West Town: The Best Haunts
Otherwise has been operating out of our corner storefront in West Town for almost three years since relocating from West Loop. Just as we fell for Randolph Street in 1999 when we bought our old produce warehouse there, we love this still-under-the-radar neighborhood…and discover new local gems every day. Whether it’s a 5-star chai latte, fresh pierogi or supplies for your parrot, you can find endless treasures within a leisurely stroll from our front door.
Here are some of our favorite neighborhood haunts.
Star Lounge Coffee Bar
Dark Matter founder Jesse Diaz was slinging coffee at this location before he even had the idea to start a local enterprise that has since expanded to six locations. The Lounge’s aesthetic is closer to that of a saloon than a cafe (just replace cowboys with freelancers on laptops). The new menu includes three different mochas; I recommend the barrel-aged vanilla for a bold start to your morning.
Be warned though, the caffeine strength is impressive, with a single shot of espresso being equivalent to three from your local Starbucks. The wifi is fantastic and the coffee is bottomless at only three dollars! There’s also a back patio adorned with illustrations from chicago artists like JC Rivera.
The Dark Matter Star Lounge Coffee Bar is located on 2521 W Chicago Ave and is open Monday – Friday, 6am to 9pm, Saturday and Sunday, 6am to 8pm.
Rich’s Delicatessen & Liquors
Much like a Kinder Surprise, within the cheeky exterior of Rich’s Deli is a treasure trove of Eastern European goods. Walking through the aisles, you’ll be surprised to find just how many meats can be canned. The prepared food section has a great selection of sausages and smoked meats, as well as delicious pierogi and chicken patties.
The best part is that you’ll be able to put together a hearty lunch — including fresh sauerkraut and pickles from barrels in the back — all for less than $5, that is, unless you try their pierogi, in which case you might go bankrupt. Rich’s Deli also has an extensive Eastern European beer and liquor selection offering a massive variety of vodkas you’ve never seen. A great authentic market that is just across the street from office.
Rich’s Delicatessen & Liquors is located on 857 N Western Ave and is open Monday – Saturday, 7am to 9pm, and Sunday, 8am to 8pm.
Empty Bottle & Bite Cafe
A fun fact about the Bottle is that it was originally located a few blocks south of its permanent location until its first show, which immediately led to an eviction notice and the rest is history. This venue is a favorite among artists who like to have a bit more creative control. Convenient for show-goers who want to grab a “bite” before the show, the venue is connected to the Bite Cafe, also owned by Empty Bottle founder Bruce Finkelman.
The cafe offers a fantastic seasonal menu that certainly stacks up against some of Chicago’s best. While some may be intimidated by servers and staff who are tatted and pierced, once they place a pork rillette or chicken roulade on the table, you are reminded that beautiful and delicious food doesn’t need to come from someone in a white coat. Empty Bottle tends to offer more punk shows, but you’ll find some honky tonk and electronic bands throughout their calendar.
Empty Bottle & Bite Cafe is located on 1035 N Western Avenue. The Bite Cafe is open seven days a week, open at 9am on weekdays and 8am on Saturday and Sunday for Brunch. Check the Empty Bottle website for a calendar of shows.
After its first year in West Town, executive-chef Zoë Schor has revamped Split-Rail’s menu to offer more of what she does best, fried chicken. Its unique poultry-focused versions of American fare comes with a new carry-out approach, including a lunch to-go window and menu that encourages walk-ins, pop-ups and events.
The impressive decor and beverage program have remained intact, and the farm aesthetic makes more sense with the revamped menu. If you’re looking to treat yourself to some finely crafted fried chicken, then Split-Rail is a fine choice.
Split-Rail is located on 2500 W Chicago Ave and is open Wednesday through Sunday. Carry out lunch is open from 11am to 2pm. Dinner service runs from 5pm to 10pm
When stepping inside Sportsman’s Club, you’re immediately immersed in the vintage art-decor, which includes a long-wood bar, an analog tape deck player and taxidermy. This interior patina gives you the impression that this bar has been around for ages. That’s because it has. Originally a watering-hole for Polish immigrants, Sportsman’s Club re-opened in 2013 with a spirit-forward beverage program.
There are only four inventive cocktails on the menu, which changes almost daily, reflecting the mixology mastery of owners Jeff Donahue and Wade McElroy. Great to visit during the Autumn and Winter seasons for a mulled wine, but treat yourself to the Sportsman’s Cocktail any time of year.
Sportman’s Club is located on 948 N Western Avenue, and is open Sunday through Friday from 5pm to 2am, and Saturday 5pm to 3am.
For those of you thinking that we may have missed a few West Town highlights, it only means that we have more to explore in our own neck of the woods. We always take the opportunity to support local businesses that offer their own brand of creativity and inspiration, even if the Otherwise studio is already in good supply of both!