Chicago’s 9 Best West Town Restaurants You need to Visit

Chicago’s West Town neighborhood is a somewhat gritty part of town which includes a stretch of Chicago Avenue that many residents and visitors never explore.  This makes makes me very sad.  Look, I get that this area does not have the same vibe-y caché as River North or the West Loop, but I highly recommend  you get off the beaten path.   Hop the CTA Blue Line or the #66 Chicago bus and try the tasty cuisine at the following West Town restaurants.  Seriously.  





This Italian-inspired newcomer puts locally sourced ingredients in the spotlight.  The black kale pesto spaghetti with walnuts is the best version of this classic dish I have eaten outside of Venice, Queens or Brooklyn.  Well played!  



Pesto spaghettin in West Town, Chicago

Black kale and walnut pesto spaghetti at Charlatan in West town is a “must-have!”




Pesto pasta at Charlatan in West Town

Best pesto pasta outside of Venice!



I really enjoyed the moist cod fish with new potatoes and cherry tomatoes in a zesty tomato sauce. The preparation of this dish perfectly showcased the simplicity of Italian cooking which focuses on highlighting ingredients without being fussy or complicated.  




Menu at Charlatan in West Town

Atlantic cod in a zesty tomato broth is dreamy at Charlatan!


One more thing.  This place is pretty sexy!


Charlatan is located at 1329 W. Chicago Ave.





This is truly one of the most underrated and overlooked restaurants in Chicago.  I love everything about Mexique.  Chef Carlos Gayton is serving up really flavorful dishes that are also very colorful and beautifully presented.


I love to dig into a big bowl of mussels and the one I had at Mexique was phenomenal.  The P.E.I. mussels were a good size and very sweet on their own.  However, the delectable broth made with white wine, saffron, buerre blanc, chorizo and peppers put this dish over the top.  I should have asked for a straw to suck up that lovely liquid but the toasted bread was pretty great, too.  I will be ordering this again.




Mexique in Noble Square, West Town

I could have used a straw to suck up the delicious sauce with these mussels!



Another dish that stands out at Mexique is the pan seared mahi mahi with mole.  It’s served over a corn tortilla with chorizo and beans, roasted pineapple and avocado.  Bonus!  Chef Gayton has received awards for his mole.  Nice!




Mexique's menus in West Town

Mahi Mahi with mole, blue corn tortilla, chorizo and beans, avocado, roasted pineapple



The contrast of the sweet, roasted pineapple with spicy and smoky mole was terrific.  It was probably one of the prettiest entrees I have ever seen.


Mexique is located at 1529 W. Chicago Ave.



Green Zebra


Green Zebra made it onto my list of Chicago’s Best Vegetarian / Vegan Restaurants for good reason.  It is located in a sleek space and it’s inventive menu will satisfy even the most devoted carnivore.


The menu at Green Zebra is seasonal which is always exciting.  Although I do not live my life as a vegetarian, I am always impressed when a restaurant can elevate vegetables to be the star of the show.




Mushroom pate at Green Zebra in West Town



I loved the Hen of the Woods mushroom paté.  The accompaniments change with the seasons but the general execution is wonderful.  I enjoyed this dish by myself but it is perfect for sharing.


Green Zebra’s menu skips around the globe using spices from different countries.  You can enjoy one dish that highlights Vietnamese ingredients or another dish that incorporates flavors from the Middle East.  Check out this lovely, stuffed roasted acorn squash Za’atar I had earlier this year.  




Roasted acorn squash at Green Zebra in West Town

Za’atar roasted acorn squash



I also really loved a dish made entirely of the short lived spring ramps.  Beautiful!



Vegetables at Green Zebra in West Town

Seasonal sauteed ramps at Green Zebra


Green Zebra is located at 1460 W. Chicago Ave.



The Winchester



I am overdue for a return visit to The Winchester.  The brunch here is wonderful and the menu sets it apart from some of the usual suspects in Chicago.




The Winchester in Chicago's West Town

The Winchester at the corners of Winchester Avenue and Augusta Blvd.



For instance, I absolutely loved this root vegetable hash made with smoked trout, new potatoes, golden beets, fennel, slow egg and pea shoots.  It’s a nice change of pace not feel bloated after brunch 😉




Brunch at The Winchester in West Town, Chicago

Perfectly cooked slow egg on this smoked trout.



The space at The Winchester reminds me of a cottage or small farmhouse.  You will forget that you are dining in the middle of Chicago!  I think I will be stopping by soon to check out their dinner, dessert and cocktail menus.  




The Winchester in Ukrainian Village, West Town


The Winchester is located at 1001 N. Winchester Ave.





Chef Kevin Cuddihee is serving up dishes with Midwestern flare in a rustic and comfortable space.  I enjoy the cocktails, mussels and pasta dishes here.  




Mussels at Two in West Town





Pasta with squash blossoms at Two in West Town



Two is also paying homage to traditional butcher shops by making its own sausage, bacon and jerky.  Now, that’s commitment!


Two is located at 1132 W. Grand Ave.



Cafe Central




Cafe Central in West Town



Chicago has a huge Latino population and the island-nation of Puerto Rico is well-represented here, too.  Cafe Central is the perfect place to satisfy your craving for plantains, hearty stews and more without breaking your bank.


Try everything here to get a good feel for Puerto Rican fare.  I really enjoyed the Shrimp Creole with a side of spicy plantains.



Cafe Central in West Town, Chicago

Shrimp Creole at Cafe Central in West Town


This family-run spot might be in need of a makeover but the food is fantastic.  Don’t judge a book by its cover, folks!


True to form for any quintessential neighborhood “diner,”  Cafe Central has you covered with delicious options for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  And, this food is served with love.


Cafe Central is located at 1437 W. Chicago Ave.



