search

Lunch in Chicago: so many options from healthy to indulgent



Lunch is a great way to experience Chicago's local flavor. In a full-service restaurant, you're likely to spend less money than at dinner while savoring the same deep flavors. Sit down or carry out healthy, delicious menu specials, sandwiches and salads, fresh-squeezed juices, robust coffee and beautiful pastries at any of the Beatrix eateries. Finom brings the experience of a European coffeehouse to Old Irving Park with superb coffee beverages and a menu of Hungarian-inspired small plates. The Mediterranean-meets-the-Midwest in long-standing Chicago favorite, avec, and locals were thrilled when The Publican added lunch service. In a rush? JIAO's proprietary ordering system means you'll have fresh, plump dumplings within 10 minutes of ordering.

If you want pizza but can't wear elastic for the rest of the day, Bonci (in Wicker Park and the West Loop) is your ticket to excellent Roman slices dressed with salmon and ricotta or spicy eggplant, among many others. If there a Portillo's in the neighborhood, you're on your way to satisfying and authentic Chicago style hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches. The sandwiches are outstanding at The Ruin Daily (chase it with the drink of the day, too)! For a steamy bowl of ramen, Kinton is waiting in Wicker Park and Fulton Market and it's right there in the name, Dove's Luncheonette. 

If you have some time, explore Chinatown, Argyle Street, Pilsen, Avondale or Bridgeport for authentic flavors, friendly people and lower prices. 


Advertisement



Older Chicagoans fondly recall "luncheonettes" and diners where you could get a cup of joe and a platter full of well-greased food for very little dough. No doubt, Wicker Park had its share in the '40s to '60s but now we have Dove's Luncheonette, an homage to the bygone diners with a lot better food and beverage. The 41-stool luncheonette offers counter service morning through night and comfort food like steamy bowls of pozole, cornmeal fried catfish, charred calamari, arugula salad, chicken fried chicken and a mighty burger. Chef de Cuisine Tom Carlin offers daily specials, too, like a breakfast burrito until 5 p.m on Tuesday or a ham and cheese torta on Friday. Have a late lunch and see what you can snag at Happy Hour weekdays from 3-6 p.m.

Recommended for Lunch because: Across the street from Chicago's Blue Line, Dove's Luncheonette is an all-day eatery, featuring comfort food inspired by flavors of the Southern US and Mexico.

Jacky's expert tip: Serving breakfast and lunch until 5 pm, you can have breakfast for lunch, too!

Read more about Dove's Luncheonette →


9
Fulton Market


The Publican has become a part of the fabric of Fulton Market highlighting farm-to-table fare long before it was a culinary catch-phrase. Among the first to open in the uncharted meatpacking district in 2008, its star has not dimmed and The Publican is now serving lunch, Monday - Friday from 11:30 a.m. - 2 p.m. Expect classic Publican items plus some new favorites like the Pub Burger and a Pub-Fixe menu, three courses of much-loved and newer selections. Oysters are always popular here and the lunch board features rillettes, country ham, freshly made ricotta, salad and Publican's much-lauded bread. Mussels and frites, Slagel Farm porchetta and barbecue carrot soups are other fine choices. Enjoy sweets at the table or tote 'em back to the office. Weekend brunch is among the best in the city, too.

Recommended for Lunch because: The Publican's constantly evolving menu and extensive international beer roster can now be enjoyed at lunchtime, too.

Jacky's expert tip: The Publican is akin to a European beer hall, so if you want a quiet, intimate meal, save this gem for another time.

Read more about The Publican →


It took Chicago awhile to get an authentic soup dumpling joint outside of Chinatown and JIAO is a fine dumpling palace, indeed. JIAO touts a 300-year-old secret recipe used in its made-to-order orbs and it's the first restaurant in the country to offer authentic soup dumplings through a quick-served model. Owners spent $1.5 million to transform a former clothing store into a casual den able to satisfy 500 customers per day, for dine-in and take-out. Choose among eight dumplings (pork and cabbage; lamb and coriander; beef and onion; chicken and mushroom; shrimp, leek and egg; zucchini, vermicelli and wood ear mushroom; tomato and egg; and truffle), and decide if you want them steamed or pan-fried. Appetizers include spicy cabbage kimchi and wood ear mushroom salad and cold tea drinks can be topped with "cold, cream foam."

