When I told my best friend I was moving to the West Loop, her response? “Good luck spending more money on food than your rent.” She wasn’t wrong. Over the past decade, Chicago’s West Loop has earned a reputation as one of the best dining neighborhoods in the country. From Stephanie Izard’s trio of goat-monikered restaurants (The Girl & and The Goat, Little Goat, and Duck Duck Goat) to Au Cheval’s “best burger in the country” to Rick Bayless’ recently-added upscale restaurant paired with an adjoining tacqueria/brewery, there’s no shortage of options for the culinary adventurer.
But what if your taste isn’t exactly adventurous? I am a self-described picky eater and about as far from a foodie as you can get. For my 26th birthday, I made my roommates go to Chilis and proceeded to order a plain cheeseburger and french fries (it was a Wednesday, okay?!). I’d like to think I’ve branched out a little since then, but I’m still not going to get excited about oysters or pig face. It’s been a blessing in disguise as it’s allowed me to continue paying my rent, but that’s not to say I haven’t found a few favorites over the past two months.
Below I’ve listed some spots that have amazing food even if you’re not the most adventurous of eaters. I promise none of them are Chilis.
My hands-down absolute favorite place- and it doesn’t hurt that it’s right across the street. Beatrix has something for everyone whether you’re dining or grabbing something to go. They have a full coffee bar featuring some of the best baked goods in the city, and, during the week, Beatrix Market has soups, salads, sandwiches, desserts, and a ton more in a cafeteria-style setup. My absolute favorite is their brunch menu because, well, duh. I tend to go for their egg white omelet or “Eggs Your Way” (mainly for the brown sugar bacon), but I’ve recently tried their pot roast and egg sandwich (so good!). If you’re feeling something sweet, their lemon pancakes are un.real. I’ve only made it for dinner twice, but their roasted cauliflower salad doesn’t make me feel sad that I’m eating salad, and their burger and fries are solid.
Bar Siena does a slightly different take on Italian food, but they also do a great job with the classics. Plus, it features small plates so you don’t have to commit to one item. I love their parmesan potato skins, roasted meatballs, gnocchi, and short rib lasagna. Their pizzas are also amazing which makes for a safe choice. I can’t lie though- I could just order the side of brussel sprouts and leave happy. Vegetables covered in bacon and salt are a beautiful thing. And you can’t leave Bar Siena without taking advantage of their desserts or stopping by the Bombobar window on your way out! They carry gelato, unreasonably elaborate hot chocolate, and, their speciality, bombolinis which are basically round donuts with filling. I’m not usually into filled donuts, but there are 5 to choose from (nutella or salted caramel all the way!), and the filling comes in a small bottle so you can do it yourself. I’ve brought these to parties before, and they’re always a huge hit.
Aside from having the cutest decor, Maillard offers the trifecta- amazing burger + perfect fries + OMG milkshake. It’s like going to a 50s diner if that diner had an amazing interior designer and knew it was competing with Au Cheval right down the street. I honestly think the burger is on par with its neighborhood rival, but it’s not as well known so you aren’t dealing with 2 hour wait times. It was recently opened by the team behind Piccolo Sogno who know what they’re doing, and the staff is noticeably attentive and nice.
De Cero used to be my go-to taco spot, but it devastatingly closed its doors back in January. (I’m still not over it.) Denny and I recently came here after deciding Parlor Pizza was far too crowded and bro-y for us, and it didn’t disappoint! Their margarita was excellent, and Denny was excited by their large beer selection, many of which are brewed in house. I became noticeably tipsy after my one margarita and proceeded to eat most of the chips and guacamole by myself. That didn’t stop me from eating all my tacos as well, and I highly recommend the barbacoa and al pastor. Denny got their giant “tlayudas” which is basically a giant tostada that I think it supposed to be shared by multiple people but yolo.
I can’t hate on Parlor too much for its bro-yness (that’s definitely a word) because it does serve up a really good pizza. I haven’t made it back here since we moved in, but I’ve been on a few other occasions with friends. They have a great summertime patio that I hope opens up soon, and they also have a summer drink in a coconut. Living the dream, right? I’ve only had the pizza here so I can’t report on much else, but who doesn’t love sitting outside, drinking out of a coconut, and eating pizza? I thought so.
I’ve only been to The Allis for brunch, but their menu is everything I love. Feeling basic? (Or, in my case, have another brunch planned for two hours later? Oh okay!) I got their house granola which is always a safe choice. My friend got their Benedict (two different preparation options), and I’ve heard people rave about their “All Day Breakfast” (if only I liked lox!). They also have a lot of other basic breakfast options which makes it easy for everyone to find something. Let’s be honest though- the Instagram-worthy interior is what makes this spot the ultimate choice for a girl’s brunch or just feeling fancy while sipping a cappuccino. They also have an “Afternoon Tea” which I’m dying to try!
I have a few (okay, a lot) of other places on my neighborhood food bucket list, including Green Street Smoked Meats, RM Champagne, and BLVD. I’d also like to try The Publican’s brunch (I’ve heard amazing things) and revisit The Dawson since all I got the first time was avocado toast (yes, I’m very basic.)
Any other recommendations out there for someone who may not be the most adventurous of eaters? I’ve obviously kept this list to the West Loop, but I always love hearing about people’s favorite spots!