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South Loop - Farm to Table or Gastro Pub - no beef pls.

I will be visiting a friend Sat night, who has just moved to South Loop and I would like to take her out to dinner.

She is Indian American, and doesn't eat beef, but otherwise is a real food enthusiast and adventurous eater, as am I.

I would love to find something that isn't too expensive (under $50 per person) that highlights farm to table cuisine. A neighborhood gem or even a gastro pub setting would be nice... fun and funky is OK too.

We are willing to travel outside the neighborhood as well. Thanks in-advance for any suggestions. ~Rob

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  1. There aren't any so-called "farm to table" restaurants in the South Loop. The one really creative restaurant in the South Loop, Acadia, is outstanding but will fail your target price criterion. (I ate there recently and it was around $100/person including moderate alcohol and tax/tip.) It's a great place if you're willing to stretch your budget.

    Otherwise, check out this list of "farm to table" restaurants elsewhere around the city:


    That's really quite a nice list, and includes some of our best moderate/mid-priced restaurants.

    As for gastropubs, the Gage is in the Loop.

    1 Reply
    1. A little farther south, but you may want to try Nightwood on Halstead and 21st in Bridgeport. I have not been but I've heard good things.

      2 Replies
        1. re: jbontario

          I've been to Nightwood and it's very good indeed. And offers a neighborhood bistro atmosphere (brick walls, etc).

        2. I'm a big fan of the gastropub concept and I think the best is The Publican which specializes in seafood and pork. Purple Pig is also good, but doesn't take reservations. Neither is in the South Loop, but neither is very far either.

          8 Replies
          1. re: chicgail

            I came across the Publican and thought it looked good. Thanks for the rec!

            1. re: rpglancy

              The Publican specializes in pork. (And just in case you don't see that from the menu, you can see the big PIGture on the wall looking down at you.) They don't really specialize in seafood in any way, although like most restaurants, they have some seafood dishes on the menu.

              If you go there, here's a tip. About half the seating consists of two loooooooooooong communal tables; the other half are the conventional private tables for 2-6. If you have a preference, either for the communal seating or for your own private table, mention it when making your reservation (either over the phone or on Opentable) and they will try to accommodate your preference.

              And don't expect to be able to converse easily with your friend. It's REALLY REALLY REALLY LOUD, as all but the most diehard fans will agree. If that's a consideration for you, you might want to go elsewhere. Province, Lula, Perennial Virant, and the previously-mentioned Nightwood are all fairly moderate in noise level, and all offer excellent food.

              1. re: nsxtasy

                Thank you. This is all excellent info!

                1. re: rpglancy

                  I have never been bothered by the noise at Publican (although my husband sometimes accuses me of going deaf - LOL!).

                  And you can request a private table when you make your reservation. It's never been a problem for me.

                  As the previous poster noted, I would call to make the reservation. It seems like they always have something available, even when Open Table says they are full.

                    1. re: rpglancy

                      Oh, and The Publican really does specialize in seafood. One whole side of their menu is all seafood including a whole section on oysters, plus shrimp, mussels, crab, and lots of swimming fish like sardines, snapper, trout, rockfish, etc. Mmm. My mouth is watering and I'm thinking about when I can go again.

                      1. re: chicgail

                        Here's the menu for The Publican. Seafood is on the left hand side and meat on the right hand side


                        I did not find it all that noisy when I went - I know some people do though - but wanted to add another data point.

                2. re: nsxtasy

                  As others have mentioned, Publican has a really strong seafood program. Half of their menu is devoted to seafood (raw and cooked). Do they "specialize" in seafood? Only as far as they "specialize" in pork. Which is to say, they "specialize" in great food, plain and simple.

                  I once got into a counting contest with a poster on these boards about how many seafood dishes they had versus other types of plates. It was then, and remains, utterly beside the point. They "specialize" in great food.

                  I really wouldn't consider The Gage to be in the same league. The menu is pretty pedestrian, albeit tasty enough. The beer list is forgettable. The Publican is a great 'brasserie by way of the Midwest' sort of place. Avec would be worth considering, too (the new chef is nailing it, week in and week out), though they don't accept reservations and you can expect long waits at peak times (so go early or go late) and unless you sit at the bar, you might be sitting next to strangers at communal tables.

                  I would also strongly recommend Nightwood.

            2. No beef here!


              I know it says "raw" but there are more cooked items than raw.

              Not far from your target territory.

