A Squared: Chicago Neighborhood Guide: Fulton River District

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Chicago Neighborhood Guide: Fulton River District

It's a new year and time for a new column, no?

Last year I brought you the Tastemaker Top 10 and introduced you to some of my very favorite bloggers. This year, I want to bring it on home and introduce you to my city-- and to my neighborhood, in particular. Since buying a condo and settling into the West Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago for the foreseeable future the months following were a whirlwind. I haven't been able to devote nearly as much space on this blog to this new-to-me neighborhood that I have fallen in love with. So, this year you'll be seeing some recurring posts dedicated to the West Lakeview Neighborhood Guide-- with a few shout outs to neighboring Southport Corridor, Roscoe Village, and Lakeview too!

Before I introduce you to my new neighborhood though, I thought it only appropriate to say goodbye to my old one first. We lived in the Fulton River District for more than 4 years and uncovered several of our favorite spots along the way. The Fulton River District is a little pocket of downtown Chicago nestled between the Loop and trendier neighborhoods like the West Loop, Ukrainian Village, and River North. It is bound by the Chicago River to east, the Kennedy Expressway on the west side, Ohio Street to the north, and Madison Street to the south. It's a small neighborhood and very residential-- but it's a great place to live with some fabulous places for eating and drinking! Here's my guide to food & drink in the Fulton River District:

To Eat:
  • For upscale Italian food in a gorgeous space, have your next date night at Piccolo Sogno. 
  • For a fun twist on breakfast on the go, swap your bagels and doughnuts for a fresh waffle sandwich at Wafel.
  • For laidback Mexican food and a huge margarita, stop into Blue Agave for lunch, dinner, or happy hour.
  • For an eclectic atmosphere and menu filled with crepes of all kinds, the Iguana Cafe has been a favorite among neighborhood residents since before this area was a dining destination.
  • For delicious latin food and a fabulous selection of cocktails in a lively and fun setting, get yourself to Carnivale.
  • For authentic Italian-American cuisine in a tiny energetic restaurant that feels straight out of Little Italy, don't miss dinner at La Scarola-- just make sure you have a reservation! 
  • For a European-style cafe experience, grab a pastry or a meal (or take a cooking class!) at Le Pain Quotidien, just next to the French Market on Randolph & Clinton Streets.
  • For a Vietnamese meal that's both authentic and modern, dine at Saigon Sisters. We love this restaurant that feels chic and under-the-radar all at the same time.
  • For a delicious plate of pizza or pasta and one of the best patios for dining in the city, there's nowhere better than Trattoria Isabella, a favorite of FRD residents.
  • For the trendiest dining experience in the neighborhood, head to The Dawson to see and be seen at a hot spot that's helping the Fulton River District up its restaurant game.

To Drink (and Eat too):
  • For a funky selection of craft beers and eclectic bar food like tempura fried green beans with sriracha dipping sauce, head over to the Paramount Room.
  • For a low key and no frills night of drinking, head to Emmit's Irish Pub. This old school Chicago bar is the real deal.
  • For a really solid pub meal, stop by our old favorite neighborhood bar New Line Tavern and try some of our favorites including the New Line salad, the Haymarket burger, steak tacos, and the avocado hummus.
  • For creative cocktails made with locally distilled liquor and some of the most fun bartenders I have ever met, stop into CH Distillery for a drink. 
  • For a low key cocktail hour, great beer list, and inventive bar food head over to The Point.
  • For a true neighborhood pub atmosphere, some really good bad-for-you bar food, and an awesome jukebox, there's no place like the Jefferson Tap-- home of my favorite chips and salsa. Ever.

The Chicago French Market
A collection of small stalls selling groceries, prepared foods, snacks, drinks, and more tucked into an open market under the Ogilvie train station.
  • For a quick BBQ fix from one of my favorite Chicago barbecue spots, check out the Lillie's Q to-go stall.
  • For authentic Italian-style coffee beverages and gelato (or an affogato with a little of both), try the Lavazza Expressions  stall or stand alone coffee shop next to the French Market.
  • For funky sandwiches, goat chili, and freshly baked breads from the kitchen of Top Chef Stephanie Izard, the Little Goat Bread stall is a perfect lunchtime stop.
  • For delicious mini doughnuts with custom sauces and toppings, try Beaver's Coffee + Donuts
  • For my favorite French macarons and delicious European-style pastries, head to Delightful Pastries (French Market)
  • For authentic Vietnamese-style sandwiches and bowls, the Saigon Sisters stall at the French Market offers great fast casual options based on the full menu at their nearby sit down restaurant.
  • For my favorite sandwiches, gourmet cheese, wine, and snacks, or a picnic basket to Pastoral's French Market kiosk.

Honorable Mentions-- Just across the highway!
These three places are just over the border of the Fulton River District into the West Loop/West Town area, but so good they definitely deserve some recognition. 
  • For a super fun selection of doughnuts (including my favorite-- a white chocolate passionfruit-filled), stop by Glazed & Infused, just over the highway on Fulton St.
  • For a fine dining-quality meal in a casual family style environment (with a huge focus on meat and local/seasonal ingredients, make a reservation at the Publican-- just a block away from Glazed & Infused!
  • For the more casual diner, Publican Quality Meats offers a great sandwich menu using the same high quality seasonal ingredients as their more formal sister restaurant. Their butcher counter and small market boasts a selection of high quality meats, breads, locally sourced jellies, sauces, and other pantry staples perfect for taking home and creating a Publican-quality meal in your own kitchen.


  1. my old neighborhood!! you're making me miss chicago! xo jillian - cornflake dreams

  2. My parents a condo in FRD and I LOVE the area. So many wonderful places. Did you ever make it to Sepia or Embeya?

    1. I definitely have a soft spot for the area! And I am such a bad foodie, but I never made it to either of those restaurants... not that I can't still get to them eventually. :)

  3. I always look forward to going out. A good tip would be to look out for those places with interesting concepts. This place is pretty amazing. I came up here with a friend. The place for events in NYC was spacious and food was great.


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