The entrance to Chicago French Market — Photo courtesy of Jamie Bartosch
While the setting is not exactly Parisian, nor is it exclusively French, the food served in this concrete underground hall is fantastic.
The staircase leads down from the platforms to the market, which is lined with dozens of little independent restaurants with tiny stands set up. Everyone can find a bite they'll like.
The croque madame from Flip Crepes — Photo courtesy of Jamie Bartosch
The fresh, artisanal food runs the gamut from colorful, handmade macarons at Vanille Patisserie to bite-sized "loafies" topped with mashed potatoes at the Meatloaf Bakery to even an assortment of raw foods at Raw.
You'll also find many French foods, like a diet-busting-but-worth-it Croque Madame at Flip Crepes and a highly-buzzed-about, Montreal-style smoke meat (It's similar to pastrami.) sandwich at Fumare Meats. They've made many "Best Sandwich" lists, so if you want to try one, make sure to order your sandwich in advance. They run out almost every day.
There's also Korean food, a sushi bar, Belgian fries and beers, Indian food at Clay Oven Kitchen and much, much more.
The glass cabinet at Lolli and Pops is eye-catching, with its intricately designed chocolate truffles. And everyone raves about the mini donuts made on-site at Beavers Coffee + Donuts. You can get four mini donuts for $2, but you'll definitely want to eat more than that after you get a whiff!
Vanille Patisserie at the Chicago French Market sells an assortment of macarons — Photo courtesy of Jamie Bartosch
Chicago French Market is definitely more of a place for a to-go lunch or dinner. It's also a good place if you're heading out on a Metra train and want to bring a special treat to someone. And while the market does have a large seating area, it's crowded and cafeteria-like, with often not-wiped-down tables and nowhere to go if you need an extra napkin or fork.
The ambiance is pretty sparse, as there are cement floors and the occasional sound of a train rumbling above. But the different vendors have colorful, bright stands, and it's so fun to go here and sample all the different foods. You can eat something different every time. Plus, it's always nice to support the small, artisanal vendors and new businesses.
Insider tip: Avoid the noon to 1 p.m. rush, when business lunchers from around the city pack the place, making the lines long. And be aware that there are limited hours: they're closed on Sundays, and generally near dinnertime on weeknights and Saturdays.