You’re probably eating lunch in the Loop because you work there - either grabbing something before heading back to the office or having a full-blown, sit-down business lunch. Or maybe you’re at the Express DMV trying to renew an expired license. Or maybe you’re in the neighborhood just to see the Bean in the harsh light of day. Whatever the occasion, one of these 19 spots will work.
This German spot opened in 1898, back before labor laws existed. But other than your 18-hour work day now being illegal, not much at Berghoff has changed since then. You can expect dishes like wiener schnitzel, sauerbraten, and a pretty fantastic reuben sandwich. The quickest strategy for lunch is to not sit down in the actual restaurant. Instead, head downstairs to the cafe and eat cafeteria-style, or (our personal favorite) follow the guys in suits to the express lunch sandwich stand in the main bar area.
If you want to feel like your friend from California who gets up at 6am to surf is making lunch for you, come here. You’ll find stuff like salads, avocado toast, and wraps with chicken and black beans. Plenty of the food here is vegan and gluten-free, and it’s perfect if you’re looking for something kind of healthy. It will split up a long day of meetings, and give you energy for that 6pm run club your co-workers convinced you to join.
You can usually count on hotel restaurants being open for lunch, and Cherry Circle Room in the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel is no exception. This place is pretty upscale and feels a little like hanging out in a hunting lodge from Downton Abbey. Come here with any jet-lagged clients from overseas who just arrived in the city and have no idea what time it is. The dark, windowless space will help them transition, and the meat-heavy menu (with dishes like pork shoulder, duck breast, and roast chicken) will get them properly introduced to the Midwest.
This is a small counter-service operation with delicious baked empanadas. They have about 15 varieties daily, with flavors like beef, Nutella and banana, or bacon with date and goat cheese. They’re all very good, and the best strategy is to order as many as can fit on your table, put whatever you don’t eat in your pockets to take back to the office, and use them as secret desk snacks.
Roost is one of our favorite places for fried chicken sandwiches, so we’re happy there’s a take-out location in the Loop. This means there are no seats, but if you don’t mind eating at your desk - or while walking fast and shouting “buy!” and “sell!” into your earpiece - consider this a good option. The menu has the same fantastic fried chicken sandwiches and biscuits as their other spots, including the house-style (with pickles, coleslaw, and chipotle ranch) and the sunrise (with egg, bacon, and cheddar). You’ll get a choice of brioche or biscuit, and you should go with a biscuit - unless you get one of each.
Sometimes you need a fancy lunch, and that’s when a place like Steadfast comes in handy. It’s an upscale restaurant in the Kimpton Hotel, and has the kind of mid-century feel that will satisfy anyone who secretly wishes they could still smoke on planes, and not have to hide the bottle of scotch in their office. Everything they serve is nicely plated, and the food - especially the house-baked breads, seafood, and variety of salads - is really good. But we’re pretty sure Joseph McCarthy probably never ordered a broccoli salad for _his _ martini lunch.
If you work in a business setting where you need to impress someone, there’s a 99.9% chance that at some point you’ll eat lunch at a steakhouse, and Prime & Provisions is the best place to go in the Loop. It’s not as corporate-fancy as Chicago Cut, it still serves very good steak, along with some seafood, fried chicken, and a giant piece of bacon topped with maple syrup and dark chocolate. Plus, the space is huge and full of giant booths - two good ways to impress any cattle rancher/investor from Texas you’re entertaining.
The Gage is our top choice in the Loop for elevated bar food. Come to this dark pub for poutine, a venison burger, and fish & chips. Get a pint. Get several. In other words, this is where you go to see what it’s like to be one of your colleagues in the London office.
This is not where you’re going for a typical work-day lunch. You end up at Cindy’s because your friends are visiting, and you’re now responsible for showing off the best parts of the city while making sure no one gets their car towed away to Lower Wacker. Put lunch at Cindy’s on the list. It’s on Michigan Ave on top of the Chicago Athletic Association, and has beautiful views overlooking Millennium Park and Lake Michigan. It’s particularly good for groups, with a wide-ranging menu designed to be shared (you’ll find dishes like soba noodles and chicken schnitzel). The food probably won’t blow you away, but the pretty scenery makes up for it.
Fisk & Co is in the Hotel Monaco, which we thought sounded made-up, but it very much exists. The specialty here is mussels, and you can get them served in a variety of different broths (like white wine or green curry). The rest of the menu is seafood-focused as well, with oysters and entrees like lobster rolls or fish and chips. It’s a great option for a casual business lunch, or eating by yourself at the bar when you just need some time away from your deskmate who eats hard-boiled eggs at his computer.
If you want someplace versatile, then you need to know about The Dearborn, an easy-to-like spot that works for a lot of occasions. It’s nice enough for a business meal, but still casual enough for lunch after that Segway tour you took with your parents. Plus, it’s huge, with multiple rooms that work as well for groups as for a one-on-one lunch with your boss. Order the pork belly appetizer and any of the salads, then make sure someone gets a cheeseburger - it’s great.
As tempting as a cellophane-wrapped sandwich from one of the many nearby Starbucks might be, try a cubano at Cafecito instead. It’s the best thing here, which is saying something since their other sandwiches, like the ropa vieja, are also very good. Get a cafe con leche too. Cafecito has a few other locations in the city, but the one in the Loop is the best since it’s probably the one within walking distance of your office.
We’re not certain that the rich food at this upscale French-inspired spot is going to be great for your 2pm productivity. But if you don’t care, or don’t need to go back to work, Taureaux Tavern is reliably good. Come here for a light lunch of oxtail with bone marrow, lobster thermidor bites, and a filet topped with Roquefort sauce. Then make sure the volume on your phone alarm is set to high just in case you need to take an impromptu nap.
There are a number of perfectly fine fast-casual Mediterranean spots in the Loop, but Benjyehuda is the best. Go with the chicken or steak shawarma in whatever format you prefer – salad, rice bowl, pita, or flatbread sandwich. We also demand that you order the cheese fries.
Brown Bag Seafood isn’t the most exciting place on this list, but it’s a good option if you need something fast, kind-of-healthy, and can’t stand the thought of another quinoa bowl. The choose-your-own-adventure-style seafood menu with sandwiches, salads, bowls, and tacos is perfect for a light meal. You can eat here and stare at Millenium Park while daydreaming about finding a better job.
If you don’t mind risking the meat sweats in the middle of the day, check out Blackwood, a casual counter-service BBQ spot. Go with a platter of pulled pork, brisket, or pulled chicken then round things out with macaroni and cornbread.
the food halls
This is the original food hall, and it’s not as new and nice as the other spots - it’s a little claustrophobic and confusing to navigate. But it has places we like inside, like Chicago Raw, Demera, and Garifuna Flava.
Revival feels like a very-nice food court in a shopping mall in a town with very low unemployment and expensive seasonal holiday decorations. Some spots that are here are Antique Taco, Smoque, and Furious Spoon.
One of our favorite sandwich spots in Chicago has an outpost here - Tempesta. And that’s really what you should get when you’re here, followed by a donut from Firecakes. Specifically, the Tahitian Vanilla Iced, topped with little crunchy pearls and guaranteed to make your day better.