The Chicago Work From Home Lunch Guide
Reclaim your lunch hour.
This content is produced by The Infatuation in partnership with Dropbox Business.
For more WFH lunch ideas, including a one-week only Lunch Dropbox with an exclusive sandwich from Daisies, click here.
These days, a lot of people are working from home. Which, depending on how you look at it, is a lot like “living at work.” That’s why now more than ever it’s important to take time for lunch - a real one, where you actually close your laptop, and maybe (just maybe) even leave the house. Dropbox wants to help fuel you up for inspired work by taking a break with lunch from one of these 16 great spots.
Where to Get Lunch on a Monday
After you’ve (ideally) spent two days gleefully ignoring responsibilities, the reality of a Monday can be hard. Stepping away for an actual lunch makes it better, but unfortunately, a lot of restaurants in this city are closed on Mondays. Here are some great ones that aren’t.
Tip: Use your lunch break to make a personal to-do list for the week. It could include any errands you have to run, cakes you want to bake, and TV shows you’re finally going to watch.
This River North spot is the sister restaurant to Aba in the West Loop, and both have Mediterranean small-plates menus. But where Aba only serves dinner, Ema is open all-day. They have many of the exact same dishes, like hummus and other spreads, hot and cold mezze, kebabs, and dishes like black garlic shrimp. Whatever you do, make sure to get extra housemade pita.
The original Etta is one of our favorite restaurants in Wicker Park, but they aren’t open for lunch. Luckily their brand new location in River North is. You can still get their delicious house-made pastas, pizzas, salads, and sandwiches, and they have a bakery case where you can pick up some fantastic pastries too.
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Southport Grocery and Cafe
Almost everything from Southport Grocery & Cafe is made from scratch, including all the bread used for their delicious sandwiches. Also worth noting is that this place serves brunch all day, and nothing will help you stay in denial that the weekend is actually over than eating some bread pudding pancakes or brisket and gravy. Just don’t forget to go back to work.
Not only does Sushi-san have fantastic sushi, but they also have a great lunch special (which you can get from 11am-3pm during the week). It comes with miso soup, your choice of a “san-specialty” (like a tuna trio or maki), and a rice bowl (with options like Vietnamese pork or miso salmon). But if you feel like just ordering a whole bunch of nigiri and sashimi a la carte, that’s possible too.
This place is worth ordering from for its fantastic skillet cookie alone - which they bake in a cast iron skillet then somehow slide perfectly into a carryout container. That’s wonderful, but they also happen to have some of our favorite burgers in the city.
There was a time when 5 Rabanitos wasn’t open on Mondays. Thankfully, that unpleasantness is behind us. Now we can get their excellent Mexican food - like tacos, huaraches, and sandwiches like the torta ahogada - seven days a week.
Where to Have Lunch When You Want to Go All Out
Maybe you have an IRL client lunch and want to impress them, or maybe you just had a great performance review and want to celebrate. Here are the best places to go all out for lunch.
Tip: Have small rituals to help you take a real break. Close your laptop and have a screenless lunch in another room. Maybe do a sudoku puzzle. Remember sudoku?
Chicago Cut Steakhouse
This steakhouse is at the bottom of an office building, and we’re pretty sure the term “power lunch” was created with Chicago Cut in mind. The food (especially the bone-in prime rib) is excellent, and the space has an impressive view of the Chicago River. Equally impressive is ordering “lobstercargot” for carryout to celebrate that you finally had a video meeting where your audio didn’t cut out and/or your screen didn’t freeze.
The Italian food here is tasty, so you can’t go wrong no matter what you order. Make sure you get at least one pasta (like the pillowy truffle gnocchi) and one of their creative pizzas, like the pear and prosciutto or the roasted brussels sprouts with sausage. If you really want to go all out (and have a three-hour-long lunch), pick up one of their meal kits.
Maple & Ash
There are so many steakhouses in Chicago, but Maple & Ash - with its coal-roasted seafood, elaborate candelabras, and giant velvet booths - is our favorite when we want to go all out. And since the start of pandemic, they have started serving lunch.
Gibson’s Italia in River West is an upscale Italian restaurant from the Gibsons steakhouse team. And for lunch, you can get things like housemade pastas, risotto, seafood towers, and yes, lots of steak and steakhouse-style sides. Everything is available for carryout, but if you eat there you’ll also have a nice view of the river.
The main reason to come to this Chinese restaurant in Lincoln Park is for dim sum, which they serve all day, everyday. And while D Cuisine has a limited selection compared to some other dim sum spots in the city, what they do have is delicious. You’ll find excellent pork buns, creamy steamed egg buns, shrimp dumplings, and sesame balls that are crispy on the outside and perfectly chewy inside. So if you want to go all out for lunch, ordering every single thing here feels like a good plan.
Lunch for When You’re Having a Bad Week
You meant to message your coworker, but mistakenly sent that complaint to a thread that included your boss. Then you spilled coffee on your kid’s laptop. Things went downhill from there. You’re having a bad week, but luckily for you, there are many places in Chicago with exactly the kind of comforting, delicious lunch food you need right now.
Tip: Combine your lunch hour with a walk or something that gets you out of the house. Walk to a neighborhood spot to pick up food, listen to a podcast, or just stand outside for five minutes after lunch to remember what fresh air is like.
photo credit: Christina Slaton
Few things are as consistently great as the Au Cheval burger. It’s the best burger in Chicago (yes, it is) with two griddled patties, cheese, dijonaise, and pickles, all on a buttery bun. When you add bacon and an egg, it’s practically transcendent. And if there’s one thing this pandemic has given us, it’s that now we can order this thing to go. And you can’t eat it at your at-home desk cause you’ll just get dijonnaise on the replacement laptop.
Some weeks feel more post-apocalyptic than others. But before you start fantasizing about a new colony on an oxygen-rich planet far, far away, order from Daisies. The menu at this Logan Square spot feels inspired by your friend who has a (successful) garden, with seasonal dishes like a summer squash cavatelli, or a peaches and cream sandwich made with goat cheese, smoked ham, and peach preserves. Basically, it’s exactly the kind of place that reminds us we’re still living in a city surrounded by actual farms.
We still need to run some numbers, but we’re reasonably certain there’s very little that The Momo World in University Village can’t make better. They have roughly 6,894 varieties of delicious momos to choose from, and we can’t pick a favorite. Is it the fried-then-chargrilled tandoori momo? The sadeko covered in a rich sesame gravy? The momo chaat with sev, tamarind, rice crackers, yogurt, and a bunch of other delicious things? It doesn’t matter. Whatever you get, it will make you forget that your entire team heard you yell at your kids after you forgot to mute yourself during this morning’s meeting.
From Kasama’s unbelievable pastries to their chicken adobo, everything from this all-day Filipino spot in West Town is incredible. During lunch you can get things like the aforementioned chicken adobo, lumpia, and the ham and cheese danish: salty serrano ham and raclette fondue on top of a light and flaky pastry that’s topped with sugar. It’s basically the food version of a hug.
Earl’s in Jefferson Park is wonderful. For one thing, this restaurant has a drive-through (very convenient these days) and they serve made-to-order donuts. More importantly, they make fantastic BBQ. The ribs are topped with your choice of sauce (Carolina, Georgia, Chicago hot, or original), and their sides (like the mac and cheese and cornbread) are delicious. But we repeat: fresh donuts.