Cheap Eats Near the Meeting Hotels
New but Familiar Fare
For typical lunch fare like sandwiches, soups and salads, the following places might just hit the spot:
Hannah's Bretzel (131 S. Dearborn St. —entrance on Adams Street—312-621-1111) is a great little spot with a bent toward artisanal, organic ingredients. All-natural offerings include a wide variety of vegetarian and gluten-free options (most selections $8–$10, breakfast sandwiches around $5; single bretzel $2.49).
Pastoral Artisan & Cheese (53 E. Lake St., 312-658-1250) is another place offering high quality sandwiches (think jamon Serrano, house-made prosciutto bacon and herbed duck confit, or tuna with black olive tapenade and piquillo peppers) and salads for between $6 and $10.
Locations Close to the Meeting Hotels
A Chicago chain with solid deli selections, the Corner Bakery (360 N. Michigan Ave., 312-236-2400; also at 444 N. Michigan Ave., 312-596-0793) has a wide variety of sandwiches and salads (mostly between $6 and $8).
Chicago is famous for pizza, and Gino's East (162 E. Superior St., 312-266-3337) is a favorite for its deep dish and downscale décor. It is almost always crowded.
Globetrotting in the Loop
If you are more in the mood for ethnic food, wander into the Loop area for more offerings.
Oasis Cafe (21 N. Wabash Ave., closed Sundays, 312-443-9534) is a little gem hidden, fittingly, in the back of a jewelry store on Wabash. Its menu offers a variety of flavorful Mediterranean vegetarian options, and while it tops out at $7 for entrees, a falafel sandwich can be had for under $4.
Head to Cafecito (26 E. Congress Pkwy., 312-922-2233) if you are in the mood for excellent Cuban coffee, sandwiches, and specialty salads. Breakfast sandwiches are around $4, and lunch sandwiches average $6. Full platters are $9.25.
Wow Bao (1 W. Wacker Blvd.—at the corner of State and Lake—312-658-0305) serves a variety of sweet and savory baos (hot Asian buns); Asian dishes such as potstickers, noodle and rice bowls; and salads. Most dishes are between $1.49 (when all you need is a bao to snack on) and $6.
Sushi Sai (123 N. Wacker Dr., Suite 125, 312-332-8822) offers delicious, affordable sushi—and an all-you-can-eat option to boot ($19.99/person on M.–Fr .starting at 2:30 p.m., and all day Saturday and Sunday). This place also has a variety of convenient lunch boxes for take out, which are available between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m (from $8 to $16).
French Market (closed sundays, 312-575-0306) is a year-round, indoor marketplace near the Ogilvie Transportation Center offering a variety of great food options from Belgian (fries at Frietkoten) to Vietnamese (banh mi at Saigon Sisters). Enter on 131 N. Clinton St. (between Randolph and Washington).
Med Kitchen(219 W. Washington St., closed weekends, 312-606-0633) has several Mediterranean choices, including Greek-inspired fare. It is a counter service restaurant, so pick out your filling, topping, and sauce, then have them wrapped up in a bread of your choice, all for around $6. The same selection concept applies to salads ($5.95) and plate-size options ($6.75).
If you are in the mood for Indian, head to Curried (171 N. Wells St., 312-977-9999, closed Sundays). For $7.99 you can combine two entrees to create a satisfying meal at a reasonable price.
A Brush with Fame
If you want to try Chicago celebrity chefs' cuisine while staying within your budget, you can either check out the lunch menus at their signature restaurants or head to one of these locations:
XOCO (449 N. Clark St., closed Sunday, 312-334-3688, ) is the latest Rick Baylessrestaurant, and his most laid-back yet. Unfortunately, his famous restaurants are closed Janaury 1 through 9 for an annual vacation. If you will be in Chicago after the meeting, you can enjoy some expertly executed tortas and meal-in-the-bowl caldos (between $9 and $12.50). Don't forget to try the incredible churros! And if you feel like a hot chocolate made from freshly ground beans on a chilly Chicago day, this is your place ($2.75–$3.25 per cup).
