The West Loop of Chicago has gone through several major transformations throughout the years, enjoying an upswing with an ever-growing popularity. Once an area of factories and warehouses, the West Loop is now a buzzing, exciting, electric community. One of the highlights of this area is that the home of the Chicago Blackhawks and Chicago Bulls, the United Center, is also located here.
Now that all of the warehouses have been converted into lofts and luxury condos, a thriving nightlife has built up around them. Many professionals live in the West Loop now for its convenient access to downtown Chicago. Harpo Studios, where Oprah Winfrey films her show, is located in the heart of the neighborhood.
The West Loop is two miles west of the Chicago Loop. It’s bordered by the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad to the north, the Pennsylvania Railroad to the west, the Chicago River to the east, and 16th Street to the south.
Surrounding the neighborhood are the Chicago communities of Garfield Park to the west, Ukrainian Village to the north, the Chicago Loop to the east, and Pilsen to the south.
Density 9,500/sq mi
Source: U.S. Census, Record Information Services
Jefferson Park was created in 1850, and Union Park in 1854, as an escape for Chicago’s elite from the bustle of the business district. TheGreat Chicago Fire of 1871 forced many to relocate and soon the West Loop was refuge to over 200,000 people.
By the 1870s, the middle class became the majority around Union Park, as the wealthier families moved out. The 1870s and 1880s saw the area thrive as a center for employment. Its convenient location near the railroads and to factories contributed largely.
In 1889, Jane Addams, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and Ellen Starr decided to turn the slums of the Near West Side into America’s first settlement home, the Hull House. The region became known as “The Hull House Neighborhood”, and was a buzzing and thriving community of immigrants.
The community changed drastically in the middle of the 20th century when the creation of the Chicago Circle Expressway all but wiped out Greektown. Soon after, the construction of the expansive University of Illinois at Chicago demolished the Hull House complex.
The riots after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 left a trail of destruction in its path that the Near West Side was unable to recover from for quite some time.
The latter part of the 20th century saw a rise in real-estate values, and the construction of the United Center made the community attractive to the middle class again. Continued growth and an influx of affluent and eclectic people have put the West Loop back on the map as one of Chicago’s more favorable communities to live in.
The constantly changing and evolving community of the West Loop has now become a region preferred by professionals looking to live close to their work in the Chicago Loop.
Industrial Parks and warehouses have been refashioned as residential apartments and homes. High-rise office buildings and residential buildings have been erected. Lofts and luxury townhouses now mingle with the eclectic architectural patchwork of the West Loop.
The West Loop has transformed itself numerous times over the years. Once a place for factories and warehouses, this neighborhood is now a buzzing and electric place for nightlife.
Beer Bistro (1061 W Madison St, 312-433-0013) is about the basics: beer, good food, and people. The staff at the Beer Bistro are beer aficionados, ready to suggest or pick that perfect pint for you. And with 20 beers on tap, 130 bottles, and 15 different canned beers, you may need a little assistance!
At WestEnd Bar (1326 W Madison St, 312-981-7100), you will find sophistication without pretension. WestEnd Bar is a neighborhood bar where the staff is friendly and the pub fare hits the spot. With 33 Plasma TVs throughout the bar, WestEnd is also a great spot to get together with friends and watch a game.
Union Park Lounge (228 S Racine St, 312-243-9002) continues with the comfortable neighborhood scene of the West Loop bars and lounges. You will find great specials every day, and with Chef Richard Castillo manning the kitchen, your burger will be done just right. Union Park Lounge is also an official partner of U.S. Soccer, the Chicago Blackhawks and the Chicago Fire.
Bon V Nightclub (1100 W Randolph St, 312-829-4805) is a buzzing venue full of good music, beautiful people, and great drink specials. Featured DJs have included: DJ Neil Beats, DJ Spin, and DJ Tsunami.
Transit Nightclub (1431 W Lake St, 312-491-8600) has three rooms, each with a different spin and music playing, themed events, affordable drinks, and an electric atmosphere. Featuring all kinds of music, from reggaeton to hip hop to pop rock to salsa, and more, you are sure to find something to groove to.
Harpo Studios (1058 W Washington Blvd, Chicago, IL 60607), the site of the Oprah Winfrey Show, is the West Loop’s brightest star of the entertainment world. People from all over the country flock to the West Loop to attend the Oprah Winfrey Show.
The United Center (1901 W Madison St, 312-455-4500) is, of course, the West Loop’s other shining star. The United Center was opened in 1994, and is America’s largest arena. Home to the Chicago Bulls and the 2010 and 2013 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks, the United Center also hosts concerts! The United Center is also site to world-famous tourist attraction, the Michael Jordan Statue.
Bottom Lounge (1375 W Lake St, 312-666-6775) is a West Loop hotspot featuring everything from indie rock to hip hop. The restaurant at the Bottom Lounge specializes in American comfort food, and promises a casual dining experience upstairs, downstairs, or on the patio.
