In the spirit of keeping you and your coworkers/funemployed friends from eating the same mediocre lunch every weekday of your lives, we’ve scoured the city to find the best places in 25 Chicago neighborhoods. We picked out restaurants that met our “know it when you see it” criteria for true lunch spots -- that it just feels like lunch, whether it’s sandwiches, tacos, or a special with soup and an egg roll for $6.95.
Blackwood BBQ (address and info)
What you’re getting: Brisket or pulled pork sandwich
Eating lunch in the Loop is so much better than it used to be, we could have picked anything from Cuban sandwiches to Israeli wraps. But if one thing proves how it’s changed, it’s that you can actually get real-deal, smoked-with-wood barbecue near your office.
Sumi Robata Bar (address and info)
What you’re getting: Bento box
A Japanese bento box gives you fresh food, usually something like grilled salmon or beef plus light, healthy veggies and noodles, in a neat little box that’s a cross between your Snoopy lunchbox from third grade and something out of an art museum. The prettiest one in town is at this serene little jewel box of a restaurant.
Near North Side
SideDoor (address and info)
What you’re getting: Prime rib sandwich, spicy fried chicken
With Lawry’s Prime Rib being about as old-folks as dining downtown gets, it’s a surprise to find a hip gastropub tucked into its side, mixing the prime rib with modern things like chicken ‘n’ waffles and skirt steak poutine.
Manny’s (address and info)
What you’re getting: Corned beef sandwich, matzoh ball soup, short ribs
This cafeteria-style Jewish deli is famous for pastrami and corned beef sandwiches and old-school comfort foods like beef brisket, meatloaf, and short ribs, and also for the crowd, from aldermen, to Streets & San guys, to tourists and retirees, that gathers here in a common love for the deli.
La Fournette (address and info)
What you’re getting: Ham and cheese sandwich, crêpe with veggies, Niçoise salad
This bakery makes the best French bread in the city, and here you can have it with a croque-monsieur, quiche lorraine, or other French classics -- and don’t forget a macaron for dessert.
Del Seoul (address and info)
What you’re getting: Kalbi short rib tacos, shrimp tacos, chicken wings, kimchi fries
Asian tacos seemed like a fusion fad, but this place has had several years of convincing us they’re a natural fit -- and that there’s something worth eating in Lincoln Park.
mfk. (address and info)
What you’re getting: Tapas, mostly seafood, a glass of wine, mezcal
Want to feel like one of those Europeans who doesn’t work and can spend all day hanging out in a chic little cafe? There's nowhere better for that in Chicago than this sunny tapas restaurant with great seafood small plates.
Tamale Spaceship (address and info)
What you’re getting: Picturesque (roasted pork) or Complicate (steak and black mole) tamales, barbacoa and cochinita pibil tacos
Tacos and an outdoor patio on Damen -- could only be one place, right? Sorry, there’s another star orbiting this street, the popular food truck now dishing up sit-down tacos and tamales with a side of Mexican wrestler kitsch.
En Hakkore (address and info)
What to get: Bibimbap, paratha tacos
Sunny Korean restaurant makes the prettiest, healthiest looking bowl of bibimbap (grilled beef with lots of crunchy vegetables) in town, as well as (three-way fusion!) Korean meats wrapped in Indian paratha bread tortillas.
Dusek’s (address and info)
What you’re getting: Juicy Lucy, oyster po-boy
Dusek’s, a hip bar in a 100-year-old Czech hall, is known as the place that’s turning Pilsen into a nighttime destination, but it also has a cheese-stuffed Juicy Lucy burger and other dinner items at a much mellower lunchtime.
Cellar Door Provisions (address and info)
What you’re getting: Smoked walleye tartine, tomato salad
An open-faced sandwich here may strike you as expensive for quantity, but the quality of the farmers' market ingredients is impeccable, and the house-baked bread is a dark, crusty, mysterious wonder.
Ba Le Bakery (address and info)
What you’re getting: Special bánh mì, grilled pork noodle salad
Chicago’s original bánh mì spot on the edge of Argyle Street got a facelift a couple of years ago and turned into a snazzy techno-cafeteria with the same great sandwiches, plus noodle salads, drinks, sweets, and more.
