Four new restaurants add to the dining luster of Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood.
Destination dining has taken a turn toward the urban, emerging in distinctly tight districts of revitalization within major hubs, from Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood to Downtown Los Angeles. To get a taste of one of the newest and most surprising rising culinary precincts, head to Chicago, where the West Loop’s stretches of once-gritty avenues are now lined with a buffet of elite chef restaurants.
Historically home to the city’s meatpacking operations and industrial warehouses, the West Loop was a wasteland when Paul Kahan opened his pioneering Blackbird restaurant in 1997. Condos, boutiques, and galleries slowly followed, along with a conga line of master chefs and wunderkinder claiming every free warehouse space and turning the quarter into a barometer of culinary trends. The result is a gourmand’s marathon, from Bill Kim’s Asian barbecue at bellyQ to Curtis Duffy’s Michelin three-star Grace to Grant Achatz’s Roister and shape-shifting Next. And things are just heating up: In timing with Google’s new Chicago headquarters taking over a cold-storage facility on Fulton Market, the thriving neighborhood has seen a recent spate of restaurant debuts that add to its gastronomic heft.