Grahamwich (615 N. State St., 312-265-0434) is Graham Elliot's brainchild, specializing in creative sandwiches such as the pork bbq with pork belly, root beer, and creamy coleslaw or the Pacific tuna with roasted pineapple and wasabi peas (between $7 and $10). Unusual sides such as popcorn with parmesan, chives, and truffle oil are available if you want to try something less traditional. Locally sourced coffee (Metropolis) and pastries (Fritz) are available as well.
Slurping Turtle (116 W. Hubbard St., 312-464-0466) a dumpling and noodle bar, is not set to open until October, but has already created buzz. The menu of Takashi Yagihashi's newest creation has yet to be made public, but this place is sure to be a hit, especially if the quality is anywhere near that of Takashi's eponymous main restaurant. For business hours, menu etc., check the website.
Moveable Feasts—Food Wagons
If you want to hop on to the food (band)wagon and don't mind pursuing your meal on Twitter, Chicago has a growing fleet of food trucks, even if city ordinances make food preparation on these trucks illegal (everything is prepped and ready to be served before the trucks hit the road). These determined chefs have created some tasty meal options. To see a complete list of trucks on Chicago roads and to learn more about the efforts to allow food to be cooked and served from a mobile food truck, visit www.chicagofoodtrucks.com.
Gaztro-Wagon. This one won the Time Out 2011 Eat Out Award for best food truck and offers hearty, flavorful sandwiches made with naan bread. Anything with boar is delicious, but it's hard to go wrong here ($8 to $10).
Meaty Balls (s). The name says it all, though a vegetarian selection is always in rotation. Recent offerings have included Shweddy Balls (Tunisian-Style lamb and chicken balls in a very spicy tomato sauce) and Thai'd Balls (Turkey meatballs, coconut milk, sweet peppers). If you're still hungry after either a Torpedo ($7-9) or Grenade ($3) sized sandwich, you might try a chocolate salty ball for dessert ($5).
Tamalli Space Charros. Spacy, delicious, and affordable, (2 tamales for $7.00), this foodwagon offers combinations such as fire roasted poblanos and panela cheese with tomato-jalapeno sauce or Yucatecan-style roasted pork tamale with tomato-habanero sauce and purple pickled onions.
Sweet Ride. If you are in the mood for dessert, don't miss this little pink truck. Cupcakes, whoopie pies, puddings, and mousses all hit the sweet spot and are between $2 and $4.
Time for a Coffee (or Tea) Break
Starbucks is ubiquitous, but Chicago coffee is slowly making a national name for itself as well. For the coffee fiends among you, the Intelligentsia mothership is on 3123 N. Broadway in the Lakeview neighborhood, and two additional outposts can be found in the Loop (also serving Fritz Pastry: 53 E. Randolph St., 312-920-9332; and 53 W. Jackson Blvd.—in the beautiful historic Monadnock Building—closed Saturday and Sunday, 312-253-0594).
If you are more into tea, give another Chicago chain, Argo Tea Cafe (435 N. Michigan Ave., 312-546-4790) a try. Their selection runs the gamut from traditional to inventive. To warm you up, try the Hibiscus Steamer or the Maté Laté. A plus: they also serve good quality coffee, as well as sweet and savory snacks. .
A stone's throw away from the Sheraton, Fox & Obel (401 E. Illinois St., 312-410-7301) is an upscale market offering lots of imported and interesting foodstuffs. A café serves soups, sandwiches, and salads mostly between $7 and $11.
Local grocery chain Dominicks (255 E. Grand Ave., 312-279-1305) is also down the street from the Sheraton.
Slightly farther away is Whole Foods (30 W. Huron St., 312-932-9600).
Other nearby groceries include Jewel-Osco at 1210 N. Clark, 312-944-6950 and Trader Joes at 44 E. Ontario St. east of Wabash, 312-951-6369.
Forgot something? There are several drugstores near the meeting hotels: CVS at 205 N. Michigan Ave. and a Walgreens at 30 N. Michigan Ave.
Julia Woesthoff is an assistant professor of history at DePaul University./ Last Updated: December 28, 2011 3:08 PM