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Inside Downtown Chicago’s Next Modern Food Hall, Now Open

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Forum 55 is another effort to ensure Loop workers lunch better

Forum 55
Barry Brecheisen
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

Chicago’s latest food hall — featuring 10 different vendors — debuts today with a unique way to order food. Forum 55 stands on the concourse level of the 50-story Mid-Continental Plaza at 55 E. Monroe Street. Aimed at Loop office workers, the food hall will offer customers a choice between cheffy burgers, ramen, tamales, pierogis, and more. They’ll also have access to some high-caliber caffeine from Sparrow Coffee.

Click here for a list of vendors. They include Friends Sushi, Flo & Santos, Pork & Mindy’s, and Butcher & Larder. There’s also a grab-and-go option, The Monroe Street Market, inside. Here are the breakfast offerings, and the lunch menus are here. While customers can stop in today, a rep cautions that not all vendors will be open, in particular the salad bar. They anticipate to be at 100 percent on Monday, October 23.

The ordering process involves computerized kiosks and customers’ cell phones. Customers punch their orders in on kiosks and receive a paper receipt with a number. When the order’s ready, that number will flash on a flatscreen. If customers don’t want to watch for their number, they can opt for a text notification. The food hall doesn’t accept cash, and customers can also order online. Formerly the Under 55 Cafe, the space has been remodeled with everyone’s favorite restaurant design element: Edison bulbs. There’s room for 270 and an assortment of low- and high-top tables.

There are two rotating vendors at the food hall. The first is a station that rotates weekly, which is operated by the food hall’s owners, Eurest. This week it will feature Indian food. Next week will be Korean, followed by “Earth Bowl” vegetarian, then Italian, and then Asian. The second pop-up is trumpeted as one that will help restaurateurs of color and women. It’s called The Apron Exchange. Dia de los Tamales, which recently announced a new location at Block 37, is the first vendor involved. It will serve a variety of creative tamales made popular at its original Pilsen spot.

Check out the photos below. Forum 55, for the most part, is now open.

Forum 55, 55 E. Monroe Street, open 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. for breakfast and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch on weekdays. The Monroe Street Market’s open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays.

The space has gone through major renovations.
Stools are the preferred seating.
Forum 55 will use a kiosk ordering system.
This is the grab-and-go portion of the food hall.
Coffee makes workers more productive.
Forum 55 will offer a special blend of coffee from Sparrow.
Flo & Santos brings its menu downtown from the South Loop.
Mercadito is serving up Mexican food.
The Apron Exchange showcases people of color and women.
The Community Garden supposedly sports one of Chicago’s largest salad bars.
Forum 55 also offers gourmet sandwiches.
Celebrity chef Jeff Mauro has Pork & Mindy’s in Wicker Park and at Wrigley Field.
Friends Sushi provides a reliable source for Japanese food.
Winter and fall call for ramen.
The Butcher & Larder Burger, now served at Local Foods in Lincoln Park, comes downtown.
This diagram is familiar to shoppers at Local Foods.
Customers should familiarize themselves with the utensil stations.
Communal tables are the name of the game.
The design masks the fact the hall is inside a 45-year-old building.
Small groups have seating options, too.
Edison lightbulbs and 270 seats are inside.
The flatscreens will display order numbers when food is ready for pick up.

Forum 55

55 East Monroe Street, , IL 60603 (312) 849-9512 Visit Website