Flo Cafe & Bar


There are not many restaurants in Chicago that are open for breakfast.  Lunch and weekend brunch, for sure, but not breakfast.  This fact annoys me greatly, since I am an early riser.   So, when I discovered that Flo Cafe & Bar is open for breakfast during the week, I jumped out of bed and hopped the Blue Line to West Town.



Flo is a very cool restaurant and bar that serves some zesty Southwestern cuisine.  There are many options on the breakfast menu from which to choose but I kept things simple with some fluffy scrambled eggs served with black beans, roasted poblano sauce, charred sweet potatoes pico de gallo and a warm tortilla.  The coffee here is great, too.




Flo in West Town, Chicago

I love a reasonably priced breakfast!



This dish came out steaming hot and it was a really hearty portion for the very affordable price of $7.  Hell, yeah!  I don’t know about you but I usually feel ripped off by the cost of brunch these days, even before cocktails are added onto the bill.  That is precisely why I appreciate a hearty plate of eggs and some protein for less than $10.  Thank you, Flo!


Flo Cafe & Bar is located at 1434 W. Chicago Ave.



West Town Bakery & Diner



I am a huge fan of retail store/restaurant as well as the bakery/restaurant.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with getting “double duty” out of a culinary experience.  West Town Bakery & Diner understands this, too.  In addition to its decadent bakery, they are inviting you to join them for breakfast and lunch at their adjoining diner.  



West Town Bakery in Chicago

The tempting pastries at West Town Bakery & Diner in Chicago



Can you say dangerous?  


Seriously, just try finishing one of the lovely dishes in the diner and then make your way past the eye-popping cakes and pastries in the bakery on the way out, without caving to your sweet tooth.  You’ve been warned!


West Town Bakery & Diner is located at 1916 W. Chicago Ave.



A Tavola


One of the lovelier, “easy-to-miss” Italian restaurants in Chicago is A Tavola.  It’s located in what appears to be a house, so you might walk right by it.  That would be a shame because this wonderful Italian spot has been in business for over 20 years!  


The menu at A Tavola is not too large and it is does some classics like veal saltimbucca, osso bucco and gnocchi very well.  In fact, the gnocchi is so highly regarded that A Tavola is selling it to-go in packages.  


A Tavola is located at 2148 W. Chicago Ave.


You’re all set, folks!  Hop the rails to Chicago’s West Town neighborhood and check out these nine awesome restaurants.  How many have you tried?  Do you have a favorite place to eat or drink in West Town?  I would love to hear all about it!  Leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.

In keeping with the spirit of Feeding Off The Rails, I encourage you to leave your car at home and take the CTA Blue Line or the #66 Chicago bus to these tasty spots in Chicago’s West Town. Save on gas.  Avoid traffic, road rage and parking. Reduce pollution. Don’t drink and drive!

9 Food Halls, Markets That Will Make You Hungry!

I don’t know about you but, as a foodie, I love food halls and food markets as much as I love restaurants.  Whether I am exploring my current Chicago home or visiting other cities, I love visiting local markets and food halls to find the very best in food from the world’s great cities.  Visiting these spots are a great way to understand any city.   Today, I want I share with you the most awesome food halls and markets in Chicago that will make you hungry.  You really need to  put these on your list, whether you are a resident or just a visitor to “The Windy City.”  


Ready? Continue reading

10 Awesome Uptown Restaurants And More You Should Visit

Whether you are a Chicago resident or just a visitor to this great city, I urge you to visit as many of the different neighborhoods as possible.  Make certain you partake of the fabulous cuisine that exists in each one.  I am a huge fan of the Uptown neighborhood on, you guessed it, Chicago’s north side.  It’s a gritty little part of “The WIndy City” that offers some great grub and fun history.  Below is my rundown of some awesome Uptown spots you should definitely check out, if you haven’t already: Continue reading

Chicago’s Chinatown restaurants that make you smile and sweat

Have you been curious about the restaurants in Chicago’s Chinatown?  I can help you!  There are so many choices representing different cuisine from all over Asia.  You can find places with traditional food and modest interiors to more modern restaurants with a swanky feel. Whatever your preference, do not miss out on spending some time in this part of The Windy City.  The delightful smells and colors will transport you, if you just take it all in.  Below are some of my top picks when visiting Chicago’s Chinatown.  Climb aboard the CTA Red and Green Lines or take the #22 Wentworth and # 62 Archer buses to get there.  It’s that easy! Continue reading

24 Coolest Chicago Coffee Spots

I take my coffee very seriously.  I will gladly go out of my way 30 minutes or more for expertly roasted beans and a properly prepared cup of java.  Just as important, is finding really cool coffeehouses and shops where I can settle in, escape and enjoy my caffeine.  Groovy tunes are definitely a bonus.  After careful research, I give to you, my lovely readers, the 24 Coolest Chicago Coffee Spots, by CTA ‘L’ line:


**** [EDITOR’S NOTE:  This post was originally published on March 14, 2016 and it has been completely revamped and updated to include 9 additional awesome coffee spots!  They are highlighted within the text in RED.]




CTA Brown Line:



Heritage Bicycles (2959 N. Lincoln Ave.) –  Lakeview – You don’t have to be in the market for a locally made bike or related gear to appreciate this retro, cute-as-a-button coffee shop.  Grab a decadent pastry or chocolate bar and top off your coffee with various types of milk stored in an old stove up front.  Great music always fills the space here.  So bring your laptop and get some work done.  – 5 blocks west and 1/2  block south of Diversey ‘L’ stop.




Coolest Chicago Coffee Spots Heritage Bicycles in Lakeview



Eva’s Café (1447 N. Sedgwick St.) – Old Town – This is THE COZIEST and most comfortable coffeehouse in Chicago.   Continue reading