Matt Kirouac

As the weather begins to cooperate again, speedy dashes downtown to get indoors away from the cold turn into leisurely strolls enjoying the weather and the sights. And of course, most strolls should culminate with a nice meal, so while perusing Chicago's Loop, be sure and incorporate some of downtown's best dining destinations into your sightseeing expeditions. Here are a few standouts not to miss.

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tesori (65 E. Adams St.)

tesori family style menu

Chicago is certainly not lacking in fine Italian fare, but one that stands out in the Loop is tesori. With its chef-driven menu and seasonal wine list, tesori serves some of the best Italian cuisine in town, ideal fuel for a day of tourism in the heart of the city. Their pizza is second-to-none, but be sure and save room for antipasti like braised veal cheeks and meatballs, and their incomparable housemade pastas, like tagliatelle with duck bolognese, crab-laced chitarra, and lasagna striated with sausage, ricotta, and kale. And that's just the tip of the salacious iceberg at this Italian Mecca.

 

The Berghoff (17 W. Adams St.)

Matt Kirouac

A trip to the Loop is not complete without a meal at the historic Berghoff Restaurant. One of the most iconic and longstanding restaurants in Chicago, this German temple has certainly earned its place in local dining lore. Find out why with their killer schnitzel, toothsome knockwurst, Bavarian pretzels with beer cheese sauce, and savorous sauerbraten splashed with sweet and sour gravy. All that in a transportive dining room that makes you feel like you've been swept away to an old-world German beer hall in the heart of the Loop.

 

Exchequer Restaurant and Pub (226 S. Wabash Ave.)

Matt Kirouac

Nestled under the El tracks on Wabash Avenue, you'll find a bygone slice of old-school Chicago. Exchequer Pub is the real deal tavern, the type of spot frequented by mobsters like Al Capone and co. in their day. The place feels preserved in time, awash in historical photography and regularly visited by mobster tour groups. The food is as comfortable and enriching as the space, with a crowd-pleasing menu that runs the gamut from deep-dish pizza (Roger Ebert cited it as some of his favorite pizza in town) and burgers to hulking corned beef sandwiches and barbecue.

 

Poag Mahone's (333 S. Wells St.)

Matt Kirouac

Speaking of burgers, if it's ground beef you're craving then pay a visit to Poag Mahone's. The cavernous pub is renowned for their burgers, which are all grass-fed and hand-formed into thick, juicy patties studded with toppings like cheese, bacon, lettuce, and tomato that serve to accentuate the beef and let it shine. Fresh pretzel buns are the vehicle of choice for the burgers, adjoined by all-important fries. Round it all out with a beer and you've got a meal fit for a champion.

 

Park Grill (11 N. Michigan Ave.)

Matt Kirouac

No trip to the Loop is complete without a stopover at Millennium Park. While your jaws are agape at the marvelous architecture and scenery there, you might as well make room for some food at Park Grill. The illustrious park restaurant features an eclectic menu of American and international favorites, from margherita flatbreads and lobster mac & cheese to fish & chips and beer-battered cheese curds. There's undoubtedly something for everyone here, which is especially enjoyable on its patio, one of the largest in the city with front row views of downtown Chicago.

Photos: tesori, The Berghoff, Exchequer Restaurant and Pub, Poag Mahone's, Park Grill