West Loop is home to Restaurant Row


West Randolph Street is not the only place you can get a nice meal in the West Loop, but it is the place where it all began back in the early ’90s, and the man responsible for it all is Jerry Kleiner. He was the one, with the aid of business partners, who opened up his first restaurants there, two of which — Marche and Red Light — are still in business and doing quite well, thankhimverymuch.

Marche, 833 W Randolph St (312-733-8880), features casual French bistro food such as monkfish, lamb shank, pork tenderloin, coq au vin and ratatouille, and Kleiner’s unmistakable decor, such as upside-down umbrellas hanging from the ceiling, lots of jewel tones and wrought iron.

This was where the Jordan-Pippen Bulls used to hang out at after games in the early and mid-’90s. The standard bistro dishes are good but the best of the lot is the bistro steak, a 12-ounce New York strip with Lyonnaise potatoes. If you even mildly enjoy eating beef, do not miss this one — it is one of the most tender cuts of steak I have had in a long time.

With chef Jackie Shen at the controls, it is hard to find any faults at Red Light, 820 W Randloph St (312-733-8880). The chef combines Chinese, French and Thai influences into her unique dishes, including a whole crispy red snapper (head and all, not for the squeamish), traditional pad Thai, lots of curries and a delicious item that is not on the menu: Hong Kong Jerry, named for Kleiner himself. The dish consists of pepper-crusted chunks of beef with mushrooms and vegetables in oyster sauce. Wash it all down with some cold beers or any number of fruity drinks they’ll gladly whip up for you.

Kleiner has a third West Loop restaurant called Carnivale, 702 W. Fulton St. (312-850-5005), just east of the expressway. The place has a cozy bar, a dining room with a massive ceiling, and a general feel of “Hey, this is one hell of a Latin fiesta.”

Carnivale serves up a bunch of ceviches and entrees such as rum-glazed pork shoulder; braised short ribs with mashed potatoes and corn and peanut salsa; and sofrito rice with shrimp, mussels, squid, fish, chorizo, peas and chicken in lobster broth.

If you’re looking for a Kleiner place to go after dinn just to keep the theme going, try Victor Hotel, his clubby spot at 311 N Sangamon St (312-733-6900), which also serves food if you find yourself getting peckish late-night.

Check back for more West Loop restaurants tomorrow.

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