A few weekends back, we decided to spend some time in a neighborhood neither of us know too much about: Chicago’s South Loop. The Sloop, as at least one teen refers to it, is the up-and-coming area home to Printer’s Row (formerly the center of the Midwest’s publishing industry), the Museum Campus, and many new, modern apartment buildings and condos. We wanted to get a feel for what it would be like to live in that area, so we decided to spend the weekend getting acquainted with our equal parts trendy and rough around the edges downstairs neighbor, Sloopy. (At least she’s quiet at night.)
We kicked off Saturday with a brunch for the books: Chicago Waffles. Holy. Bananas. If ordering a Waffle Flight is wrong, we don’t want to be right. It came with four mini waffles: red velvet topped with strawberries and strawberry whipped cream, liege topped with bananas and Nutella, chocolate topped with walnuts and chocolate drizzle, and green tea topped with candied ginger. Morgan stated the red velvet was “life changing” while Mandy was more into the green tea and liege. We split this entrée and another: the “Irish Beny” – a toasted english muffin topped with corned beef hash, sautéed tomatoes, two poached eggs, and hollandaise sauce. While the corned beef hash could have been crisper (and the english muffin perhaps less crispy), the flavors worked great together and we left the restaurant incredibly happy. It didn’t hurt that they have Intelligentsia Coffee on their menu, which is arguably one of the best Chicago-based coffee roasting companies around.
Later that day, we decided to pop into The Scout, a sports bar, for a quick drink. Not a ton to report as we only stayed for a beer, but we dug the upscale ambiance. It was also at this bar that we noted the South Loop to be much more diverse than many other neighborhoods we frequent in the city. That’s definitely something we like about the area.
After The Scout, we were really hoping to check out the microbrewery and taproom Vice District Brewing Company, and tried to visit, but by the time we arrived, it was literally packed to the gills. Not only could we not get a table, but there was hardly any standing room for us. We were bummed not to hang out longer, but this just gives us a reason to make another trek down in the near future.
A little while later, when evening-time rolled around, we were in search of a light bite and a good selection of brews. First Draft to the rescue! With a large craft beer selection (many of which were on draft), this place met every desire we had down to the menu. Being the pub rats we are, we split the fried brussel sprouts and fried pickles, and they were equally delicious. From the warm atmosphere and kind wait staff to the killer bar snacks and delicious beers, this place felt very homey and “us.”
On Sunday, we were more low-key. Starting off the day feeling mildly hung over after a night out not in the South Loop, bagels were needed. Hero Coffee has a handful of locations in the city, and after reading many good reviews, we were looking forward to giving it a try. Morgan ordered the “Usual Suspect” on a sesame bagel and Mandy ordered a “Veggie” on jalapeño cheddar, and to their credit, what we got was fantastic. However, Morgan received a “Usual Suspect” on jalapeño cheddar, and Mandy got a “Sunnydale” on sesame. Truth be told, we were too hung over and in too much of a rush to fight our wrong orders. Plus, they were delicious anyway, as were our coffees (a cold brew, which was on tap, and a “fast” drip).
Midday, we were in search of another snack (and still staunchly against alcohol), so we ended up stopping at a local Nando’s, and probably for the first time in the history of all of their chicken-craving visitors, just ordered the hummus plate with veggies. It’s by no means an “only in South Loop” restaurant, but it was there, it was healthy, and the veggies were needed.
Overall, we had a great weekend experiencing this new-to-us neighborhood. And what’s even better? We by no means exhausted what’s there. There’s still so much more of it we’d like to check out, and now that we know all it has to offer, we think we’ll do just that.