Photo courtesy of Vera Chicago
Chicago’s recently evolved West Loop neighborhood has transformed from an area that used to be filled with factories and wholesale warehouses into the city’s official restaurant row. Strolling down Randolph or Fulton Market brings a nonstop line up of the hottest restaurants in the city, many with top chefs and Michelin stars. But all that buzz means that some great but low key spots get overlooked for flashier eateries. Here are a few West Loop hidden treasures that are worth a visit or two or three.
Sure, this charming, family owned dining spot was listed as the second best pizza in Chicago, which is no small feat in this pizza-crazed city. But Macello’s offers so much more than pizza, (which happens to be spectacular). Located on an easy to miss corner on Lake Street, Macello’s looks unassuming on the outside but inside, it’s a whole world of upscale Italian goodness.
Photo by Rosalind Cummings-Yeates
The first thing that helps the restaurant stand out is that it’s the only eatery in the city that focuses on cuisine from Puglia, an agricultural region that produces 40 percent of Italy’s olive oil and a lot of its wine. So fresh tastes are a highlight of the menu that features hand-crafted orecchiette, calamari, grilled octopus, lamb chop and wafer-thin pizzas from wood-burning ovens that will make you cry, it’s so good. With colorful murals, vividly colored fiberglass lamps and gracious service, Macello’s will win over anybody who enters into this welcoming space.
This cozy wine bar tucked under the tracks of the Green Line is a neighborhood secret just waiting to get out. Vera Chicago charms with Spanish bar cuisine and a warm ambiance that’s as inviting as the well-curated Sherry offerings. The focus is on small plates but there’s nothing small about their quality. Look for traditional cod croquettes, Serrano ham and Shrimp a la plancha to pair with the extensive European wine list. There are also excellent full plates like half a chicken with seasonal vegetables and blood sausage but don’t miss the lobster paella served only on Sunday.
Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken
I couldn’t believe my eyes or luck when this Memphis staple opened on an industrial corner of the West Loop. I had gorged myself on Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken the last time I was in Memphis, convinced that I’d never taste the crisp and spicy flavor until I visited again.
Well much to the chagrin of the dozens of Southern fried chicken knockoffs that have been fooling hipsters in the city, Gus’s has arrived and it’s the real deal. There’s nothing fancy or trendy about the Fulton Market location, just a simple array of light or dark meat chicken pieces with the essential sides of fried pickles, fried green tomatoes and fried okra. But it’s a tantalizing flavor that you’ll not find anywhere else in Chicago.