Recommended for Lunch because: JIAO's proprietary ordering system means you'll have fresh, plump dumplings within 10 minutes of ordering.

Jacky's expert tip: For serious dumpling noshers, the JIAO app allows you to order and track for pick-up and dine-in to save time.

Read more about JIAO →


Advertisement
7
Fulton Market


Popular Canadian import, Kinton Ramen, had a successful launch in Fulton Market and witnesses a steady flow of noodlers. The chain debuted a second Chicago location in Wicker Park in December 2019. Dubbing itself the "Ultimate Japanese Ramen Experience," Kinton Ramen aims for an authentic culinary trip to Japan via executive chef Aki Urata's commitment to serving the highest quality broth and noodles. The rich broth is made from scratch simmering pork and chicken bones for over 20 hours: pork has a nice char and the fried chicken in karaage ramen stands up to the shoyu or spicy broth and noodles. Choose thin or thick noodles and any of 18 add-ins. Cold apps include marinated octopus and torched sushi-grade salmon over daikon. Dumplings, rice dishes, vegetarian items, mochi, sake, and cocktails round out the menu.

Recommended for Lunch because: Casual with a a modern, Kyoto-style minimalist design, Kinton Ramen warms up lunchtime with monthly specials and quick service in WIcker Park and Fulton Market.

Jacky's expert tip: There are often deals like a 32 oz Sapporo with spicy or original karaage chicken for $15, big enough for two!

Read more about Kinton Ramen →




Pizzaiolo Gabriele Bonci chose Chicago as his first pizzeria location outside of Italy and the throngs are loving his Roman-style pizza cut with scissors and sold by weight. Bonci offers only fresh, natural ingredients primarily imported from Italy and considers "Agriculture as culinary art" so expect ever-changing toppings on the Roman-style crust. You probably won't experience the same pizza twice since options can change hourly and Bonci has more than 1,500 recipes that have emerged from the Italian ovens. Expect a mix of cured meats, cheeses and seasonal produce. Options could be hummus and mortadella; spinach, ricotta and anchovy; spicy eggplant; and mushroom, prosciutto crudo, mozzarella, arugula. The Wicker Park location has added salads to the menu, too. Moisten the pipes with single-serve beer, wine and canned cocktails. Bonci accepts plastic for payment so save the cash for your cabbie.

Recommended for Lunch because: Bonci, acclaimed for its rotating, al-taglio style pizza, is a an apt spot for a quick lunch where you can choose a variety of inspired selections.

Jacky's expert tip: The place is small and can get mobbed at lunchtime so allow a little extra time.

Read more about Bonci Pizza →


5
Downtown


The Chicago born and based chain is a smart choice for a snappy Chicago style hot dog, a spiced-just-right Italian beef or combo, better than decent char burgers and really good shakes, malts and chocolate cake. Service is fast, staff gets your order right, prices are low and everything is authentically flavored. Even dieters can find a tasty option at Portillo's - char-broiled chicken or grilled tuna sandwiches and big salads. The locations with a Barnelli's adjunct also offer award-winning ribs and rustic pasta dishes like Chicken al Diavolo and oven-baked spaghetti. Portillo's lures in locals with seasonal specials like an Usinger's Brat Sandwich and Apple Walnut Harvest Salad in autumn.

Recommended for Lunch because: This is one of the best places in the city and suburbs for Chicago's famous hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches.

Jacky's expert tip: Save room for chocolate cake! The moist cake is sold by the slice, or mixed into a chocolate cake milkshake.

Read more about Portillo's →




The coffeehouse-meets-restaurant concept, Beatrix, is known for healthy meets delicious menu specials, fresh-squeezed juices and an appealing coffee and pastry counter. Launch lunch with a freshly squeezed juice (Power Greens or a Blueberry Basil Smash sound good); and if you're going light, try a snack of hummus, tuna crudo, Kung Pao cauliflower; or go all out with luscious glazed salmon; chicken meatballs; warm pot roast sandwich; giant chopped salad; poke bowl, or a burger. There are gluten-free items, cocktails and an incredible coffee and dessert menu, too. Basically, it's everything good. In a hurry? Beatrix Market is a quick, grab and go market experience with self-serve salad, soup and hot food bars, rotating chef-prepared salads, sandwiches and snacks.

Recommended for Lunch because: Beatrix stocks everything good for lunch: healthy, delicious menu specials, fresh-squeezed juices and an appealing coffee and pastry counter.

