is a root vegetable that looks like a parsnip) on the left, and our banana pudding is cracked at the bottom left.
Alas, this Mediterranean octopus needs its own photo because of its beauty! I’ve had octopus before, but nothing like this. It was delicious and went perfectly with the fennel.
And the chicken! My brother and I almost ordered this dish because we don’t like to order chicken in restaurants. But the staff came highly recommended, and when I look at people’s favorite foods on Instagram, chickens are on the feed. OK, ready! So we ordered it and it worked well. The chicken is marinated, fried, fried in chamomile and sunflower seeds with two delicious sauces. The only bad experience we had was that we ordered too much food for both of us and as much as we wanted, we couldn’t eat it all. But who is to blame??
Our next stop for the night was Grant Achatz, The Aviary’s premium cocktail bar. My sister tried to make a reservation one month in advance but failed. We asked the bartender at Roister if he thought we’d have a hard time getting in, and he finally called and greeted us after a while. After all, it’s worth asking for help!
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The Aviary is no ordinary bar. It’s a bit small and the bar at the back is part of the bar (it’s a dream to sit at the chef’s table in this space!) but it’s really nice to see the hardworking bar staff. It looks like a high-end kitchen, but everyone is focused only on cocktails.
At first glance, the cocktail list is huge, but our graduates are very helpful in explaining everything from which cocktails pack the best punch to the best “show”. I ordered the “Loaded to the Gunwalls,” which was served in a boat in a bottle and included pineapple, navy liners, and Batavia arrack (and a toasted glass for added smoke). My sister ordered “Ice Passion”, the end of the program (I don’t remember exactly what was in it except sugar). Our friend Rey was with us and ordered the “Jesus Can’t Beat a Program” which came with an ice cube of serrano chile (like an ice cube).