We get it, work can be “busy.” Staring at Excel spreadsheets takes up a lot of time during the day. But don’t cheat yourself when it comes to lunch, because you shouldn’t fall victim to the convenience of Subway and McDonald’s during the work week. You deserve better than that.
That’s why we want to highlight these 25 restaurants in the Loop for a quick lunch during the work week. Throw away that boring bologna sandwich you’re about to eat and get yourself to one of these places instead. Here’s where to grab lunch in the Loop.
Delicious Cuban style sandwiches in a casual take-out atmosphere. Get the cubano if you’re looking to go all out, or a talapia sandwich to keep things a little healthier. Their Cuban coffee will have you bouncing off the walls the rest of the day at your desk. Take that, HR.
Do NOT sit down in the actual restaurant. Instead, do one of two things. 1. Head downstairs to the cafe and eat cafeteria lunchroom style, or 2. Our personal favorite, follow the old guys in suits to the express lunch sandwich stand in the main bar area. Get a corned beef or turkey sandwich with homemade chips and a pickle.
The husband and wife duo here serves zenwiches – classic American sandwiches with Japanese flavor twists. How does that work? Korean cheese steak zenwich, that’s how. We love their spicy garlic shrimp zenwich too.
Farmer’s Fridge is a salad vending machine company that serves fresh and healthy salads in plastic, recyclable mason jars. There’s a few of them around, so find a location closest to you. The craziest part about it all? They are legitimately good. Seriously.
Chicken Planet might not look like much, but you’ll be amazed at the half chicken, pita, and a side deal for about $8. It kind of feels unfair to them, but we aren’t complaining.
Technically west of the river, but you won’t melt if you walk across the bridge. This old school joint is only open from 11am to 2pm during the week, so there’s a small window, but it’s worth it. We like to get the turkey on focaccia bread, but anything on the focaccia bread will work. No complaints about the hot meatball sub either.
Can’t find that classic Chicago dog you’ve been looking for in the Loop? U.B. is the answer to your prayers. Relish so green you’ll half expect it to turn into a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.
Pastoral is the type of artisanal meat and cheese store you’d expect to see wandering down The Avenue des Champs-Élysées. Go to either the Wabash and Lake location or the stand inside the French Market for simple but awesome sandwiches and salads.
There are a number of good fast-casual Mediterranean spots in the Loop, but we aren’t shy about the fact Benjyehuda is our favorite. Go with the chicken or steak schwarma in whatever format you prefer – salad, rice bowl, pita or flatbread sandwich. We demand you order the cheese fries even if you have a busy afternoon.
Naf Naf is another player in the cheap eats Mediterranean game, and it’s expanding fast. There are a couple locations already in the Loop alone. We are partial to Naf Naf when it comes to their falafal and pita, which is why we hit them up when that’s exactly what we want.
Brown Bag is a great summer time lunch spot if you work anywhere near Michigan Avenue. The choose your own adventure style seafood menu with sandwiches, salads, bowls, and tacos is perfect for a light meal. You can also stare at the city and Millenium Park while you daydream about finding a better job.
Pierogi Heaven has you covered for when you’re sitting at your desk and a pierogi craving suddenly takes over. And if that never happens, try Pierogi Heaven anyway - meat pierogis, cheese pierogis, veggie pierogis, and even fruit-filled ones. It’s all good and an outside the box meal.
Have you noticed how hard it is to get a basic salad around here for a reasonable price? Harder than it should be. We know there are a number of chains around that try and serve this need, but none of them make us that excited. Be Leaf is a good option when you want basic greens, and it’s always healthy, filling, and reasonably priced. Try the falafel-osophy, a sweet potato falafel salad with feta, dates, tabbouleh, and more.
Let’s be clear that CBA doesn’t have real bagels in the lox and cream cheese sense. But that’s not the intention. The bagels are meant for steamed sandwiches with virtually endless toppings, and the whole bagel steamwich situation works surprisingly well.
We don’t think the Chicago Luke’s is as good as its New York counterparts, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat there if you’re craving a lobster roll. If you can’t fight the feeling, Luke’s is still your best bet for a quick lobster roll option in the Loop.
Fontano’s is one of our personal favorites for a quick sandwich. It must have been a favorite of some others too, because Fontano’s traded in their hole-in-the wall space on Jackson for some nicer digs on Michigan Ave. The sandwiches are still great, and that’s all that counts. Make sure to top whatever you’re eating with mass quantities of giardiniera.
The Montreal style smoked pastrami sandwich at Fumare is legit one of the best sandwiches in town. They serve other really good deli sandwiches too, but the smoked pastrami is what you want.
According to the people at Saucy Porka, Bao + Taco = Baco. The Saucy Porka is a mix of Asian and Latin cooking roots, and you don’t have to be Einstein to realize it’s a beautiful equation.
Barbecue isn’t normally in our lunch repertoire, but maybe it is for you. If so, check out one of the few Blackwood BBQ’s around. You can overdo it with pulled pork, macaroni, and cornbread, or be a bit more practical and get some pulled chicken over a salad.
Naansense is Americanized Indian food. There’s nothing wrong with that, just don’t go around telling people you love Indian food and use Naansense as an example of why. That being said, you can’t go wrong with a chicken tikka or vindaloo naanwich.
It was only a matter of time before the poke craze reached Chicago. And Aloha Poke set the bar high for it’s competitors that are no doubt on the way. You’ll spend more on lunch here than you will on a Potbelly sandwich, but the abundance of fresh tuna, salmon, and other ingredients is worth it.
Sometimes you just need the options of a giant Italian menu to help get you through the day. Pizza, pasta, calzone, or maybe a meatball sub? If you find yourself in this situation, then check out the longstanding Venice Cafe on Monroe. If you work in or near the Sears Tower and are real busy (lazy), there’s another location inside the building too.
Unless you’re regularly shopping for diamond necklaces and engagement rings, it’s easy to miss Oasis Cafe. That’s because it’s hiding in the back of an actual jewelry store on Jeweler’s Row, the small stretch of Wabash under the L in the Loop. Indulge inMediterranean food like hummus, kebabs, and schwarma. It only costs about $10 for lunch, so you can save up for some bling later.