NFT Chicago West Loop Gate / Greek Town

West Loop Gate / Greek Town

Essentials
Trains, buses and gyros define this 'hood. From suburban 9 to 5-ers arriving on the Metra at Union Station to Megabus passengers traveling on a mega-budget, this is commuter central. While plenty of lofts have risen to jump start residential growth, there are an equal number of gritty pockets here, too. Not surprising when you consider that some passengers buy their bus tickets for $1, is it?

Sundries/Entertainment
This marks the beginning of foodie central in Chicago. Randolph Street includes some of the best upscale eats, from Girl and the Goat-related Little Goat to the date-friendly Avec. On a budget? Head to Mr. Greek Gyros. Wash it all down with a craft beer at See more.

>Haymarket Brewing.




         


This Neighborhood Featured in...
Kitchen of Dreams

By Jill Jaracz
The equipage of the kitchen: the stockpile of the heart. Do you have what it takes to furnish your cooking space? Join Jill Jaracz on a culinary voyage 'twixt Oriental crockery and mass-produced Swedish stuff, as Jill prepares to lavish you with the secret of her sparkling kitchen: the addresses of the stores she patronizes, and some suggestions. Get ready to cook something. I hope it's tasty and doesn't take til 3 am. I hate that.

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On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Jill Jaracz
Photo:  Jill Jaracz

Artopolis Bakery & Café
If you live or work anywhere near Greek Town, put Artopolis on your list of lunch spots. The cafe part of this cafe/bakery/marketplace is located in the back of the room, with a menu of salads, sandwiches, soups, pizzas, and "artopitas," which are phyllo dough pies stuffed with a variety of fillings. Try their take on spanikopita, a spinach and feta cheese pie. Greek flavors influence the menu, and if fall and winter are good for anything, they're good for Greek-style lemon rice soup. Artopolis' version of this classic makes for a perfect lunch. The bakery counter has an assortment of tempting pastries. The "agora," or marketplace, is scattered around the rest of the store, with wines, liquors, and groceries like olives available for sale. Artopolis is a fantastic spot for lunch, and it's also an inviting place to sit for an afternoon and enjoy a book and a Greek coffee or a cocktail.



Posted By:  Jill Jaracz
Photo:  Jill Jaracz

Pan Hellenic Pastry Shop
Nothing defines an ethnic neighborhood better than its local bakery, and Pan Hellenic Pastry Shop does an excellent job of bringing Greek-style baked goods to Chicago. One cabinet features a variety of cookies sold by the pound. Indulge in butter cookies and almond-based cookies, or sample a cake slice or eclair. A second display case is devoted to sweet Greek favorites like baklava and sesame candy. These sensations drip with honey and nuts and are so sinfully delicious that it takes incredible willpower to eat just one. If sweets aren't your thing, they also prepare a number of savory dishes, such as various phyllo pies stuffed with fresh ingredients. Pan Hellenic also bakes their own bread and packages pastries to go for when you're in a hurry. Or if you're not, order a pastry and coffee, pull up a chair, and enjoy the view of the Sears Tower.



Posted By:  Tatyana Zaprudskaya
Photo:  Tatyana Zaprudskaya

Marche
The name of this French bistro means market, but something must have gotten lost in translation because the dramatic Moulin Rouge-esque décor is nothing like any peasant market I've been too (lately). The large warehouse space is filled with whimsical theatrical touches: shelves are lined with antiques, umbrellas hang from the ceilings, seatbacks are in the shape of joker's hats, vintage posters and drawings adorn the walls, and the paint job is a vibrant backdrop to your meal! The only relatively simple aspect of the place is the open kitchen where you can see chefs slaving over your meal. For French food connoisseurs, the food is a slightly watered down, Americanized version, but nonetheless commendable, with some quirky touches on standard bistro fare. It's a bit on the expensive side, but if you can make it out on Monday or Wednesday nights, they have a very reasonable three course prix-fixe dinner for under 30 bucks. Seriously, the amazing design alone is worth a trip.



Posted By:  Jill Jaracz
Photo:  Jill Jaracz

Venice Cafe
When you first walk into this popular West Loop Italian lunch spot, the mobs of people might feel overwhelming. Don't panic, just pick a line based on what food you want--pasta and sandwiches, salads, or pizza and calzones--and be surprised at how fast it moves. The staff keeps everything running like clockwork so that you can get in and out quickly. Portions here are substantial and filling, and you can choose from a variety of pastas and sauces. Pasta and salad dishes also come with big, fluffy rolls. Prices are incredibly reasonable, and if you're a fan of the pasta, make sure you get a frequent customer card that entitles you to a free meal after you purchase ten. They also have a breakfast menu that's mainly egg dishes and breakfast sandwiches. A second location in the basement of the Sears Tower is open for lunch only.



