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Where to eat ahead of Chicago Sky’s home opener at Wintrust Arena

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The Chicago Sky’s home opener against the Connecticut Sun is Saturday, the first of 20 WNBA regular season games at Wintrust Arena after the team defeated the New York Liberty 90-81 Thursday night in New York.

Skyrocketing ticket sales and new interest in the WNBA and the Sky have the potential to add energy this summer to the South Loop neighborhood surrounding Wintrust Arena. But where to eat once hunger pangs set in before or after tipoff could be a question for fans flocking to nearly sold-out stands, especially considering the arena’s more limited concessions options (think hot dogs, nachos, chicken tenders) compared with other sports venues.

United Center’s Rocky’s Bar, which opened in December, serves the namesake late Blackhawks chairman’s signature martini and french fries with black truffle butter. Menu lineups from Guaranteed Rate and Soldier Field include decadently stacked Chicago dogs and sandwiches, boozy milkshakes and empanadas.

First-round draft pick Angel Reese has told reporters about her impression of the beloved Harold’s Chicken, which does have a South Loop location near Wintrust, and has even posted on X seeking Chicago restaurant recommendations.

For the uninitiated, the South Loop may appear to lack the restaurant and bar options of North Side neighborhoods. But it is home to a bevy of definitive Chicago dishes, solid sports bars, modern concepts, the city’s only Michelin-starred brewery and classic Chinatown restaurants are very close. While not an exhaustive list of bars and restaurants, here are a few Tribune food team favorites at various price points to get you started if you’re heading to the neighborhood this season, plus one bar in Edgewater devoted to all things Sky.

16th Street Bar

Dominique Woods, left, and Derrick Phillip, right, sit and chat, May 23, 2024, at the 16th Street Bar & Coffee Lounge near the Wintrust Arena in Chicago. (Vincent Alban/Chicago Tribune)
Dominique Woods and Derrick Phillip on May 23, 2024, at the 16th Street Bar & Coffee Lounge near the Wintrust Arena in Chicago. (Vincent Alban/Chicago Tribune)

Just a 10-minute walk from the arena, bring your own eats into this cozy and chill bar that does a daily happy hour with deals on drinks, including frose. Or visit Sundays for a chance to try the East African cuisine pop-up Kutkoota’s Sambusa, with tomato basil beef, jerk chicken or lentil deep-fried sambusas to snack on with your choice of beverage.

75 E. 16th St., 312-88-3156, 16thstreetbar.com

88 Marketplace

People sit at the 312 Fish Market sushi bar at 88 Marketplace on June 30, 2021. 88 Marketplace is a highly popular grocery store with several different food stalls. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune)
The 312 Fish Market sushi bar at 88 Marketplace on June 30, 2021. 88 Marketplace is a popular grocery store with several different food stalls. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune)

Right off West Cermak Road just past the Cermak Road Bridge is the Asian food emporium 88 Marketplace where you can stock up on TikTok-trending snacks and other treats ahead of game time. It is also home to 312 Fish Market, where food court sushi is taken to new heights, and Holu, the steakhouse on the lower level that was one of the Tribune food team’s best new restaurants in 2022.

2105 S. Jefferson St., Floor 2, 312-929-4926, 88marketplace.com

Apolonia

Chef/owner Stephen Gillanders cuts into a loaf of black truffle puff bread at Apolonia on June 17, 2021, in Chicago. (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune)
Chef/owner Stephen Gillanders cuts into a loaf of black truffle puff bread at Apolonia on June 17, 2021, in Chicago. (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune)

Kitty-corner to Wintrust, the airy vibes and Mediterranean-inspired small plates such as cauliflower caponata and harissa spiced lamb skewers from chef-owner Stephen Gillanders play nicely with wines and vermouths by the glass and earned this restaurant Michelin Bib Gourmand recognition.

2201 S. Michigan Ave., apoloniachicago.com

Hello Jasmine

Grilled tofu, cuttlefish balls and pork sausage snacks by Hello Jasmine on May 8, 2019, in the Chinatown area of Chicago.

Louisa Chu / Chicago Tribune

Grilled tofu, cuttlefish balls and pork sausage snacks by Hello Jasmine on May 8, 2019, in the Chinatown area of Chicago.

Boba tea and Taiwanese-style bento bowls with chicken steak or spicy popcorn chicken are must-orders at this breezy Chinatown hangout, where value-sized portions can be expected. Plus get one free piece of fried chicken for $30 spent.

2026 S. Clark St., Unit C, 312-988-0920, hellojasmineus.com

Nine Bar

The Nine Bar mai tai at Nine Bar, a craft cocktail bar on Cermak Road in Chicago's Chinatown, is seen on June 2, 2022. (Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune)
The Nine Bar mai tai at Nine Bar, a craft cocktail bar on Cermak Road in Chicago’s Chinatown, on June 2, 2022. (Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune)

Chinatown’s first craft cocktail bar is open until 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays just in case you were hoping to snag their signature mai tais in a fun tiki cup or crispy crab rangoon after the game.

216 W. Cermak Road, 312-885-8249, ninebarchicago.com

Signature Bar

The new sports bar in the South Loop by former Chicago Bear Israel Idonije with chef Stephen Gillanders as partner, is now open for brunch, lunch and dinner. A raw bar program with oysters, shrimp cocktail and yellowfin tuna tartare, as well as shareables including mushroom and black truffle focaccia pizza, allude to a more upscale vibe, but plenty of screens for sports are in full view.

1312 S. Wabash Ave., 773-572-1622, signaturebar.com

Victory Tap

Sumptuous Italian dishes are the name of the game at this handsomely decorated restaurant with plush barstools. Think bread and burrata, Chicago’s traditional shrimp de Jonghe with seasoned breadcrumbs, rich pappardelle bolognese and plenty of wines to pair. Don’t miss its famous meatballs with marinara sauce and whipped ricotta.

1416 S. Michigan Ave., 312-566-9300, victoryitalian.com

Williams Inn Pizza & Sports Bar

Next door to Jerk Villa, this bar is a favorite among area sportswriters, and seasoned pizza bread could be a lighter pairing to beer or a cocktail, instead of waiting an hour for its famous deep dish to cook. Now that the weather’s warm, open windows let the breeze in as you catch game replays and highlights on one of its many TVs.

2210 S. Michigan Ave., 312-753-3108, williamsinnpizza.com

Bonus pick: Whiskey Girl Tavern

Iowa fans Dani Pillman, left, and Hannah Ludwig cheer as Iowa plays UConn during the women's NCAA Tournament Final Four game being televised at Whiskey Girl Tavern in Chicago's Edgewater neighborhood on April 5, 2024. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune)
Iowa fans Dani Pillman, left, and Hannah Ludwig cheer as the Hawkeyes play UConn during the women’s NCAA Tournament Final Four game being televised at Whiskey Girl Tavern in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood on April 5, 2024. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune)

Though miles away in the Edgewater neighborhood, this bar will be airing Chicago Sky games and offering drink specials and watch parties throughout the season, making it a great option if you can’t make it to a game.

6318 N. Clark St., whiskeygirltavern.com

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Big screen or home stream, takeout or dine-in, Tribune writers are here to steer you toward your next great experience. Sign up for your free weekly Eat. Watch. Do. newsletter here.





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