Food & Drink

The Lunch Spots in the Loop That Don't Suck

Outside of the tourist attractions, the Loop isn't exactly famous for dining. But thanks to the hoards of Chicagoans trekking there every weekday for work, the area at least has lunch down. Whether you need to entertain guests mid-day or grab something quick before you get back to literal business, you've got options galore. Keep in mind, though, that some of these places might only be open during the working week, so it’s worth double-checking if a restaurant is open weekends before you bank on it. Even if it's not, though, another place on this list will suit your needs. From tiny local chains to massive food halls, these are the lunch spots in the Loop that don't suck.

Cherry Circle Room

A lunch that’s fit for mom’s surprise visit
Tucked away in the back of the Chicago Athletic Association, Cherry Circle Room is ready to impress. Got a lunch for a client? Check. Mom came up for the suburbs and wants to meet for lunch? Check. It’s got the feel of a modern steakhouse, but make it cozy, plus mashed potatoes to die for. Really feeling the need to impress? Take your lunch guests up to Cindy’s rooftop to finish off with a glass of wine and great views.
 

The Gage

Fish and chips and beer and Millennium Park
One of the things the Gage has going for it is accessibility. Steps from Millennium Park, and with a hefty beer menu to boot, it’s a popular lunch spot if you’ve got the time. Sit and enjoy the fried pickles and a salmon BLT with coworkers or entertain guests with the ability to point them straight toward the Bean at the end of the meal.

Atwood

Lunch, with a side of people-watching
Positioned on the Southwest corner of State and Washington and surrounded by glass windows, Atwood is the place for a long lunch by the window with a book. The people walking up and down State Street will provide entertainment, and Atwood’s menu provides the option to have dinner early with a hybrid menu, or justify an appetizer of spinach artichoke dip as lunch.

Cafecito

Killer sandwiches worth waiting in line for
Those who work in the Loop know of Cafecito’s well-deserved cult following and make it a special occasion to wait in line for one of the pressed sandwiches. There isn’t a wrong choice, but some of the right ones are the Cubano and Ropa Vieja. Get a coffee -- the Cafecito -- while you’re there. It’s worth it.

Ceres Cafe

Long-standing Board of Trade restaurant 
Since 1967 Ceres Café has been serving up dishes in the Board of Trade. It’s a Loop staple with locally sourced classic American dishes, a rotating soup and special of the day, and strong cocktails. Stop by for a burger, head over for an early happy hour, or even get up early for an omelet. 

Free Rein

An upscale brasserie in sleek digs
This beautiful restaurant next to St. Jane in the Carbon and Carbide Building is the Loop’s newer American brasserie. The lunch menu is nicely sized, with a handful of salads and a hefty list of sandwiches and tartines -- plus a few entrées for those looking for something a little larger. Whatever you pick, it’s sure to be a serene meal in Free Rein’s contemporary digs.

U.B. Dogs

What’s better than a Chicago dog for lunch?
If you’re looking for a fast-food lunch with local flair, U.B. Dogs is your best bet. The dogs are cheap, the fries are great, and you can even get a burger. Chicago dogs and Polishes both cure what ails, and there’s a Beyond Brat for the vegetarians, too.

Gayle V’s Best Ever Grilled Cheese

Just like mom used to make, but better
The cheese is perfectly melted, the sourdough shatters, and there’s tomato soup on the side. The Classic is the sandwich to get when you really need a taste of home, but if you’re splurging, grab the Duke with Swiss cheese, ham, and your choice of mustard.

Wells Street Market

The Loop’s second food hall with gyros, sushi, and donuts
Technically a variety of restaurants, we’ll put the Loop’s two food markets under one umbrella for ease. Pick from restaurants like Piggie Smalls Gyro Shop by Jimmy Bannos Jr. (the Purple Pig), Tempesta Market (West Town’s trendy sandwich shop), and Tabo Sushi by Takashi Yagihashi (Takashi, Slurping Turtle), among others. There’s a bar in the middle of the whole thing for a quick lunch libation, and Firecakes donuts for dessert.

Revival Food Hall

Perfect for when you can’t decide what to eat
There are tacos (Antique Taco Chiquito), ramen (Furious Spoon), barbecue (Smoque BBQ), Nashville hot chicken (the Budlong), poke (Aloha Poke), and more at this food Hall. With rotating vendors, there’s always something new to try to keep it interesting, and mainstays for something a little more dependable. Stop by in the morning for pastries and coffee, come back for lunch, and then stay for happy hour.

Pierogi Heaven

Yes, you can get sour cream, fried onions, and bacon
Another comfort food lunch item, pick from pierogi like potato and cheese, beef and spinach, and mushroom -- then add a side of a Polish sausage. It’s fast (the pierogi and sausages are made in advance), and there’s nothing fancy about them, but they’re satisfying and delicious when you need to indulge.

Oasis Cafe

Traditional Greek in the back of a jewelry store
Yep, its behind a jewelry store -- you’ll have to pass through (enter on Wabash Street) where there’s a sign that says “Oasis Café” to find this almost literally hidden gem. Falafel, moussaka, tabbouleh, hummus, baba ghanouj -- plenty of traditional Greek street foods plus some. It’s hard to go wrong, so pick a combo plate of your choice and enjoy the novelty.

Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread and Wine

Because who says you can’t have a cheese plate for lunch
You say you’re going for a sandwich, but let’s be real, if you’re going to Pastoral for lunch, you might as well get a cheese plate. There’s a few to choose from -- a charcuterie variety, an All-American variety, a monger’s choice variety, and a crowd pleaser variety -- that all come with a baguette and are sized for one. Or, you know, you can get the sandwich, because they’re equally as good.

Fisk & Co.

A prix-fixe set to be quick, mussels for when you have time
If you have the time, it’s worth sitting down for the coconut curry mussels and a side of frites (sure, sure, it’s a little pricey, but sometimes lunch is worth it). If not, Fisk & Co. has lunch figured out for those who need something quick but also want to escape the office for a bit. You’ll get a soup or salad, a choice of entrée (salmon BLT, fried chicken sandwich, or gnocchi), and mini rum cakes to-go for $24.

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Elizabeth Atkinson is a Thrillist contributor.