You’re probably eating lunch in the Loop because you work there—either grabbing something before heading back to the office or having a full-blown, sit-down business lunch. Or maybe you’re at the Express DMV trying to renew an expired license. Or maybe you’re in the neighborhood just to see the Bean in the harsh light of day. Whatever the occasion, one of these spots will work.
If you need a place to take your out-of-town relatives after being forced to show them the Bean, grab dim sum at MingHin. The massive dining space might look fancy, but it’s casual enough for a family-style meal where you'll feel comfortable leaping across the table for the last dumpling. Their menu is extensive, with options like juicy shrimp and pork shumai, sweet and savory short ribs with honey sauce, stuffed sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf, and desserts like puffy egg custard tarts or creamy mango pudding. With all the choices, there’s bound to be something that you, your cousins, and your mysterious great-aunt Miriam (who you all suspect is secretly a member of the CIA) will like.
Oasis Cafe is great for that very specific moment when you’re searching for the perfect engagement ring, but need a lunch break. This casual Mediterranean spot is located in the back of Wabash Jewelers Mall, so after perusing a vast selection of gemstones and wedding bands, you can immediately enjoy a pita pocket full of airy falafel and silky hummus. If jewelry shopping has worked up an appetite, they also have rice platters with toppings like lamb and beef kefta or grilled marinated chicken breast.
Exchequer Restaurant & Pub
Exchequer Restaurant and Pub has been serving deep dish since 1969, in a space that (allegedly) used to be one of Capone’s favorite speakeasies. The huge restaurant is covered in countless pieces of memorabilia, from mobster wanted posters, to Bears and Bulls newspaper clippings, providing interesting bits of history to keep you busy while you wait for your pizza or a visit from the ghost of history’s most notorious fedora model. The deep dish here isn’t the best in the city, but the 50-year-old recipe still holds up, and provides an alternative to the crowds at Lou’s or Giordano’s. Slightly different from a traditional Chicago-style pie, they layer cheese on top of a slightly sweet tomato sauce, all cradled in a soft, chewy crust. There’s a wide selection of toppings available, but our favorite combination is aptly named The Chicago: Italian sausage, Italian beef, onion, and giardiniera.
When you’re Jack Bauer of the office world rushing to audit some spreadsheets like the fate of the world depends on it, use your precious window of time for the fast-casual Indian food at Bombay Wraps. This counter-service spot specializes in paratha and roti wraps with fillings like tangy chicken tikka, spiced potatoes and cauliflower, or savory pieces of curried lamb. You can also get all of these in a rice bowl for something a little more substantial. Despite being a fairly small space, they actually have decent seating, but the fast service guarantees that you can quickly return to the office to complete your onslaught of tasks before the clock strikes five.
This Filipino spot started out as a pop-up in Logan Square, and now has a permanent home at Revival Food Hall. The menu is full of hits, from entrees like bagnet and liempo (which comes with delicious garlic rice and a fried egg) to their incredible mac salad and pickled papaya. Everything from Boonie Foods will help you forget how much you hate your office, but want to take a little extra time to call out the sisig. The menu description is “the best thing you’ll ever eat” and we’re not arguing with that—and we eat a lot.
This German spot opened in 1898, back before labor laws existed. But other than your 18-hour workday now being illegal, not much at Berghoff has changed since then. You can expect dishes like wiener schnitzel, sauerbraten, and a pretty fantastic reuben sandwich. The quickest strategy for lunch is to not sit down in the actual restaurant. Instead, head downstairs to the cafe and eat cafeteria-style, or (our personal favorite) follow the guys in suits to the express lunch sandwich stand in the main bar area.
Left Coast Food & Juice
If you want to feel like your friend from California who gets up at 6am to surf is making lunch for you, come here. You’ll find stuff like salads, avocado toast, and wraps with chicken and black beans. Plenty of the food here is vegan and gluten-free, and it’s perfect if you’re looking for something kind of healthy. It will split up a long day of meetings, and give you energy for that 6pm run club your co-workers convinced you to join.