Posted By:  Jill Jaracz
Photo:  Jill Jaracz

Sepia
"How are you enjoying the flavors?" our waiter asked during a recent visit to Sepia. Having devoured my roasted cod served over a bed of saffron noodles and accented with delicious wild boar sausage, I managed to refrain from blurting out that yes, I enjoyed the flavors so much I was thinking about licking the plate. After every course. But with such fine ingredients and good execution, it's not difficult to say that about the food at Sepia. This is also a great place if you just want to hang out at a bar and drink a really good cocktail. Head mixologist Peter Vestinos has put together a fine menu of pre-Prohibition cocktails and seasonal drinks that will knock your socks off. Mixed to perfection with fine spirits and fresh fruits and herbs, one of these cocktails is a perfect way to accent your meal or enjoy with an appetizer.



Posted By:  Elissa Pociask
Photo:  Elissa Pociask

Pan Hellenic Pastry Shop
For a new take on cheese and crackers, spice up your next soiree with some Greektown specialties from the Pan Hellenic Pastry Shop. Even if it is dubbed the “poor man’s caviar,” a jar of taramosalata with a hunk of freshly baked sesame bread is sure to dazzle fellow partygoers. If you get stuck bringing dessert, Pan Hellenic offers authentic Greek pastry spreads, featuring crispy baklava, cream puffs, and pretty little cookies. So even if you weren’t so lucky as to get assigned napkins and plates, this should give you enough ammo to impress. You’ll sure make the guy who brings the veggie platter look like a jerk.



Posted By:  Elissa Pociask
Photo:  Elissa Pociask

Northwestern Cutlery
If you like to cook, but can live without $35 paisley oven mitts or heart-shaped egg poachers, check out the spread at Northwestern Cutlery Supply. A friendly mustachioed staff member will sharpen your knives on a series of industrial machines while you graze over the dense selection of cast iron pans, strainers, graters and so much more. Who knew you could find a mortar and pestle for your guac without having to sift through shelves of ceramic roosters? The parking is free, and the price tag is notably less than those frou-frou cookware spots. Now if only they'd contract the lady peddling tooth-picked cheese samples.



Posted By:  Nina Williams
Photo:  Nina Williams

N9NE Steakhouse
Mirrored tiles cascade down a center pole, which houses a variety of top shelf liquor at one of two bars located in N9ne. This beautifully decorated space has an apt amount of glowing blue hues set amongst a sea of dark wood and the occasional piece of stainless steel. The open dining room reveals a mix of couples, families, and a lot of tourists. I ordered the Apple salad, which had the perfect consistency of sliced apples, wintergreens, endive, and candied walnuts smothered in vinaigrette, followed by one of two specials that night. I chose the seared Ahi tuna, which sat upon a bed of mashed potatoes, chick peas, and green beans. It was absolutely delicious. Although pricy, the atmosphere mixed with the quality of the food makes for an excellent dining experience. Most of the staff was attentive, but our main server was a bit absentminded. I would go again, but only on a special occasion.



Posted By:  Nina Williams
Photo:  Nina Williams

Nar Hookah
Missing your college days? If so, then head over to Nar Hookah. More like a club than an actual hookah bar, it’s located on the Near West side, attracting an eclectic array of clientele. Jumping after 11:30 pm this Hookah bar is beyond reasonably priced, it’s downright cheap. Maybe that’s because of its sparse decor. There aren’t any pillows or rugs so the atmosphere isn’t very comfy, but service is friendly and the DJ is good. They also offer a plethora of tobacco flavors; one concoction in particular is called the fruity pebble. Beware of the lame five dollar cover after 10 pm.



Posted By:  Annie Anderson
Photo:  Annie Anderson

Recently at Avec, topics of conversation with our server included Neil Young, Wisconsin cheese, and HBO. Pretty mundane stuff considering the setting, a place of stratospheric hipness, with its stark wood walls (the space has been likened to a spa), long stainless steel bar and bevy of West Loop lookers. If you can get over the huddled masses of Seven Jeans and Benetton button-downs, the setting, the service, and the food will make you jump for joy. The food is rustic Mediterranean fare; there are small plates and large plates, and sharing is expected. You may even get an offer of braised octopus or wine-pickled manchego cheese from your neighboring diners, whom you will be sitting practically on top of in this narrow, communal space. Staples of the Avec experience—it is a scene, and I actually dress up for the food—include the house-marinated olives, chorizo-stuffed bacon-wrapped Medjool dates, and tallegio cheese focaccia. It’s hard to keep your wits about you with such heady food, but try to keep your eyes peeled—Avec is a dining destination for well-known local and international chefs. Sample Avec’s vittles and you’ll see why. Avec does not take reservations. Expect to wait if you arrive after 6:30.



Posted By:  Josannah Birman
Photo:  Josannah Birman

Venus Greek-Cypriot Cuisine
Venus is the new Greek kid in town. It boasts decor reminiscent of Cyprus: the facade of a typical island dwelling, a faux stucco roof, and if that isn’t enough, a dark wooden fishing boat seems to have drifted in to be used as the bar. Sit beneath the red vine-covered lattice and order the saganaki, fried feta cheese, which is as entertaining as it is delicious. After watching a server flambé this traditional Greek appetizer tableside, awestruck kids usually petition their parents to order one of their own. The kleftiko, lamb that is slow baked for six hours, is flavorful although there is no need to unwrap it tableside to prove it was cooked in foil. Servers move slowly, even by Mediterranean standards, so after waiting for thirty minutes to order dessert some may decide to skip it. Still can’t decide about this place? Here are two words that might help—complimentary valet.



