Eating/Drinking

How Politan Row Is Changing the Food Hall Game in Chicago

Photo by Matt Haas/Courtesy of Politan Row

Between Revival Food Hall’s embarrassment of culinary riches (barbecue behemoth Smoque and James Beard winner Mindy Segal’s Hot Chocolate Bakery, to name a few); Hogsalt Hospitality’s Aster Hall with its Brendan Sodikoff swag and cult-followed food; and nine-to-fiver faves Forum 55 and Wells Street Market, Politan Row enters a quickly saturating market. Throw in Fulton Market Galley and Time Out Market, both slated to open (and be epic) in the vicinity this summer, and the West Loop space—which debuted earlier this month—needs to quickly distinguish itself.

Photo by Matt Haas/Courtesy of Politan Row

It already has. The company behind the project operates similar joints in Miami and New Orleans and has a knack for scoring emerging local culinary talent as vendors. Of the 13 concepts, just a couple bear familiar names: Floriole and Passion House Coffee serve up the pastries and espresso drinks (beginning bright and early at 6:30 a.m.) they’re beloved for. Come lunchtime, however, it’s the newcomers’ chance to shine. At Thattu, pop-up sensation Margaret Pak gifts the world with her fragrant South Indian–style street food (hello, new coconut gravy obsession). The dreamiest, creamiest hummus in the all the land comes from La Shuk (you’ll never look at Sabra the same way). Anyone with a sweet tooth (or, hell, just taste buds) will fall for the coconut butter mochi from Mom’s—the unassuming little squares are perfectly tender, deeply flavored, and life altering. The list goes on.

Photo by Matt Haas/Courtesy of Politan Row/Mom’s

But here’s what sets it apart:

1) The layout encourages lingering, and even when bustling, the space somehow feels chill. At the perimeter, clustered couches and low tables are ideal for casual meetings over coffee. A mix of communal and smaller high-tops dot the room, and at the center lies the pièce de résistance: a handsome cocktail bar. A chandelier made from repurposed plumber’s chain dangles above—a chic homage to the nearby Chicago Plumber’s Union.

2) Speaking of bars, there’s also a beer garden where German brews flow (those who fancy a radler can add a seasonal fruit-infused spritz). Both bars are overseen by Sophie Burton, whose résumé includes Big Star and Cindy’s. On that note: happy hour deals! Weekdays from 3 to 7 p.m., craft cocktails and glasses of wine are $7 inside and draft Pilsners and rosé are $5 outside. No one’s judging you for lingering all afternoon.

Photo by Matt Haas/Courtesy of Politan Row

3) On the flip, if you’re strapped for time, there’s ordering technology (and soon to be an app) for that. Order ahead via the website and you’ll be in and out in minutes. For a pseudo-sit-down experience, you can also grab a seat first, order online, and have your food delivered to your table.

4) Unlike many food halls, weekends are far from snoozy. Between morning coffee and pastries daily from 6:30 a.m. and bar service till 11 p.m. on Saturday and 10 p.m. on Sunday, you might just want to move in.