Irish owned but utterly American, The Dearborn Tavern can be found at the intersection the Theater District in the heart of downtown), satisfying food and lively ambience. Executive Chef, Aaron Cuschieri (Season 11 of Bravo's Top Chef) offers a lunch menu as alluring as the dinner bill of fare. Portions are certainly shareable but you may want to hog the deeply flavored shrimp 'n' grits or the Midwest fried chicken all to yourself. New items include beef bulgogi fajitas; earthy carrot salad and soup made with slow cooked onions, brandy and thyme scented bone broth, crispy bread, molten Gruyere cheese. Sandwiches, served with fries or house salad, are substantial. Regulars can't get enough of the the Dearborn Burger made with pasture raised beef; pastrami Rueben; two-fisted Cuban; veggie Dagwood. Entrees include exceptional fish 'n' chips, and ethereal housemade Parmesan gnocchi. Sip a creative non-alcoholic soda like a mango ginger brew.
Open weekdays, The Ruin Daily is a sandwich shop and day bar that touts, "life is too short for sh*tty sandwiches." If you're taking a train or find yourself in this part of the western edge of the Loop, make a point to stop in the boozy deli for breakfast available all day, coffee, sandwiches, cocktails and snacks from dawn until dusk. A sandwich shop with a chef (Mario Manzini ) means house-made deli meats and interesting renditions of familiar favorites. Consider a Banh Meatball - beef n' basil meatballs, eanut hoisin sauce, pickled jalapeno, cilantro chutney, shredded sarrot on Italian baguette; steamy pastrami on rye; or an exceptional grilled cheese with Fontina, Swiss, Cheddar on Parmesan-crusted sourdough. Veg heads will go for a mushroom melt or Buffalo cauliflower sandwiches. There are house made seasonal sides, soup and salads plus great Happy Hour snacks in case you missed lunch completely.
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 40's to 60's but now we have Dove's Luncheonette, an homage to the bygone diners with a lot better food and beverage. The the 41-stool luncheonette offers counter service morning through night and comfort food like pozole, burnt ends hash and eggs, salmon toast, chicken fried chicken and cemita sandwiches. Chef de Cuisine Tom Carlin just launched some fall dishes, including tofu toast with marinated butternut squash, avocado and pepitas, "masa ball soup," with ham broth, and an amaranth salad with wheat berries, baby kale, apples, pasilla vinaigrette and beet yogurt.
The ramen noodle obsession in Chicago hasn't waned and Furious Spoon seems to be furiously multiplying every year - it's now checking in at eight locations across Chicagoland. The Tokyo-style ramen shop boasts daily handmade noodles and if you can't decide, go for the signature Furious Ramen made with homemade noodles, tonkotsu broth (pork base) and flavored with a miso tare. Toppings include chashu (pork belly), white pepper chicken, marinated mushrooms, scallions, fury sauce, garlic relish, sesame seeds and a poached egg. Menus at the food hall locations are more limited so if you want more of selection (like small bites and rice bowls in addition to ramen), head to Wicker Park, Logan Square, Pilsen, Evanston, Lakeview or Andersonville. Count on getting filled up no matter which location you hit. There's a nice roster of Japanese beer, too.
Baos, or steamed Asian buns, are considered fast food in China, and they're picking up steam across the country thanks to Chicago born Wow Bao. Baos are stuffed with teriyaki chicken, barbecued pork, spicy beef, Thai curry, and veggies. Asian salads, potstickers, noodle and rice bowls, and soups are also served. Moisten the pipes with homemade ginger ale, Thai iced coffee or a variety of hot and iced tea. The original location at Water Tower Place (835 N Michigan) and the Theater District store (1 W Wacker Blvd) are also open on weekends. There are additional locations in the Loop, Gold Coast, Lakeview, Michigan Plaza, O'Hare airport and a Near North outpost at Chicago and Wabash opens soon. The new Wow Bao location at 200 N Michigan comes fully automated with self-serving cubbies, so lunch here is speedy and a throw back to automats of the mid century. In fact, the company says Wow Bao serves "at the speed of life."
Co-owned by husband and wife, Sam Barron and Sarah Weitz, The Fat Shallot began as a food truck, expanded to a spot in Revival Food Hall and now there's a stand alone brick and mortar eatery in Lincoln Park. Barron focuses on sandwiches - and they are doozies. When your mom starts waxing poetic about the PB & J she made for you, take her to any of the Fat Shallot outposts for signature items like a truffle BLT served on thick toasted challah with truffle aioli, avocado, tomato, arugula and crispy bacon or a Buffalo chicken sandwich with crispy chicken tenders in house Buffalo sauce with blue cheese sauce and shaved celery piled on a brioche bun. Wash it down with housemade ginger lemonade, beer or a lemonade spiked with Tito's. Sides include various fries, bacon dill potato salad and a nice hot soup of the day.
Surely you can get some of the finest sushi in the city at Roka Akor, but who knows? On a chilly day you may feel like ingesting something warm and wonderful prepared on a twelve-foot robata grill that uses mesquite charcoal for a fabulous smoke. Roka's menu changes seasonally, including steaks, seafood, vegetables, sushi and sashimi. Exceptional starters include robata grilled scallops or Japanese Shishito peppers (watch the bonito flakes shimmy atop the hot peppers); lovely Wagyu beef and kimchi dumplings; and elegant Yellowtail sashimi. The Bento style lunch is a satisfying option offering hot or cold items from a maki set to not-to-be-missed lamb cutlets you hold via the bone and dip into a perky Korean sauce. The Bento lunch comes with with Mizuna Salad, Crispy Butterfish Maki and Wagyu Dumplings, so it's simultaneously filling and light. Enjoy lunch Monday through Friday from 11:30am to 2:30pm.
A slice for lunch contains protein, carbs, fats and comfort all in one handheld delivery system. Downtown shoppers, students and visitors won the pizza jackpot when much lauded, The Art of Pizza (in Lakeview), opened a second location on State St. offering pizza by the slice: thin crust pan or stuffed crust. Count on up to 16 different varieties of fresh, hot pizza. Locals like The Art of Pizza's golden brown crust and herbaceous sauce and bountiful cheese. There are versions to satisfy meat eaters and vegetarians plus foot-long subs and sizable salads that go beyond the typical pizza joint's insipid Iceberg and carrots.
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.
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 Brussels sprout; or go all out with luscious chile and chocolate glazed salmon; 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.