Hidden Gems and Delicious Destinations

Out on the road to find inspiring, less-well-known nabes devoted to the fresh, the local, the sustainable—and the drinkable.

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Vera
Photo: Mike Schacht/312 Elements Photography

Continued: Chicago’s West Loop

In 2011, husband-and-wife team Mark and Elizabeth Mendez quickly gained a following for their Spanish wine bar, Vera (pictured). When Alinea chef Grant Achatz opened Next (for which he won a 2011 Trailblazing Chef award from us and a Beard award this year) and the Aviary (an innovative cocktail lounge) last year, it was clear that the West Loop had become the nerve center for the city’s forward-thinking chefs.

So far this year, a former gyros joint has become a quirky late-night spot called Au Cheval, Chef Paul Kahan opened Publican Quality Meats (a butcher shop and sandwich haven), and Jared Van Camp has debuted Nellcôte, where the chef mills his own flour from local wheat. Meanwhile, a slew of other chefs have signed leases on Randolph Street: Once Izard opens her second restaurant, Little Goat, this fall, she’ll have MasterChef judge Graham Elliot (G.E.B., a bistro) and Alinea vet Curtis Duffy (Grace) as new neighbors. —Julia Kramer

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