If you work in a business setting where you need to impress someone, there’s a 99.9% chance that at some point you’ll eat lunch at a steakhouse, and Prime & Provisions is the best place to go in the Loop. It’s not as corporate-fancy as Chicago Cut, it still serves very good steak, along with some seafood, fried chicken, and a giant piece of bacon topped with maple syrup and dark chocolate. Plus, the space is huge and full of giant booths - two good ways to impress any cattle rancher/investor from Texas you’re entertaining.
The Gage is our top choice in the Loop for elevated bar food. Come to this dark pub for poutine, a venison burger, and fish & chips. Get a pint. Get several. In other words, this is where you go to see what it’s like to be one of your colleagues in the London office.
This is not where you’re going for a typical work-day lunch. You end up at Cindy’s because your friends are visiting, and you’re now responsible for showing off the best parts of the city while making sure no one gets their car towed away to Lower Wacker. Put lunch at Cindy’s on the list. It’s on Michigan Ave on top of the Chicago Athletic Association, and has beautiful views overlooking Millennium Park and Lake Michigan. The food probably won’t blow you away, but the pretty scenery makes up for it.
Fisk & Co is in the Hotel Monaco, which we thought sounded made-up, but it very much exists. The specialty here is mussels, and you can get them served in a variety of different broths (like white wine or green curry). The rest of the menu is seafood-focused as well, with oysters and entrees like lobster rolls or roasted salmon. It’s a great option for a casual business lunch, or eating by yourself at the bar when you just need some time away from your deskmate who eats hard-boiled eggs at his computer.
If you want someplace versatile, then you need to know about The Dearborn, an easy-to-like spot that works for a lot of occasions. It’s nice enough for a business meal, but still casual enough for lunch after that Segway tour you took with your parents. Plus, it’s huge, with multiple rooms that work as well for groups as for a one-on-one lunch with your boss. Order the burrata and any of the salads, then make sure someone gets a cheeseburger - it’s great.
As tempting as a cellophane-wrapped sandwich from one of the many nearby Starbucks might be, try a cubano at Cafecito instead. It’s the best thing here, which is saying something since their other sandwiches, like the ropa vieja, are also very good. Get a cafe con leche too. Cafecito has a few other locations in the city, but the one in the Loop is the best since it’s probably the one within walking distance of your office.
We’re not certain that the rich food at this upscale French-inspired spot is going to be great for your 2pm productivity. But if you don’t care, or don’t need to go back to work, Taureaux Tavern is reliably good. Come here for a light lunch of rigatoni ala vodka and lobster thermidor bites. Then make sure the volume on your phone alarm is set to high just in case you need to take an impromptu nap.
Brown Bag Seafood Co.
Brown Bag Seafood isn’t the most exciting place on this list, but it’s a good option if you need something fast, kind-of-healthy, and can’t stand the thought of another quinoa bowl. The choose-your-own-adventure-style seafood menu with sandwiches, salads, bowls, and tacos is perfect for a light meal. You can eat here and stare at Millenium Park while daydreaming about finding a better job.
If you don’t mind risking the meat sweats in the middle of the day, check out Blackwood, a casual counter-service BBQ spot. Go with a platter of pulled pork, brisket, or pulled chicken then round things out with macaroni and cornbread.
The Food Halls
The French Market
This is the original food hall, and it’s not as new and nice as the other spots - it’s a little claustrophobic and confusing to navigate. But it has places we like inside, like Aloha Poke, A Taste Of Philippines, and Saigon Sisters.
Revival Food Hall
Revival feels like a very-nice food court in a shopping mall in a town with very low unemployment and expensive seasonal holiday decorations. Some spots that are here are Boonie Foods, Smoque, and Electric Greens.
The newest of these three food halls, Urbanspace feels like an upgraded, sleeker version of your typical mall food court, especially if you’re sitting on the leather barstools at their cocktail bar, The Peregrine Club. With 14 different food stalls, there’s a wide selection of cuisines and dishes. For a taste of the Philippines, grab some lumpia and longanisa with garlic rice at Isla Filipino. If you’re looking for a new addition to your lunch sandwich rotation, Happy Lobster has a buttery lobster roll with giardiniera and spicy mayo. And if you’re a Brooklyn to Chicago transplant, you can even find some pizza you won’t complain about in the form of Roberta’s signature margherita pie.