An easy jaunt directly south of Chicago's central business district, the South Loop is like downtown's mellow older sibling. Less crowded and cantankerous than the Loop, this homey ‘hood provides a leisurely escape from the hustle and bustle, filled with lots of charming restaurants and cafes just a hop and a skip away from the Red, Green, and Orange Lines at the Roosevelt Stop, not to mention any number of buses that traffic up and down State St. and Michigan Ave. Here are some of the South Loop's tastiest tidbits.
Start your day off right with a plateful of gourmet waffles. This brunch-centric spot shatters the toaster waffle stigma via crafty creations such as red velvet waffles with strawberry compote, green tea waffles with lemon-ginger Chantilly cream, cheddar and short rib waffles studded with four-year aged cheddar and coffee-braised beef, and even a waffle Benedict subbing dainty Liege waffles for English muffins.
For some of the tastiest lunch/deli fare in the city, head to Panozzo's Italian Market. The name belies the fact that this is essentially a gourmet counter service restaurant turning out some seriously delicious and innovative Italian sandwiches and entrees. Don't miss the hulking meatballs, the porchetta, or the crescentine sandwiches, an Italian tradition served on chewy flatbread that is pan-fried to achieve a delicate crust and sheen.
It doesn't get more sophisticated in the South Loop than Acadia, a glistening jewel of a restaurant, offering fine dining in a comfortable setting. The seasonal tasting menus are where it's at, taking guests on a lavish tour of Midwestern and coastal ingredients. For those looking for something more casual, the bar menu is second-to-none, featuring oysters, lobster rolls, mussels, and one of the best burgers in the city.
For superb tapas and some of the best cocktails around, wind your way through the Blackstone Hotel to Mercat a la Planxa. The palatial restaurant boasts stunning views of Grant Park and a wow-inducing roster of contemporary Spanish dishes large and small all day long. Paella, flatbreads, and tapas such as lamb meatballs with foie gras cream, fried padron peppers, and ham and chorizo croquettes are all apt company for Mercat's reputable beverage program. Along with wine and beer, you won't want to pass up Mercat's seasonal sangrias or sangria flights, or their always-interesting specialty cocktails.
You'd be remiss in coming to the South Loop without stopping into Manny's Cafeteria and Delicatessen. What Katz's is to New York City, Manny's is to Chicago. Open in its current location since 1964, Manny's is rife with nostalgia and vintage Americana charm. Diners shuffle along a cafeteria line as weathered staffers fill plates with pastrami, matzo balls, corned beef, latkes, and lots more. The food, the vibe, and the service all combine to make for a tasty trip to a bygone era.
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