              1. Also, if this is for this coming Saturday night, wherever you decide to go, I recommend making a reservation right away. If your plans change, you can always change or cancel any reservation you make. The more popular restaurants tend to fill up in advance on Saturdays - many completely, while many others have reservations before 6 and after 9 but not in between. Two days ahead of a Saturday night, you may not be able to get a reservation wherever you want (although there are always some very good places where you can still find openings).

                At a glance you can see availability on Opentable.com for all the restaurants which participate there, including most of the upscale restaurants in Chicago. If there is a particular place you want to go and it doesn't show availability, you can phone them; sometimes they can give you an opening that doesn't appear on Opentable, while other times they can't, but you have nothing to lose by calling to ask.

                1. Does Publican have a bar area? If I go as a solo diner, am I seated at one of the communal tables?

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: hoppy2468

                    >> Does Publican have a bar area?

                    They do indeed; the bar lines parts of two sides of the main dining room. They have seating at the bar. Towards the center of the room they also have several high-tops without seats where you can eat/drink while standing.

                    >> If I go as a solo diner, am I seated at one of the communal tables?

                    You could be seated at one of the communal tables, or you could be seated at the bar. I'm not sure whether or not they seat solo diners at two-tops, but if they do, then that's another option. If you have a preference for one of those seating options, mention it when making your reservation. If you go without a reservation, they will still try to honor any preference you mention, but it may be a longer wait for one option vs another.

                    You can see photos of the dining room (which show all the seating areas including the bar) on their website at www.thepublicanrestaurant.com Mouse over the word "Gallery" and then click on "Interior".

                    >> I'd recommend Farmhouse Tavern, which meets many of your criteria.

                    If you browse the web for info, look for it under its name, which is Farmhouse rather than Farmhouse Tavern.

                    >> The Publican does not have a bar area.

                    I suspect you mean that they do not have a bar area separate from the dining room...? They do have a bar with seating along parts of the two walls that meet in the southwest corner of the main dining room (the far right as you walk into the room from the entrance at the northwest corner). And, as mentioned above, they also serve at standalone hightops (without seating) away from the walls in that part of the room.

                    1. re: nsxtasy

                      I want to modify NSXTASY's post, there is not really a bar at Publican. The "bar" seating is also controlled by the hostess, it's more like a sushi bar than a place to drink and order first-come, first-served. The "bar" tables are all standup high-tops without seats. As such, you cannot just siddle up to the bar and order at Publican.

                      If you're solo, I would highly recommend Au Cheval. Was there Weds night for Cheeseburgers and strong beers, yummmm. Also had a couple of the apps, the poached salmon special with a cucumber salad and toast was fantastic.

                      1. re: jbontario

                        Thanks for the clarification, JB. I never really paid attention to how they managed the seating in that area. Although there are quite a few other places where you can't just sidle up to the bar and order (including Publican's always-crowded sibling, Avec) so I wouldn't have assumed that anyway, but it never hurts to clarify. Thanks again!

                  2. In addition to the very good suggestions already made, I'd recommend Farmhouse Tavern, which meets many of your criteria. It would be an easy train ride via the Brown or Red lines depending on her location in the South Loop.

                    Edited to add: The Publican does not have a bar area. I do not know if they would give a solo diner a two-top on request or not, would probably depend on how crowded they are.

                    Farmhouse Tavern
                    228 W Chicago Ave

                    1. Rob, I'm guessing you're from out of town. Here's some quick geography to give you an idea of where all these places are.

                      "The Loop" is Chicago's historical and commercial downtown area, roughly a mile square, where all the el (subway) lines converge. The South Loop is the neighborhood that occupies roughly the next square mile south of the Loop.

                      Nightwood is in Pilsen, the neighborhood directly west of the South Loop. (I know it says in another post that it's in Bridgeport, but it isn't; it's north of the river in Pilsen, not south of the river in Bridgeport.) Depending on where your friend lives, it may be less than a mile away. But the area in between is primarily commercial/industrial so walking there and back may not be advisable.

                      Province and the Publican are both in the West Loop, just west of the Loop. From the South Loop, figure roughly a mile west and a mile north.

                      Farmhouse and Karyn's Raw are around the corner from each other in River North, a mile north of the Loop and two miles north of the South Loop.

                      Perennial Virant is where Old Town meets Lincoln Park, two miles north of the Loop and three miles north of the South Loop.

                      Lula is in a neighborhood called Logan Square, about five miles northwest of the Loop.

                      For public transit information and maps, see www.transitchicago.com