Try the "Lou," named for the restaurant's founder. It includes fresh spinach, mushrooms, sliced tomatoes and mozzarella, romano and cheddar cheeses. The "Deluxe" is a great value: cheese sausage, mushrooms, onions and green peppers. Lou Malnatti's boasts several suburban and city of Chicago locations but those outside of Chicago can now enjoy that fresh from the oven pizza taste since Lou's ships nationwide. The pizzas are packed with dry ice in safe 'keep fresh' coolers. Its shipped pizzas are a popular care package idea for college kids or those who have moved outside of the area who crave a taste of home every now and then.
Recommended for Take Out because: This old-school pizza shop knows a thing or two about pies and locals swear by the place's deep-dish crust which showcases all manner of toppings.
Megy's expert tip: Add the Lou Malnatti salad - its Sweet Vinaigrette dressing is so popular that it's now available in a bottle.
Don't let the name fool you - the Chicago French Market isn't really French nor a market. Granted, there are a handful of French offerings (including Vanille Patisserie and FLiP Crepes) and there is the lone City Fresh Market with a spattering of fresh meats and vegetables but it's really more of a European and Asian-inspired food court than what we'd consider a market. No matter, the concept is perfect for take-out or to dine in and whether you're alone or with a group since the choices are plentiful. Saigon Sisters, Little Goat Bread and Lillie's Q are popular. When the weather permits, outdoor bistro seating is particularly lovely.
Recommended for Take Out because: Not really French or a Market, the Chicago French Market does boast several stalls of European and Asian food perfect for solo or group dining.
Megy's expert tip: Only open Mondays-Saturdays.
There aren't a ton of Cuban dining options in Chicago but the ones that are here are all pretty amazing for their ambiance and food. Cafecito is a nice option in the South Loop, with gourmet pressed sandwiches (try the popular Cubano sandwich), entrees and specialty salads inspired by the culinary traditions of Latin American countries. To make it a traditional meal, pair the Cubano sandwich with a side of black bean soup or a bag of plantain chips. The laid back, café-style restaurant also serves breakfast sandwiches with ingredients such as chorizo and palomilla steak. There are two locations in the Loop area, making it even more convenient to satisfy those Cuban cuisine cravings.
Recommended for Take Out because: Two Loop locations let diners enjoy Cuban gourmet sandwiches and coffees.
Megy's expert tip: Free house coffee with purchase of sandwich.
Naansense is Indian-inspired food with 24 seats but diners can also place their orders up to a week in advance using the online ordering service. The two chefs behind the restaurant make freshly-baked naan using a tandoor oven and make their sauces from scratch. Options online include chef recommendations like the Chicken Naanwich to rice and salad bowls and roti rolls. The sophisticated online ordering system allows guests to customize their meal by choosing sauces and toppings. There are a slew of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options on the menu, too.
Recommended for Take Out because: Take out orders at this Indian-inspired restaurant can be placed way in advance which makes it easy for those who like to plan ahead.
Megy's expert tip: Check out the graffiti wall art inside the restaurant: unexpected and very cool.
It's not unusual to see a line out the door to this hot dog favorite in The Loop which is why savvy professionals order online and pick up their take out. The service is top-notch (expect to be chatted up by the cashier), the food is better and the prices can't be beat. Nothing served here is frozen, soups are made from scratch and served fresh daily and the aioli sauces are the kind you'd write home to mom about. Nothing on the menu is more than $5 which makes this take-out or dine in Chicago favorite both delicious and affordable.
Recommended for Take Out because: Nothing on the menu is more than $5 (including the Chicago Dog), everything is fresh and the service is impeccable.
Megy's expert tip: Order online to avoid the long lines that form around lunchtime. Closed on weekends.
There aren't a lot of Polish restaurants outside of Chicago's Little Poland community on the northwest side of Chicago but for those who need their pierogi fix during their lunch hour in The Loop, there is Pierogi Heaven. Diners can choose from nearly a dozen pierogi flavors, including kraut and potato and cheese. Each pierogi order comes with fried onion, bacon and sour cream. Red borscht can be added as a soup option. Or, choose the stuffed cabbage with meat and add sauerkraut as the side. There are two locations in The Loop and online ordering makes it easy to order and pick up quickly.
Recommended for Take Out because: Pierogi Heaven offers a little slice of Polish homemade fare in the heart of The Loop.
Megy's expert tip: Order online in advance (no minimum) and avoid the lunch time wait.
Family-owned since 1948, this hot dog drive-in (or eat-in) is a local institution, not only for its great menu but for its enormous, roof-top wiener mascots. Don't call them hot dogs, though. They're Superdawgs. Served in a box with the trademark "Hiya!" phrase on the front, the supersized dogs are nestled in poppy-seed buns and done up with relish, pickle spears, hot peppers, and pickled tomatoes. They come with hot, salt-sprinkled fries crammed into the box. Other possibilities: burgers, chicken breast sandwiches, Polish sausages, fish sandwiches, and ice cream. A kitschy classic that absolutely lives up to the hype.
Recommended for Take Out because: The throwback, friendly feel of this place compliments its tasty, super-sized hot dogs and french fries in a box.
Jamie's expert tip: Don't call them hot dogs when you're ordering. They're Superdawgs.
Those who work in the Loop area know Sopraffina is a gem. It now has five locations serving breakfast and lunch including hot breakfast buffets, salads, antipasti, pizza and boxed lunches. For those who need catering options, the Mediterranean Skewer Basket includes bite-sized hors d'oeuvre of artichoke, Kalamata olive, sundried tomato and fresh mozzarella drizzled with garlic-thyme vinaigrette and skewered (sadly, this is not available on-site). All gourmet sandwiches are served on its signature flatbreads. The place is immaculate and although there is plenty of seating at each restaurant, it does get very crowded during the noon-time bewitching lunch hour so plan accordingly.
Recommended for Take Out because: With five locations in and near the Loop, it offers a great selection of healthy fare, from gourmet sandwiches to salads.
Megy's expert tip: Order a gourmet sandwiches; each is served on its signature flatbreads.
It's easy to miss Oasis Café considering the retail storefront is a jewelry shop. Located on Jewelers Row in Chicago's Loop, most people find this gem because someone told them about it or literally brought them along because at first glance it's unlikely you'd think the front door entrance will lead you to this Middle Eastern food haven. But keep walking past the jewelers showing five carat diamonds to its clientele and Oasis Café is all the way in the back. Once you arrive you'll be treated to delicious smells of freshly grilled shish kabob, warm falafel or fattoush salad. Budget-friendly and healthy options do exist in the Loop and this is a real gem literally among gems.
Recommended for Take Out because: Oasis Cafe is a Middle Eastern cuisine gem, literally among gems.
Megy's expert tip: The fattoush salad can be addictive.
There is no easier way to get a meal to go than by grabbing a jar from a Farmer's Fridge ~ literally. Located in almost a dozen locations throughout the Loop (and growing), a Farmer's Fridge is a kiosk filled with healthy glass jars of meals. Salads, bowls and snacks are available in jars so all you need is a fork and, viola, you have a full meal. Farmer's Fridge kiosks are made of reclaimed wood and recycled materials and are filled with fresh ingredients like berries, goat cheese and greens. The machines accept credit cards and the kiosk is re-loaded with fresh jars everyday at 11:00 a.m. (any jars left over from the previous day are removed and donated to a local food pantry).
Recommended for Take Out because: When you're in a hurry, sometimes you don't even have time to order and wait for take out. Farmer's Fridge is the healthy answer.
Megy's expert tip: Go early in the day for the best selection.