West Loop

West Loop

The area that is now the West Loop neighborhood of Chicago started out as a warehouse district in the 1800s. What that means for today's residents is a hip urban environment with a wealth of art galleries and true loft spaces – the kind with exposed bricks, completely open layouts and wood beam ceilings. Close enough to the Loop for a quick work commute but not engulfed by towering high-rises, the West Loop is a perfect middle ground for many of Chicago’s young working adults and families just starting out.

Still, the West Loop neighborhood embraces the essence of city life and any escape from the hustle and bustle is appreciated. That's why local residents are especially thankful for green spaces like Union Park. With seasonal swimming facilities, baseball, basketball and volleyball available as well as ample green space for picnics or just throwing the Frisbee around, Union Park is a blessing. And for an added hip factor, recently the park has played host to the annual Pitchfork Music Festival which draws bands and music fans from all other the world for three days of cutting edge live performances by today’s most popular musical artists.

Much of the West Loop’s fine dining and culinary greats are located on Restaurant Row, along Randolph Street. The strip of eateries makes its way west to Union Park. Here you can sample a variety of different cuisines. Order sushi and sake at Izumi Sushi, enjoy a pan-Asian experience at Red Light, or get great American food at Extra Virgin. The gigantic Alhambra restaurant can accommodate over 1,000 guests in its airy main dining room, outdoor cafe, two-story lounge and private dining room. The menu here is an evolving mix of Moroccan and Mediterranean cuisine. Should you happen to develop a sweet tooth while sampling West Loop’s fine restaurants, make sure to stop by the Chicago Chocolate Company for a classic hometown treat. For a morning boost, West Loopers like to stop at West Gate Coffeehouse to perk up with a cup of Joe and start your day off right.

The well-known Greektown is also located within the West Loop's borders. It is home to some of the best Greek restaurants in town, including the always packed Parthenon, which is a favorite destination for locals and tourists alike. With enough room to accommodate 400 diners, Greek Islands is also big for traditional fare and signature lamb dishes.

With a name like Beer Bistro you better know your beer. And they do. The Beer Bistro has just under 99 different bottles of beer on its wall, with another 12 on tap. So grab some cheap grub and a brew and check out your favorite local sports teams on one of the big screen TVs. Or if you actually have tickets to a game, you can take one of Beer Bistro’s free shuttle buses to United Center Arena. For the more discriminating, martini-drinking sports fan, Union Park bills itself as an upscale sports bar. But when you find yourself hootin’ and hollerin’ at one of the 15 plasma TV screens for your favorite team you may come to realize that a sports bar is just a sports bar, no matter what type of beverage it serves. Ceres Cafe is a hangout spot for the financial district crowd but you'll find a tourist or two in the mix. The menu is on the healthy side with pasta and fish options winning out over the traditional red meat fare. For a more sophisticated drinking experience, Fulton Lounge doesn't disappoint with a creative drink menu and outdoor patio. Plush is another comfortable West Loop hangout that boasts great food, outdoor seating and a laid back vibe. If you want to dance in the West Loop head to the trendy Transit but be prepared to stand in line for the opportunity. It gets a little crowded.

It’s pretty easy to traveling about the West Loop neighborhood, whether you have a car or are on foot. The CTA's Grand Avenue bus runs along the northern border and the Ashland and Halsted routes run along the western and eastern borders, respectively. For trips out of the city, you can catch a Greyhound or Trailways bus at the Greyhound Terminal. Two highways (I-90/94 and I-290) run through the neighborhood as do the Green, Pink and Blue Line “L” trains. You can also catch the Metra commuter line at Union Station.

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