Cheryl works down inside the Loop, as do many Chicagoans. Occasionally I have to leave the friendly confines of Wrigleyville and travel there for meetings or showings. In a couple of weeks I have to venture south for some continuing education classes (ah real estate license requirements!) and I find myself looking forward to having lunch with Cheryl. The question, as always when lunching with her is: where to eat?
I’m originally from “upstate” New York and grew up in Hyde Park and Poughkeepsie. I hail from a land of Greek diners and Italian delis. Great lunch places. In my opinion, there’s nothing like a good deli sandwich. Way back in the day when I used to drive a truck for a building wholesaler I’d cover a lot of ground and I discovered tons of good delis from Yonkers to Albany. When I moved to DC I found there were no delis, just Corner Bakery, Cosi, Subway, etc. Took a while to adjust. I know there are lots of people who love eating at these places every day, but I’m not one of them. Not to go off on too much of a rant here but I don’t think people pay much attention to their lunch options. Rush, rush, rush, I’m soooo busy. Stop it. It’s your midday meal for crying out loud! We’re Chicago, not New York. You get time in the middle of the day to get out of the office and go eat, most likely for an hour. Why waste it on running down to the Corner Bakery in the lobby or the Cosi across the street? They don’t have bad food, but if you take the time to look around you can usually find something better out there. Which brings me back to the Loop.
As I said, when I’m down there the question is always, ok where do you want to eat. I can tell you where I don’t want to eat, any one of those chain sandwich shops. But, I will eat at any one of these places: Pierogi Heaven, Westminster Hot Dog, or Pollitos Grill & Rotisserie. All are located on N. Wells underneath the el tracks. Personally I think that whole strip under the el has a lot of overlooked lunchtime spots. They’re not gourmet lunch joints but they’re a big step up from the assembly line sandwich chains.
Pierogi Heaven is just what its name says, a place you can get real honest to goodness Polish pierogies. They’ve got meat, cheese, potato, and fruit ones, and now offer a Polish sausage. The pierogies come with fried onion, bacon, and sour cream and are available in 6, 9, or 12 pieces. All very reasonably priced. Now, I know Chicagoans have their special places where they get their pierogies and each store makes the best in the city, I’m just saying if you work in the Loop these guys make some delicious ones and you should put them on your lunchtime list.
Being a New Yorker by birth I do like a good hot dog and am very happy to be living in a city that embraces the hot dog like no other does. I’ve found good hot dog huts here in Chicago (and some real clunkers) but my favorite one in the Loop is Westminster. They make their own sausages and when they run out of the specials they’re out for the day. The sausages are all really good but definitely try the bacon jalapeno if available. Westminster also has regular hot dogs in case you aren’t in a gourmet sausage mood.
If I’m in the mood for some grilled chicken I head to Pollitos. You can get a nice ¼ or ½ chicken platter there and be totally satisfied. I’ve got to believe it’s a much healthier option for a Loop lunch. Grilled chicken with some rice and beans. It’s a lighter option. Well, lighter than pierogies and sausages that is! And like the others, very inexpensive for what you get.
So next time you’re pondering what to have for lunch in the Loop, stop and actually think about it. Get out there, walk around, and find these little places where you can sit and eat good food. Most importantly, try one of these three spots! Change’ll do you good and you won’t be disappointed!