Honey Butter Fried Chicken (address and info)
What you’re getting: Fried chicken, shrimp and grits
Delectable boneless (except the drumsticks) fried chicken with a host of sides displaying a modern take on country comfort food, including smashed potatoes with schmaltz gravy, creamed corn with Thai curry, and pimento mac & cheese.
Sauce and Bread Kitchen (address and info)
What you’re getting: Maple breakfast sandwich, smoked turkey breast hoagie
One side of this business makes Crumb bread, another makes Co-op Hot Sauce, and all together it makes this very natural cafe which doesn’t forget the flavor part of natural food.
Grandma J’s Local Kitchen (address and info)
What you’re getting: Chicken and waffle fritters, BLT, The Works
A homey, endearing brunch-lunch spot with farmers' market names on the menu of comfort foods, and board games to pass the time after you order.
La Choza Mexican Grill (address and info)
What you’re getting: Tampiquena steak, steak tacos, gorditas
A family restaurant that’s a little nicer in terms of decor and food quality than most on this taco-heavy strip; order whatever you like because the real stars come free with everything -- the terrific house-made salsas.
Cafe Orchid (address and info)
What you’re getting: Chicken shawarma, Iskender kebab, imam bayildi
A homey family-run Turkish cafe with flavorful versions of Turkish classics like Iskender kebab and beef & lamb shawarma swimming in tangy tomato and yogurt sauce.
Johnny Brown Bag (address and info)
What you’re getting: Pizza, Italian sub panini
I’m gonna go get the lunch, get the lunch... no, that was Johnny Two Times. Johnny Brown Bag is a friendly Italian sub and pizza shop with a long list of tasty sandwiches and a pretty good thin-crust pizza.
Salam Restaurant (address and info)
What you’re getting: Chicken shawarma, falafel, kifta kabob
The brightest and generally most consistent of the Middle Eastern spots along Kedzie, with excellent meats off the grill or spit and good veggie side dishes like ful and Jerusalem salad.
Rainbow Cuisine (address and info)
What you’re getting: Nam khao tod, boat noodles, sticky rice with mango
A bright, informal Thai restaurant with authentic dishes that are rich in perfumed spices and citrus tang.
Pleasant House Bakery (address and info)
What you’re getting: Steak and ale pie, chicken balti pie, mushroom and kale pie
This very pleasant bakery makes wonderful, hearty English meat (or vegetarian) pies, made with flaky, buttery crusts and vegetables from its own gardens.
Conte Di Savoia (address and info)
What you’re getting: Italian sub, caprese sub, Italian panini
One of the last of the old Italian shops along this onetime Little Italy strip, this tidy neighborhood grocer boasts great subs on impeccably fresh bread.
Tête Charcuterie (address and info)
What you’re getting: Jambon beurre, “Chop Chop” salad
The West Loop is suddenly full of great places to eat lunch, but here’s one that is great but does not yet have a line running out the door at 12:15: a French restaurant focused on meat, pates, and ham & butter sandwiches on crusty bread.
Three Chefs Restaurant (address and info)
What you’re getting: Gumbo
There aren’t many places to eat in this area, which makes stopping here for well-made soul food and a great bowl of gumbo an easy choice.
Yusho (address and info)
What you’re getting: Mentaiko carbonara, ramen with chicken matzo ball, buns
Hipster Japanese food in a funky bar setting, with interesting bao (aka “buns” on the menu) and noodle dishes like ramen and a Japanese take on spaghetti carbonara.
