It doesn’t matter if you’re working from home or the office. As 11 a.m. approaches, the only meaningful thought racing through one’s mind is “what’s for lunch?” Sure, one could finish last night’s leftovers or head to a nearby fast food chain, but there’s really no need to settle. The following spots excel at lunch service and offer everything from hand-pulled noodles to flavorful jerk chicken.Read More
Chicago’s Tastiest Lunch Options
Give new meaning to meal planning
Grilled meat skewers shine at Albany Park Persian restaurant Kabobi. Come for juicy pieces of chicken, ground lamb, seasoned filet, shrimp, and salmon along with Mediterranean staples like tabbouleh and baba ghanoush. All entrees are served with hummus, salad, and choice of basmati or dill rice. The lunch menu offers smaller portions than its dinner counterpart, leaving diners satiated but not too full. Online ordering is available here.
Boonie's Filipino Restaurant
This epic Filipino restaurant in Irving Park recently started lunch service. It’s a tidy menu (sorry, no lumpia). But there are a variety of silog, or garlic rice plates with a mushroom option for vegetarians. There’s also a rotating fried fish worth checking out.
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Honey Butter Fried Chicken
Avondale wouldn’t have the same culinary cred if Honey Butter Fried Chicken wasn’t around. One of the most popular places for fried chicken served with sweet dollops of butter, continues to put out quality food. The broccoli salad, for instance, is addicting, and the biscuits and other sides are top-notch. HBFC also is very efficient in getting customers their food which is important if diners only have an hour to eat lunch.
In Avondale, Thattu debuted with lunch service and later expanded to dinner, giving its owners some time to practice before offering evening service. There wasn’t much to rehearse. The fried chicken sandwich has earned cult status and is yogurt-marinated with a little kick. Then there’s there’s a beautifully pan-fried fish, a nod to Kerala, the large southern Indian state along the Indian Ocean. The curry of the day is vegetarian and served with rasam, a soup-like Indian broth. Don’t forget the coffee and the curd rice. Padma Lakshmi called curd rice, served as a humble side, the most iconic dish in South India.
Chiya Chai Cafe
One of the preeminent places in Chicago to sip on a chai beverage, Chiya Chai also offers an excellent food menu. Enjoy Nepalese and Indian specialties such as samosas, momos, curry bowls, savory pies, and more. A second location is in the Loop. Online ordering is available here.
Korean tacos can be trendy to some, but for the owners of Del Seoul, it’s a way of life. Find great steak, fried shrimp, and chicken options. There are also sandwiches, wings, and steamed dumplings in a fast-casual space.
The life of an all-day restaurant can be rough, but Lula Cafe has worn the title with a smile. The Logan Square restaurant is the little juggernaut that could, stressing seasonality and inclusivity inside a humble space with a kitchen that puts out ambitious food. The chilled peanut noodles, a spicy peanut butter sandwich, and classic pasta dishes are neighborhood favorites. For salad lovers, there’s always something great. Forget Sweetgreen and get in here.
Chef Mitchell Abou Jamra deliver Mexican-Lebanese fusion flavors through a Midwestern lens out of this small storefront in Lincoln Park. Exploring Lebanon’s influence on Mexican culinary traditions, the food lineup offers eclectic items like pita nachos, shawarma fries, halloumi pita wraps, gyro and lamb belly tacos, and more. Online ordering is available here. Thre’s another location inside Time Out Market, and an upcoming one in Lakeview.
The French classic in Bucktown is good for a special midday meal with a friend and solo endeavors where a French dip sandwich or cheesy bowl of French onion soup will satisfy whatever bothers you. There’s also a half-priced bottle of wine special, just in case.
Ethan Lim wasn’t always about a fancy family dinner at Hermosa, his comfy little restaurant in the neighborhood of the same name. It’s worth a weekday visit to get the Cambodian fried chicken sandwich alone, but Lim always has something fun with a rotating menu and some of the best french fries in town.
A warm and comforting bowl of pho can make for the perfect lunch. At restaurant-shop hybrid Phodega, owners Nathan Hoops and Anthony Ngo simmer up three exceptional versions: A beefy pho bo teeming with brisket, meatballs, and ribeye; a lighter pho ga consisting of chicken broth and poached chicken thighs; and a vegan pho full of veggies. They’re joined by other remarkable bites like Hainanese chicken rice and a Viet dip sandwich. Customers can also purchase a handful of Asian snacks to go. Online ordering is available here.
Friday and Saturday lunch service is back at Boeufhaus, one of the city’s best steakhouses. Many clamor for the traditional downtown steakhouse experience. And while that’s fine, Boeufhaus excels with great service, attention to detail, and wonderful wine. The sandwiches are top quality from a cheesesteak, burger, to a beef on weck (which celebrates Upstate New York). This is one of the best lunches in town.
