Chicago – West Loop

The West Loop has changed drastically since its beginnings as an industrial area. Now home to some of the city’s most sought-after residences, locals know that their neighborhood is, in many ways, the place to be. Visitors, drawn by the wide variety of attractions and events the neighborhood has to offer, are quickly persuaded of the same.

From Halsted to Damen, and Madison Street north to Grand Avenue, the West Loop neighborhood is a mix of lofts, galleries, photographers, graphic design firms, and wholesale food markets. As this is not originally a residential district, there is an interesting mix of residential and commercial loft space that’s architecturally interesting and convenient to the Loop and the near north side.

For easy access to the rest of Illinois and beyond, one can head to the Northwestern Train Station, Union Station, or the Greyhound bus terminal. I-90 and I-290 also run through the neighborhood, and the El Green and Blue Lines run at its northern and southern edges, respectively, making this area eminently accessible from any other point in the city by car, bus, train, or subway.

Shopping

Shopping in the West Loop is not yet extensive; while the area is becoming increasingly popular, it is not yet a shopping destination. There is a French boutique, Ouest, which offers upscale women’s clothing, only the beginning of what will surely become a haven for retail therapy in the near future.

Restaurants

While shops cannot be found in abundance in this area, restaurants abound. There are establishments of every ethnicity and cuisine in the West Loop; you need only choose a genre, and there are several choices available to you.

Try Extra Virgin for Italian tapas, Bluepoint Oyster Bar or Sushi Wabi for seafood or Carmichael’s for steak. For a little Asian fare, try Redlight, Dragonfly Mandarin (see review), or Aroma. Marche is a French brasserie and Perez serves Mexican cuisine. For a more casual experience, try Tomato Head, a pizza kitchen. For dessert, head to the Chicago Chocolate Company (see review) and have your pick of scrumptious chocolate creations.

Since the West Loop area has become one of Chicago’s trendier neighborhoods, you will find a high number of bars and clubs. Some of the popular ones include Beer Bistro, La Criolla, Chromium and the well-known Plush (see review).

Community

Known as the Loft District of Chicago, the West Loop is full of condominium and loft buildings that were once warehouses. This results in sunny, airy residential spaces with large windows and unique floor plans.

Inhabitants of the area span a spectrum, but due to the public and private schools in the area, there are several young families living here. Its proximity to the Loop results in many professionals also living in the neighborhood.

There is more to the West Loop than simply lofts, however. Home to a gallery district with dozens of art galleries, the West Loop is one of Chicago’s cultural hubs. The FLATFILEgalleries deals primarily in photographic art, and provides art to such clients as Ralph Lauren. The Fassbender Stevens Gallery is a 5,000 square foot gallery with a focus on minimalism, abstraction and installation art. Kavi Gupta presents artists in several mediums including paint, photography and drawing. Gescheidle also presents several mediums, while its genre is contemporary art. The Thomas McCormick Gallery emphasizes mid-century modernism and Abstract Expressionism, in a variety of mediums including painting and sculpture.

Once you’ve had your fill of art galleries, check out some of the other attractions the West Loop has to offer. Hailed as an urban treasure hunt, the Chicago Antique Market runs between May and October on the last Saturday of each month. It is an immense indoor and outdoor market selling everything from furniture and housewares to clothing and jewelry. Also in the area are Harpo Studios, home to the world-famous Oprah Winfrey Show. Harpo is where the show is taped and where Oprah’s offices are situated.

The Museum of Holography is a virtually unknown gem that is often forgotten in the shadow of the city’s giant museums. The Museum features an exhibit area as well as a school, and is dedicated to the “advancement of holography as an art form.” Finish off your day at The Tasting Room, a wine bar that leaves pretension at the door and caters to those who want to taste fine wines without having to know everything about them. You can try over 100 wines by the glass or in a less expensive tasting portion. Order appetizers that complement your wine and enjoy the sumptuous surroundings.

Location & Area

  • North Boundary: 300 N Lake
  • South Boundary: ~400 S Eisenhower Expressway
  • East Boundary: ~700 W Kennedy Expressway
  • West Boundary: 1600 W Ashland
  • Primary Zip Code: 60622

Current Trends and Facts of West Loop Chicago

The West Loop neighborhood is the primary loft district of Chicago, with many traditional brick buildings converted to “true lofts” with exposed brick and timber ceilings. Made increasingly popular by the area’s proximity to Chicago business district – the Loop, the West Loop is beginning to emerge as Chicago’s answer to New York’s Soho, with lofts and galleries popping up everywhere alongside the old meatpacking businesses.

Residents enjoy a range of excellent restaurants as well as proximity to other popular neighborhoods, such as Greektown, Fulton Market, and Little Italy. Once famous for its meat and produce markets (many of which still exist), nearby Randolph Street is now home to many of Chicago’s premier restaurants. This smallish neighborhood also hosts a surprising concentration of dance clubs and bars, located primarily along Lake street.

The West Loop neighborhood has the United Center, which is home to the Chicago Bulls and Blackhawks. The United Center is also one of Illinois’ largest entertainment venues for music, circuses, and performances.

History

The West Loop neighborhood is one of the city’s newer neighborhoods. It has only recently begun to be developed, and thus its history is short and rather straightforward. The area was first inhabited in the 1800s by immigrants looking for employment. While these first settlers did find homes here, much of the area was a warehouse district, full of factories and businesses. When Greektown was founded in the late 1800s, some commercial sites were brought into the area.

In the 1920’s more people moved into the area; these new inhabitants were of diverse ethnic and religious groups. The opening of the Chicago Campus of the University of Illinois brought even more inhabitants to the area. However, despite these new inhabitants the area was still of questionable safety and was far from being a desirable place to live.

The West Loop began to take shape just two decades ago when a slow but steady transformation began to take place. Several warehouses were converted to loft buildings and restaurants began to open up around the area. The neighborhood’s proximity to the Loop began to be seen as a valuable characteristic and its demographic began to shift.

Today this transformation is nearly complete. The contemporary West Loop is a trendy neighborhood, full of spacious lofts, cozy cafes, and popular nightspots. It is bordered on the north by Fulton Street, on the south by Congress Parkway, on the east by Halsted Street and on the west by Racine Avenue.