18 Fulton Market Restaurants You Need to Check Out

Aba (Photo by Christina Slaton.)

The West Loop is the neighborhood bounded by the Chicago River to the east, Grand Avenue to the north, Ashland to the west, and I-290 to the south. It has exploded with activity in the past 10 years; at any given moment, you’ll find umpteen construction cranes, all hell-bent on urban domination. All these new condos, companies, and restaurants mean parking is scarce, and God only knows where the valets are taking your car. Skyrocketing rents in the West Loop have forced restaurateurs and hoteliers to develop properties that look beyond West Randolph Street, the West Loop’s main artery and Chicago’s undisputed Restaurant Row. Just north of it you’ll find the Fulton Market District, which is staking its own claim to the hearts and stomachs of Chicagoans.

Aba

302 N. Green St., 3rd Floor

 

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This is Lettuce Entertain You’s second restaurant with Chef CJ Jacobson — the first being River North’s Ema — and he’s chosen a meat-centric focus on Mediterranean cuisine. It’s also currently one of the hottest tables in town.

The Aviary

955 W. Fulton Market

 

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A slew of local, national, and even international awards testifies to the uniqueness of Grant Achatz’ artisanal-to-the-nth-degree cocktail bar. Molecular gastronomy in a glass.

Beatrix

834 W. Fulton Market

 

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Beatrix cafés and markets are making their mark on Chicago neighborhoods. A pet project of Lettuce’s founder Rich Melman, it features healthy but super-craveable menu options, juices, and an inspiring selection of house-made bakery items.

Carnivale

702 W. Fulton Market

 

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Back when Fulton Market was still lined with meat-packing companies, Carnivale forged a path for future West Loop restaurant dominance. The fanciful, technicolor interior and the spirited Latin-Fusion cuisine still brings in the crowds, especially for special events.

Cemitas Puebla

817 W. Fulton Market

 

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Although it’s a little more modern in feel than the Humboldt Park original, the Milanesa Cemita (breaded pork loin sandwich) is still a stunner, and the house-made sesame seed rolls and chipotle sauce make every sandwich worth eating.

City Mouse

311 N. Morgan St.

 

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Chef Jason Vincent’s (Giant) side hustle is located in the hip Ace Hotel Chicago, just a half block north of Fulton Market. Cheffed-up modern comfort foods are available from morning ‘til night, and they’ve got a killer cocktail list from star mixologist Caitlin Laman.

Duck Duck Goat

857 W. Fulton Market

 

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“Top Chef” winner Stephanie Izard is the Midas of Chicago restaurants — everything she touches turns gold. This super-popular spot serves “reasonably authentic” Chinese food, including a number of goat dishes, not surprisingly.

Fulton Market Kitchen

311 N. Sangamon St.

 

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Locally sourced ingredients shine in Chef Chris Curren’s rustic but still sophisticated cuisine. The multi-course Feed Me, Chef! feast and large-format dishes meant for sharing are highlights.

Gus’ World-Famous Fried Chicken

847 W. Fulton Market

Talk about finger-lickin’ good … this Memphis import is serving up some very fine fried chicken, and the tenders are terrific. Fried pickles are a must.

Kuma’s Corner

852 W. Fulton Market

The celebrated Kuma’s rock-‘n-roll burgers have made it to the West Loop, and you’ve got to appreciate their consistent and meaningful support for local charities and heavy metal groups alike. Look for that local flavor to carry on to their beer list as well.

La Sirena Clandestina

954 W. Fulton Market

 

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Chef John Manion loves the food of South America — he lived in Brazil as a child, and spent time in the kitchens of Argentina — and that translates to delicious empanadas, ceviche, and Moqueca (a coconut-laced Brazilian seafood stew) and grilled meats with herby chimichurri.

Next

953 W. Fulton Market

The menu theme at Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas’ James Beard Award-winning Next evolves a few times a year, and under the watchful eye of Executive Chef Jenner Tomaska, the multi-course meals continue their relevance. The non-alcoholic beverage pairings are particularly astonishing. The current menu, “Alinea: 2011-2015,” will run through January 2019.

The Publican

837 W. Fulton Market

 

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Emphatically not for the kosher at heart — oysters and pork rule the day here — Paul Kahan and Donnie Madia’s Publican is Chicago’s answer to a European beer hall, but with much better food. Don’t miss the Country Ribs or the Farm Chicken, and hoist a pint or two to the well-chosen craft beer list.

Publican Quality Meats

825 W. Fulton Market

Across the street from the Publican is this combo butcher shop/café/gourmet market. Charcuterie and freshly made sausages are the stars, but you’ll also find unique pantry provisions, fabulous crusty breads, and spectacular sandwiches.

Punch Bowl Social

310 N. Green St., 2nd Floor

 

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This enormous venue — nearly 30,000 square feet — is gamers’ nirvana, from ping pong and bocce to bowling and billiards. Comfort foods (chicken ‘n’ waffles, Sloppy Joes, burgers, nachos, etc.) are the name of the game.

Ramen Takeya

819 W. Fulton Market

The ramen craze is still going strong in Chicago, and this Logan Square transplant does a fine version. Their selection of Japanese whisky is impressive, or enjoy a still or sparkling sake as you happily slurp your noodles.

Roister

951 W. Fulton Market

One of the unremittingly loudest restaurants in town (the chef is fond of hip hop and heavy metal at top volume, and it’s nearly impossible to have a conversation), the food is special. The choice is yours to make (but if you do go, the shrimp and grits and the whole chicken are both must-orders).

Swift & Sons / Cold Storage

1000 W. Fulton Market

The Boka Group hit it out of the park with this stunning temple to beef. Executive Chef Chris Pandel treats his proteins with great respect. Next door, Cold Storage showcases raw and tinned shellfish, craft cocktails and beers, and has a killer happy hour Monday-Friday from 3-6 p.m.

 

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Julie Chernoff, Make It Better’s dining editor since its inception in 2007, graduated from Yale University with a degree in English — which she speaks fluently — and added a professional chef’s degree from the California Culinary Academy. She has worked for Boz ScaggsRick Bayless, and Wolfgang Puck (not all at the same time); and sits on the boards of Les Dames d’Escoffier International and Northlight Theatre. She and husband Josh are empty nesters since adult kids Adam and Leah have flown the coop. Rosie the Cockapoo relishes the extra attention.