Randolph Street in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood has long been considered a hip foodie dining destination, but these days the street and its surrounding blocks are on fire. Restaurant Row (as it’s known by locals) and the Fulton Market District two blocks away have a slew of new eateries and bars that have opened up in recent months. On top of that, the area has a jaw-dropping list of high-profile restaurants, hotels and other projects in the works.
Many of the city’s hottest chefs (Grant Achatz, Stephanie Izard, Paul Kahan) already have one or two spots in the micro-neighborhood, and more are coming. Rick Bayless, the iconic chef who helped elevate Mexican dining in the Windy City with Frontera Grill and Xoco, is aiming to open a new restaurant here by the end of the year. (No word yet on the concept — the chef is being rather hush-hush about it all.) Perhaps the buzziest addition of them all is the Soho House, a hotel that is set to open in August with three restaurants, a spa and what some are whispering will be the city’s hippest rooftop pool scene. Less than two blocks away at Randolph and Peoria streets is an empty lot that’s the planned 2016 site for Nobu Hotel and Restaurant Chicago.
While the area has been flourishing for months, news that Google was moving its sizeable Chicago headquarters to an old warehouse in the neighborhood certainly helped add more hype to the happenings. (The Google building, now under construction, will also debut with a new restaurant on its ground floor.)
Need a primer on what else is new and hot? Here’s a quick look at five spots that have all opened since late winter:
Green Street Smoked Meats
Down a nondescript alley off Restaurant Row, this Texas barbecue joint looks and feels different (with exposed brick walls and lines of string lights) from the swankier places around it. The restaurant group behind the new honky-tonk hot spot, Hogsalt, is responsible for several other must-try restaurants (The Doughnut Vault, Au Cheval, Gilt Bar), and this stop delivers a chill atmosphere and seriously addictive beef brisket and smoked chicken legs. Between bites, be on the lookout for the opening of High Five Ramen, a tiny noodle shop located inside the same space.
You might guess by the name that this is a meat-driven Randolph Street restaurant, but it’s not all hogs and heifers. While the casual-cool eatery has a slew of terrines, sausages and cured meats on offer, you can also try eats such as diver scallops and shishito peppers. The inventive craft cocktails (rye- and egg-white-powered Jackson Blues) are good options if you tire of the French-centric wine list.
Fulton Market Kitchen
This place plays off both its art gallery neighbors and the area’s industrial, meat-packing history. The relaxed, art-themed restaurant has a rotating selection of pieces such as oil paintings, pop art and street art that sets the stage for the globally inspired food (everything from ravioli and foie to burgers and fries) and a large cocktail menu. You’ll find us at the bar having the Peter and the Wolf, a creative drink made with Goose Island Root Beer and Fernet Branca, an amaro from Italy.
The building isn’t new and neither is its chef, but the restaurant sure is. Packing House was formerly Market, a sceney late-night venue that was losing its cachet among the sophisticated locales on Randolph. Now the restaurant helmed by Amanda Barnes (City Tavern, Purple Pig) serves modern American with a Mediterranean bent (hand-tossed pizza, lobster with oven tomatoes) in a more refined atmosphere — but flat-screen TVs still flank the bar area. Even if you opt for dinner elsewhere in the neighborhood, head here for a cocktail and stunning skyline views on the multi-level building’s alfresco rooftop.
It’s not a late-night hangout, but Harvest still gets plenty of buzz. The cold-pressed, juice-delivery service has opened a brick-and-mortar storefront on West Lake Street, a block from Randolph. The juicery stocks watermelon, carrot and green juices and creates made-to-order smoothies (we like the Nutty Oak, packed with almond, banana and cocoa) for customers who want a health kick, even if they also indulge in the smoked meats of hot spots a block or two over.
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