If there's one thing that can help get you through a long workday, it's a good, solid lunch break. Unfortunately, it's all too easy to get bored of the options within walking distance of your workplace. Luckily, there are plenty of new options popping up for your midday meal, whether you just have time to grab and go or linger for longer.
QUICK CARRY-OUT: 10-15 MINUTES
Naf Naf Grill
326 N. Michigan Ave. 312-263-0019
Lunch times: 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Since opening in July, the latest location from the pita-slinging mini-chain has been drawing lines out the door between noon and 2:30 p.m. Luckily, even at peak times, you can still get in and out in less than 10 minutes thanks the made-for-speed assembly line setup, where diners request either a bowl or pita stuffed with falafel ($6.50), steak ($8.04) or chicken shawarma ($7.49) with toppings such as tomato-cucumber salad, purple cabbage, tahini or hot sauce.
Bombay Spice Grill
213 E. Ohio St. 312-828-0988
Lunch times: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
"It looks like Indian Chipotle," said chef Sunil Kumar of the Streeterville offshoot of his River North restaurant, which opened July 18. Fans of Indian food looking for something lighter and cheaper than you'll find at your standard lunch buffet can zip in and out in minutes, picking out a bowl, wrap, salad or sandwich with tofu, chicken, steak or vegetables served over quinoa or brown rice ($7.95). There's no butter, cream or cheese used here, so most dishes ring in at less than 500 calories. Sauce sampling is encouraged, so don't be shy about asking for a taste if you don't know the difference between masala and vindaloo. Round out your meal with a vegetable samosa ($2.25) or mango lassi ($3.25), a yogurt-based drink.
Katherine Anne Confections
2745 W. Armitage Ave. 773-245-1630
Lunch times: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday
After struggling to find a light weekday lunch spot near her Logan Square sweets shop, owner Katherine Duncan decided to launch her own menu of salads and sandwiches on Aug. 6. In less than 10 minutes, you can walk out with a green salad topped with herb-roasted almonds, avocado, green onions, cucumber, cilantro, green olives and balsamic vinaigrette, or the heartier buttermilk salad made with locally grown lettuce, hard-boiled eggs, roasted jalapenos, house-made croutons and buttermilk dressing (both $9).
3142 S. Morgan St. 773-254-7441
Lunch times: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. daily
The pasty, a sort of handheld potpie, became popular in Britain as a snack that miners could keep in their lunch pails. Bridgeport Pasty has been bringing these hearty pockets--stuffed with ingredients such as steak and stilton cheese or spinach and mushroom (both $5)--to Chicago's workforce since 2011 through a food truck; this recently opened storefront in Bridgeport sells the namesake pasties along with salads and soups.
SWIFT SIT-DOWN: 30-45 MINUTES
30 E. Hubbard St. 312-605-5900
Lunch times: 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday through Friday
A sibling to the Little Italy eatery of the same name, this River North restaurant has been feeding downtown diners craving a hearty lunch since opening in mid-July. Options include the raviolo ($12) a single, giant ravioli stuffed with ricotta, spinach and poached egg that oozes out when you cut into it, or the focaccia ($17), soft cow's cheese melted between two wafer-thin pieces of bread. There are plenty of diners here that like to linger for a full hour, but if you mention to your server that you're on the clock, he or she will drop the check off right after your food arrives to make sure you can pay and be on your way.
519 N. Clark St. 312-284-1377
Lunch times: 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m. daily
Salads have proved especially popular with the lunch crowd at this two-month-old restaurant inside the Aloft Chicago City Center. The Enlightened Caesar ($9.50, plus $3.50 to add roasted chicken or $5.50 for salmon) offers a lighter take on the classic with lemon vinaigrette-dressed greens topped with capers and multi-grain croutons and Greek yogurt dressing lining the plate. The Supernatural Chopped Salad ($11.95) is another star, packing in arugula, spinach, romaine, green beans, tomato, celery, toasted pumpkin and sunflowers seeds, peach, zucchini and basil. "It's pretty much everything you need to make yourself feel good and have energy for the day," said executive partner Marc Jacobs.
Freestyle Food & Drink
660 N. State St. 312-202-6050
Lunch times: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday
At this month-old restaurant inside the Dana Hotel and Spa, you can make a quick lunch of globally influenced fare such as the Dragon Roll (shrimp tempura wrapped in freshwater eel and avocado with barbecue sauce, $12), or a chicken salad with wontons, sesame rice noodles and mixed greens tossed in a wine vinaigrette ($10). As an added bonus, you can soak up a bit of sun and people watching thanks to sidewalk seating along State Street.
354 W. Hubbard St. 312-988-0078
Lunch times: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday
Opened earlier this month, the newest restaurant from Hogsalt Hospitality—which brought you nearby Gilt Bar and Bavette's—doesn't hold back when it comes to portions of traditional Jewish deli fare. Bring a serious appetite or a partner in crime to attack the softball-sized matzah ball in a soup of chicken broth, carrots and cipollini onions ($7.95) or the reuben sandwich ($10.95) loaded with eight ounces of house-made corned beef that's been brined for 10 days.
LEISURELY LUNCH: 1 HOUR OR MORE
330 N. Wabash Ave. 312-923-7705
Lunch times: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday through Friday
This posh restaurant, which opened inside new River North hotel The Langham in early August, offers spruced-up takes on lunch menu standards. The prime beef burger ($17), is made from a blend of dry- and wet-aged beef served on a house-made bun with pepper aioli, oven-dried tomatoes, pickled red onions and Mahon, a Spanish cheese. If you want to make sure you can get back to your office within the hour, order The Wabash Express ($29), a three-course meal served on one plate to avoid waits between courses, with entree choices ranging from braised short rib to English pea risotto.
La Sirena Clandestina
954 W. Fulton Market 312-226-5300
Lunch times: 11 a.m.- 3 p.m. Monday through Friday
Lunch at this West Loop restaurant launched mid-July, and while the crowds have been light so far, buzz is sure to spread about sandwiches such as El Che ($10), chef John Manion's version of a Cuban sandwich made with house-roasted pork loin and El Lomito ($12), a sandwich of filet mignon with lettuce and tomato from Green City Market. A killer selection of wine and beer—try Quilmes lager from Argentina with El Che—provides the perfect excuse to linger at a table on the sidewalk outside.
18 W. Hubbard St. 312-955-8018
Lunch times: 11:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday
Dim sum lunch service launched in mid-July at Chinatown restaurateur Tony Hu's first River North restaurant specializing in regional Chinese cuisine. Recruit a few coworkers to share dishes such as shrimp and bamboo dumplings ($7) or the Asian chicken salad ($10) made with mixed greens, fuji apple and spicy miso dressing.
A super-sized Loop location of Italian eatery Vapiano (the first Chicago location opened in Lincoln Park in 2011) is due to open Monday in the Loop (44 S. Wabash Ave. 312-384-1960). Lunch kicks off at 11 a.m. daily. You can make it a quick trip or hang out as long as you like thanks to the restaurant’s chip cards, which you take to the station of your choice (think pasta, pizza and panini) and then settle your bill with the cashier when you leave.
Samantha Nelson is a RedEye special contributor. email@example.com | @redeyeeatdrink