1. Blackwood BBQ305 W Lake St, Chicago
2. Sumi Robata Bar702 N Wells St, Chicago
3. SideDoor100 E Ontario St, Chicago
4. Manny's Deli1141 S Jefferson St, Chicago
5. La Fournette1547 N Wells St, Chicago
6. Del Seoul2568 N Clark St, Chicago
7. mfk.432 W Diversey Pkwy, Chicago
8. The Tamale Spaceship1341 N Damen Ave, Chicago
9. En Hakkore1840 N Damen Ave, Chicago
10. Dusek's1227 W 18th St, Chicago
11. Cellar Door Provisions3025 W Diversey Ave, Chicago
12. Ba Le Bakery5016 N Broadway St, Chicago
13. Honey Butter Fried Chicken3361 N Elston Ave, Chicago
14. Sauce and Bread Kitchen6340 N Clark St, Chicago
15. Grandma J's Local Kitchen1552 N Kedzie Ave, Chicago
16. La Choza Mexican Grill7022 N Clark St, Chicago
17. Café Orchid1746 W Addison St, Chicago
18. Johnny Brown Bag5406 N Clark St, Chicago
19. Salam Restaurant4636 N Kedzie Ave, Chicago
20. Rainbow Cuisine4825 N Western Ave, Chicago
21. Pleasant House Pub2119 S Halsted St, Chicago
22. Conte Di Savoia1438 W Taylor St, Chicago
23. TÊTE Charcuterie1114 W Randolph St, Chicago
24. Three Chefs Restaurant8125 S Halsted St, Chicago
25. Yusho2853 N Kedzie Ave, Chicago
Blackwood BBQ is like a cross between Chipotle and a smoked-meat palace, offering you the chance to customize your barbecue experience in the form of sandwiches, platters, and salads, all dressed with a wide variety of regional sauces, from the Alabama-style white sauce and spicy Kansas City blend to the signature hot and sweet Chicago sauce simmered with Old Style lager.
This 14-seat robata bar is doling out charcoal-grilled Wagyu ribeye, king crab, and beef sliders with miso mustard. Chicago is home to some great izakayas, but we think that Sumi Robata Bar is by far the best around. Make sure to pair your delicious food with one of their sakes, Japanese beers, or cocktails.
This River North gastropub does a damn fine job when it comes to meat, whether it's their prime rib, roasted meat boards, or hearty sandwiches. They also have a number of craft beers and specialty 'tails.
For over 70 years, and coming up on four generations, Manny's has been family owned and operated by the Raskin's. The Jewish-style deli is a local favorite, an area name, and even a lunch spot for tourists. Stop in for home-cooked treats like pastrami, corned beef, matzoh ball soup, short ribs, brisket, and meatloaf.
This wondrous bakery offers a wide selection of authentic breads and pastries from Alsace (that's in France, FYI), including treats such as kouglof, an open-faced tarte flambee broiled with bacon, beer breads, beignets, and macarons. Wash it all down with some Intelligentsia coffee. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Inspired by the Korean taco craze that's become a food truck staple across the land, DS is bringing that street ethos to a takeout-focused brick 'n mortar joint covered in food cart-esque sheet metal and three flat-screens touting the menu, so finally TVs'll actually help you stuff your face in front of them.
This seafood-focused restaurant transports you to a coastal Spanish fishing village with its simple, rustic dishes. Small plates range from light Cantabrian salt-cured anchovies served atop butter bread, to hearty, deep-fried manchego and speck-stuffed croquettes with a roast garlic aioli for dipping. And with the kitchen open to midnight on Friday and Saturday, you can treat yourself to a true Spanish-style dinner.
The people of the Tamale Spaceship truck have set up this spot to serve all the essentials -- tacos, tamales, guacamole, and even soup & salad.
En Hakkore puts forward budget-friendly Korean cuisine with a twist: think tacos, paninis, and sushi. Their eclectic decor features communal tables, chandeliers made from repurposed materials, and antique books on the walls.
Helmed by Longman & Eagle's Jared Wentworth, this Michelin-starred restaurant in Pilsen serves upscale American pub food. Dusek's takes everything you love and makes it better, whether that's cooking French fries in beef fat or topping a juicy hamburger with bacon marmalade and serving it on a house-baked pretzel bun. There are more than two dozen beers on tap -- some are from Chicago, others are from abroad -- and daily beer specials. The late-night menu serves the aforementioned burger and fries until 1am every night.
The limited hours at this spot (only 8am-3pm Wednesday to Sunday) shouldn't stop you from visiting. Dine on fresh pastries, quiche, and coffee for breakfast -- and then stay for lunch to try an open face sandwich or delectable salad.
