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Photo: Ace Hotel

Places

West Loop – the neighborhood for foodies in Chicago

Once a gritty, forgotten and unloved sprawl of former factories and warehouses, West Loop has been transformed into a hip Chicago foodie hideaway, far from the skyscrapers in every way.

While Millennium Park and the Magnificent Mile embody Chicago’s shiny, industrious future, West Loop conjures its industrial past. Tucked behind the Chicago River, this grid of factories and warehouses in the shadow of the rattling El train once housed furniture-makers and foundries. Since Oprah Winfrey based herself here in the late 1980s, the post-war squalor has gradually reversed itself with live-work developments, innovative restaurants, mood-lit cocktail bars, vibrant multi-story wall murals and a buzzy Photo: Alex Livingstone / Unsplashbranch of Soho House. To cement the -area’s status as a tech hub, in 2019 Google revitalized a former cold storage for its Chicago HQ, its soaring glass atrium dripping with greenery. Across the street, young professionals take advantage of the sprawling lounge space at the Ace Hotel, in a new Bauhaus-style building.

You can still partake in classic Chicago pastimes though, like a spot of late-night jazz at City Winery, a cozy brick-walled club with its own winemaking facility on site. Right across the road, extreme Chicago-style deep dish pizza with butter-heavy crust awaits at Lou Malnati’s, a contender for Chicago’s top pizza pie. Malnati’s is one of the bookends of West Loop’s burgeoning West Randolph Street restaurant strip. The area’s gourmet cred is rising month on month. In December, magazine publisher Time Out, which has diversified into food, entertainment and shopping, opened the Time Out Market in the old Fulton Market meatpacking buildings, selling sushi and €6 coffees. The rooftop lookout lounge offers music, sports and art exhibitions practically around the clock.

But the most compelling reason to visit the neighborhood is its postmodern take on history. With its Art Deco bricks buffed up, and all that mid-century neon re-purposed, the low-rise landscape lends itself brilliantly to long, languid brunches, late-night pub crawls and good old all-American fun.

Here are 3 great places to check out:

House of Vans

The California sneaker brand Vans revamped a squat warehouse on North Elizabeth Street for its third venue worldwide. House of Vans is part live-music venue, part street art gallery and part skatepark, with a calendar of free skateboard sessions for kids, women and the rest.

House of Vans

113 N Elizabeth St

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Girl & the Goat

West Randolph Street is a magnet for top chefs and Stephanie Izard has become a local celebrity for her rock-blaring bistro Girl & the Goat, inventing nose-to-tail classics like escargot ravioli and wood-roasted “pig face.” Her latest venture, Little Goat, is a 1950s-style diner offering -specialties such as goatburgers and banh mi Vietnamese sandwiches on brioche.

Girl & the Goat

809 W Randolph St

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Blind Barber

Hidden, speakeasy-style, behind a long time barber shop next to the Ace Hotel, Blind Barber serves croquettes, cocktails and hot sandwiches oozing with cheese. Get “a little off the top” in the shopfront, then boogie down to live DJs in the back.

Blind Barber

948 West Fulton Market

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