Redmoon Theater (1463 W Hubbard St, 312-850-8440) is the West Loop’s spot for unique, interesting theater. Specializing in a mix of modern and ancient theatrical forms, Redmoon Theater’s eclectic productions include Hunchback, Winter Pageant, Spectacle Lunatique, and Dr. Egg and the Man With No Ear.
Mars Gallery (1149 W Fulton Market, 312-226-7808) is literally right on top of one of the Earth’s “energy vortex circles,” according to highly trained parapsychologists. Now, what that means, no one exactly knows, but the art at this gallery is sure to inspire you even if the vortex doesn’t. Mars Gallery specializes in pop art and outsider art.
With all of the entertainment and nightlife options in the West Loop, what the community is really known for is its restaurants. With Little Italy and Greektown, residents are treated to exciting and authentic cuisine with an old world feel.
Carnivale (702 W Fulton Market, 312-850-5005) is a chic, vibrant restaurant specializing in the dishes of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Argentina, El Salvador and Mexico. The cuisine of Carnivale is complemented by salsa music and a bright décor.
The Publican (837 W Fulton Market, 312-733-9555) is designed as a European beer hall, but it’s their rustic, farmhouse fare that really makes Publican stand out. Going back to basics, the Publican menu serves up meat, fish, and vegetables. They are well-known for their superbly fresh oysters, Belgian-style mussels, and pork schnitzel.
Avec (615 W Randolph St, 312-377-2002) is a wine bar with a contemporary design. A modern dining experience, Avec offers an extensive wine list and its menu is divided into small plates, large plates, salumi, salads, and cheese. Avec wants the diner to dictate what dishes they want, when each should arrive, and how much they prefer to compliment their wines. Thus, blurring the traditional, chronological order of dining.
Blackbird (619 W Randolph St, 312-715-0708) is another modern and trendy gem of the West Loop’s dining options. Executive Chef Paul Kahan delivers soulful culinary masterpieces with a passion for seasonality and creativity. Blackbird offers a $22 pre fixe menu during lunch.
Greek Islands Restaurant (200 S Halsted St, Chicago, Illinois 60661) is a Chicago classic. Serving only the best ingredients directly from Greece, Greek Islands Restaurant has stayed true to their principles of great food, values, and service for nearly 40 years.
Athena Restaurant (212 S Halsted St #1, Chicago, IL 60661) is another of many fabulous Greek restaurants in the West Loop. Athena Restaurant has outdoor seating and free valet parking. A warm and inviting atmosphere, Athena Restaurant serves up high quality Greek cuisine such as braised lamb, dolmades, moussaka, pastitsio, and gyros.
The Rosebud (1500 W Taylor St, Chicago, IL 60607) is a quaint little Italian restaurant in the heart of Little Italy. The Rosebud has a warm and rich atmosphere, with large ornate mirrors, dim lighting, and oil painting on the wall. Transporting its diners to an earlier time!
Tuscany (1014 W Taylor St, 312-829-1990) is well-known for their roasted garlic, herb and olive oil dipping sauce, as well as a friendly and attentive staff. Residents of the West Loop will frequent the place just for that, although they have an array of delectable dishes to offer as well.
Pitchfork Music Festival takes place every summer featuring the best indie-rock, pop rock, electronic, and pop music around. Taking place at Union Park, Pitchfork Music Festival has become a summer staple for the music lovers of Chicago, and is only rivaled by Lollapalooza.
Near West Fest is a new summer festival celebrating the fast growing community with live music, DJs, vendor booths, and tons of great food. Taking place along Van Buren Avenue in Malcolm X College’s Outdoor Plaza, Near West Fest promises to make resident’s of West Loop proud while they show off one of Chicago’s increasingly worst kept secrets.
The Randolph Street Market Festival is another fun summertime event. It features an awesome selection of vintage and modern decorative objects, vintage clothing, home furnishing, art, fashion, toys, collectibles, and jewelry. It takes place in the historic Randolph Street Market District.
Union Park has been site to the famous three-day Pitchfork Music Festival and is a perfect place for bike riding, picnicking, and relaxing. There are also two baseball diamonds for league play and pickup games, as well as a pool.
Skinner Park is run as a non-profit outside of the Chicago Park District. It’s located at 1400 W Adams, and its supporters strive to “make Skinner Park a masterpiece in urban park design and planning.” Skinner Park is a great place to take the dog and let the kids have fun at the playground.
Whether it is looking for the correct kitchen table or what color to paint your new bathroom, deciding on what Chicago neighborhood best fits your dream home is just as much a factor. That is why Baird & Warner has provided a list of the best restaurants, bars, shopping, entertainment, schools, and transportation options in most of the Chicago neighborhoods. Our neighborhood online resource is the best of Yelp, Metromix, Chicago Tribune and the MLS all combined into one page for all your real estate needs!