Family-owned and serving up traditional preparations of classic Vietnamese eats, Ba Le is your go-to for noodle salads, banh mi, and more.
This Avondale quick-serve is a fried chicken lover's mecca that's doing great things for fast-casual dining and antibiotic-free, cage-free, humanely-raised chicken. The menu includes stellar sandwiches complemented with toppings like jalapeño mayo, Thai green curry, and the namesake honey butter; plus two, four, and eight-piece fried chicken plates served with corn muffins. There are quintessential Southern sides (we see you, pimento mac & cheese), plus dump cake for dessert. A balanced meal indeed.
Sauce and Bread Kitchen's a locally focused Edgewater eatery from the Co-op Sauce & Crumb folks, slinging breakfast and lunch options Thursday-Sunday posted on their ever-changing chalkboard menu, while also hosting the monthly Stew Supper Club. Their sauce profits benefits local youth art programs, so let's get saucy.
This cozy spot is great for brunch or lunch. The menu is covered with the names of farmers markets and locations, and they have board games and other forms of entertainment -- including the occasional burlesque show.
This spot has authentic mexican, and is super carry-out or delivery (!!) friendly. But if you choose to sit in, the colorful decor and welcoming staff at this family restaurant are among the best in the area.
Regardless of whether or not you've had Turkish food before, this spot is worth a trip. The family-run cafe is bursting with flavor in dishes that make great lunch options. Check out the various shawarmas and kebabs for authentic flavor.
A casual venue serving Italian delights like a trio of sausages (boar, Italian, turkey) over garlic rapini, pea-studded arancini dipped in tomato sauce, and some fried tomato-basil panzerotti. Milanese-style breaded steak sammies and an 8x8 mix-and-match lineup of pastas and sauces are also game. Cannolis for dessert, always.
The most reliable spot on a strip of Middle Eastern restaurants, Salam does a steady business in tender chicken taouk, smoky house-made baba ghanoush, shawarma, falafel, and other standards -- accompanied by service that might best be described as slouchy but friendly.
Rainbow Cuisine has some truly authentic and delicious Thai dishes, like boat noodles or nam tod (grilled beef salad), but the nam khao tod, a comfy mix of crispy fried rice, bright peppers and lime juice, and chunks of store-bought Thai ham, is something you just have to try.
Pilsen’s Pleasant House Pub serves up pints and pies in an English pub setting. The menu is divided into pub snacks, pub plates, sides, salads, and flaky, savory “Royal” pies, which you can “crown” with mashed potatoes and gravy. Choose to eat this decidedly British fare in either the indoor or outdoor area, and if you have any room left, jump on the sticky toffee pudding for dessert. Stocked with a full bar of cocktails and craft beers, Pleasant House Pub will have you gabbing in your foolish English accent after one too many.
Founded in 1948 in the heart of Little Italy, this prominent Italian eatery has earned plenty of acclaim in numerous publications for its old-school sammies and other Italian fare.
TÊTE has that something extra -- actually, multiple somethings extra. There's a dedication to making sure all the selections -- peppery coppa, rich fromage de tête, silky duck rillette -- are all given the proper attention. There're also international encased meats from French boudin blanc to Moroccan merguez that'll push you further toward your meat coma, plus dishes like Peking duck with white miso and rutabaga mostarda that don't seem to really fit the concept, but are too tasty for anyone to get upset.
This Auburn Gresham joint serves some of the best food in the city, including some awesome chicken & waffles.
Because apparently not everything in Japan gets lost in translation, former Charlie Trotter's exec chef Matthias Merges drew on the energy and community he discovered in the country's street food scene when conceiving Yusho. His architect wife channeled his vision into an eclectic space with a bar made from century-old wood beams and a skylit back room projecting anime. Crunch on salmon and chicken skins while you sip a boozy soda or one of the formidable offerings of Japanese and domestic beers. Then share a bowl of mentaiko carbonara, a seaside leaning take on the Italian pasta with spicy cod roe and bucatini from sister restaurant A10.