Posted By:  Tamara Matthews
Photo:  Tamara Matthews

Drop your ginkgo biloba infused, annoyingly pun-happy chain-store smoothie right now! Seriously, right now. There’s a better smoothie to be found and it resides just north of Greektown. But you may say, “That other smoothie place is right down the street!” I say, it’s worth the trip. You can still get your smoothie with vitamins and minerals tossed in, but without a cutesy name that tries too hard. Did I say this was a smoothie place? Sorry, smoothies are like a bonus but not the point of this joint. They have some serious food here and you know a place is serious when a regular burger comes standard with grilled onions on it. Not just grilled onions but caramelized onions. The selections get imaginative—think zucchini sandwich or creamy BBQ salad dressing—but not at the expense of tasting good. There’s a sandwich to suit every taste: veggie, chicken, deli cold cuts, Italian beef, fish, and even New York strip steak. The salads constitute an entire meal and there’s even dessert! Now you know why the orange-headed mascot is smiling.



Posted By:  David Macey
Photo:  David Macey

Lou Mitchell's
The iconic American highway, Route 66, began its cross country journey in downtown Chicago. The location of a quintessential American Diner in the loop, therefore, should come as no surprise. That aforementioned diner is Lou Mitchell’s, and it is to breakfast and commuters what the Billy Goat tavern is to lunch and alcoholic journalists. Originally opened in 1923 as one of the first pit stops on Route 66, Lou Mitchell’s continues to reign as the king of Chicago breakfasts. Patient patrons (there is almost always a line out the door) are served warm homemade donut holes as they wait for what could easily be the only meal they need all day. Once inside you are greeted with an extra large menu that covers almost every option known to humankind. For first timers I would stick with their huge cheesy omelets or tall stack of pancakes. Be careful, many dishes come on pre-heated skillets that keep your food warm so can consume all 4,000 calories of the meal at your own leisure without it going cold. Lunch is equally impressive and the massive open faced Reuben is at the top of my list. In true old-school fashion, Lou Mitchell’s is cash only.



Posted By:  William Moy
Photo:  William Moy

Designed by DeStefano + Partners, this dynamic skyscraper in the West Loop is sharp in more ways than one. Opening in 2004 as the flagship for ABN AMRO/LaSalle Bank’s consolidated technology center, this 29-story tower features a dramatically angular exterior design. This is the first phase of a potentially larger design scheme, but it still sings as a standalone high-rise entity. In this regard it is related to the Kenzo Tange-designed American Medical Association Headquarters, which also features acute angles thanks to its triangular motif. The floor plan of the ABN building is basically a parallelogram, which sprouts into glistening metallic edges at its crown and along its acute vertical edge at the southeast corner. The exterior is faced with greenish glass that is somewhat reminiscent of the gently curving 333 West Wacker Drive Building along the Chicago River. A close-up of the tower looks like a ship’s prow or a multi-bladed razor, while broadside vantage points of the minimalist curtain wall seem dynamically pixilated. It is an outwardly sophisticated high-tech design that parallels the cutting-edge technology engaged throughout the structure.



Posted By:  Kelly Pucci
Photo:  Kelly Pucci

Not exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer? Kevin can help. Kevin puts his nose to the grindstone six days a week at Northwestern Cutlery. Well, not literally his nose. Kevin puts knifes, scissors and tools to his watercooled grindstone, repairing chips, fixing broken tips and restoring edges. While you wait in line with professional chefs who can’t fillet, dice or chop without Kevin’s expertise, browse the retail store, where you’ll find shelves of fun gadgets and professional equipment. Buy a chef’s jacket and floppy hat for under $20. Need a $200 stainless steel knife to go with your outfit? How about a plastic knife for $3.30? Manufactured by Zyliss and guaranteed to cut bread and brownies, it’s available in yellow, red, pink or blue.



Posted By:  Tommy Newcomb
Photo:  Tommy Newcomb

Nine Muses
If you’re near Greektown, be sure to visit Nine Muses for terrific Greek food. On my last visit, I sat in the patio section on a gorgeous summer evening. I was in heaven people-watching and drinking a cup of their specialty: Greek iced coffee. The portions are grand and the food is fresh and delightful. If you stay late enough, Nine Muses starts hopping when it converts from a restaurant to a nightclub. The bar is wellstocked and a DJ often shows up to rock the joint. If you’re there on a weekend it’s likely that the party will continue until 3 am—Greek-style of course. The wine will flow and you’ll soon feel like a regular when you’re swept up in the energy.




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Restaurants (37)
Nightlife (9)
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