Jacky's expert tip: Located in River North, Streeterville, Fulton Market, Oakbrook and DePaul, Beatrix offers convenient extended lunch hours weekdays (11:30 am-4 pm).

Read more about Beatrix →




Like your mom and Wrigley Field, just because they've been around for a while, it doesn't mean they've lost a bit of luster. The Mediterranean-meets-the-Midwest avec has been a Chicago favorite for 16 years despite the hundreds of upstarts that come and go in the West Loop. And with good reason. Expect inspired healthy-ish options at lunch as well as dinner. Inspired shareable plates include chorizo-stuffed Medjool dates; grilled mackerel with charred grapes; and tabouleh salad with squash ghanoush. Sandwiches that will make you forget ham-on-rye forever include lamb burgers with tomato jam and tahini yogurt and grilled chicken shwarma on house-made pita sided with turmeric pickles. Or, opt for a three-course prix fixe for $24. Have a seasonal Metric coffee or a housemade lavender lemonade unless the fabulous wine roster beckons. Their standard wine glass pour is 250ml which is a little less than half a bottle!

Recommended for Lunch because: Hearty and healthy Mediterranean-meets-the-Midwest dishes in a lively communal atmosphere should put avec on your must-visit-for-lunch list.

Jacky's expert tip: Gather two-to-six culinary compatriots and reserve avec lamb roti, whole roasted lamb shoulder served with warm pita, mezze and sauces pulsing with flavor.

Read more about Avec →




Open weekdays, The Ruin Daily is a sandwich shop and day bar that fills a void at lunch time: sandwiches are innovative and hearty; you can have breakfast for lunch; and there are rich coffee drinks, wine, beer and fab cocktails. A sandwich shop with a chef means house-made deli meats and interesting renditions of familiar favorites. Consider steamy pastrami on rye; or an exceptional grilled cheese with Fontina, Swiss, Cheddar on Parmesan-crusted sourdough (make it a tuna melt)! A simple ham and cheese becomes a thing of luncheon beauty with smoked Ham, Brunkow Cheese spread and fig preserve on a French baguette. The Buffalo cauliflower sandwich, called The Southern Boy, is stuffed with grilled onions, Alabama white sauce and melty Muenster. House-made seasonal sides, soup and salads, Happy Hour snacks in case you missed lunch completely and to-go options for when you just can't face other human beings.

Recommended for Lunch because: Sizeable sandwiches with housemade deli meats, a day bar, breakfast for lunch, grab-and-go options and great coffee make for a perfect lunch hideout. .

Jacky's expert tip: There's a sandwich special Mondays and a specially-priced boozy drink on Thursdays.

Read more about The Ruin Daily →


1
Irving Park


You might expect deli meat on a croissant for lunch at a coffee shop but Finom brings the experience of a European coffeehouse to Old Irving Park. Chefs/Co-Owners Daniel Speer and Rafael Esparza wow with a menu of Hungarian-inspired small plates like Gulyásleves, a traditional Hungarian soup with paprika, beef, parsnip, carrot, potato, gypsy pepper, onion, and dumplings, served with bread. Or how about Mushroom Paprikás with dumplings, exotic mushrooms, sour cream, parsley oil, porcini mushroom dust, cured egg yolk, and black truffle pearls? There are items for vegetarians (like a very fancy cauliflower toast) and super carnivores (toast with a pâte made of veal brain, pork belly and chicken liver, pickled tomato, radish, edible flowers, and micro-greens on sourdough toast, topped with cured egg yolk. And we haven't mentioned the comforting drinks like Hawaiian Fog with hibiscus tea, steamed almond milk, topped with tart Morello cherry powder and turmeric.

Recommended for Lunch because: Located in a historic building, Finom feels like grandma's living room with Hungarian dishes bubbling in the kitchen. Perfectly named, "Finom" means delicious in Hungarian.

Jacky's expert tip: Even though it's not on the menu anymore, you can still order the Malört Chai-town Latte, which includes Rare Tea Cellar Emperor's Chai, soy milk and a hearty shot of housemade Malört syrup.

Read more about Finom Coffee →


Map

Meet Jacky Runice

Born in Bucktown when bulletproof was a home safety choice and not a coffee order, Jacky Runice has been knocking around Chicago as a professional print, online and broadcast journalist and...  More About Jacky

×