Yuzu Sushi & Robata Grill
One of Chicago’s best sushi spots also has plenty of grilled skewers which are sometimes overlooked. Yuzu has long had a bento box lunch special will gives diners several options, from sushi, to soup, to skewers. It’s a great value and a complete meal.
The Oakville Grill & Cellar
This West Loop restaurant, a tribute to Napa Wine Country, focuses on simple preparations of familiar ingredients. The tasting board is full of meats and cheeses to complement folks who want a little wine with lunch. There are fish tacos, grilled artichokes, and a dry-aged burger. Larger bites included barbecue salmon with grits, a mushroom and eggplant ragu, and steak frites.
Bhoomi at Urbanspace
Urbanspace’s arrival in Chicago has been met with mixed results as stalls keep closing inside the food hall near Daley Plaza. One bright spot has been Bhoomi, which focuses on Indian grilled meats served on flatbreads. The quality of meat is good, and the flavor blends are zesty. Indian pasties aren’t seen often in America — in India there are bakeries devoted to the puffs filled with meat. They’ve got a chicken version at Bhoomi and it makes you wonder why America isn’t celebrating these treats.
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Regarded as one of Chicago’s top dumpling makers, Qing Xiang Yuan Dumplings expanded a few years back with the opening of a fast-casual spinoff in the Loop. The steamed and pan-fried dumplings are based on a secret family recipe and include eight varieties such as lamb and coriander, truffle and beef, and pork and cabbage. Folks can save valuable time by ordering ahead through the restaurant’s app.
Don’t sleep on this full-service restaurant, a dim, street-level space that feels like old Chicago. French-inspired cooking is the name of the game, and one of the best dishes is a thick-cut burger that is perhaps the most juicy patty in the city. Diners will have dreams of this wonderfully executed burger, but the menu also features a killer French onion soup, a “Parisian” gnocchi, and steak frites, which caters to all appetites.
Manny's Cafeteria & Delicatessen
The city’s most prominent Jewish deli is coming up on its 80th birthday but little about the experience has changed. Stroll in during lunch hours for massive corned beef and pastrami sandwiches, potato pancakes, knishes, matzo ball soup, and more. Cafeteria-style service keeps things moving along quickly — a big plus for diners short on time. Online orders can be placed here.
Pork reigns supreme at this essential taqueria. Due to its small dining room, there are often lines out the door so weekdays are the best bet for a quick lunch. The short menu stars crispy, tender carnitas that have been slow-cooked in fat for hours. Order it by the pound or get the lunch special and enjoy a half-pound of meat, tortillas, chicharrones, refried beans, a taco dorado, and a drink for $10.50. A second location is in Gage Park. Online ordering is available here.
Hawaiian-inspired specialties have made their way to Pilsen thanks to food-truck-turned-restaurant Aloha Wagon. Diners can order hearty, traditional plate lunches served with choice of protein plus white rice, potato mac salad, and mixed greens salad. Protein options include Kalua pork, chicken katsu, grilled tofu, chicken adobo, grilled fish, beef patties topped with eggs and gravy, and more. The menu also boasts burgers, tacos, and Spam musubi, a classic island snack.
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Pleasant House Pub
This British pub in Pilsen is famous for its savory pies. Chicken and veggie are probably the premier choices, but many swear by the steak and ale. It’s a friendly spot for a good heavy lunch. Look out for the curry special.
Slurp Slurp Noodles
Chicagoans will find noodles on almost any menu in Chinatown but very few places make them like this specialist. The kitchen hand pulls and shaves wheat-based dough to produce fresh noodles, which are then stir-fried or served in broth. They’re finished off with proteins such as beef spare ribs, brisket, pork belly, lamb, chicken, fish fillets, roast duck, and more. Online orders can be placed here.
Loyal locals have been going to Ricobene’s for old school Italian-American fare since 1946. The restaurant’s signature item is the breaded steak sandwich, a sandwich that some proclaim is the best in the world. It’s a messy and satisfying combination of breaded steak, mozzarella, tomato sauce, and giardiniera on a French roll. Get this Chicago original plus Italian beef, wings, pizza, and other eats by ordering here.
Taqueria El Milagro
Best known for its fresh tortillas and tortilla chips, El Milagro also operates restaurants alongside its stores. Guests line up in the cafeteria-style dining room for traditional Mexican fare like tamales, stews, and tacos. The grilled steak tacos are a favorite in particular, loaded with big chunks of beef, rice, refried beans, and cabbage. They’re larger than the average tacos and just two should be enough to fill most stomachs. Online orders can be placed here.
Honey 1 BBQ
Chicago barbecue is underrated, a true evolution of Memphis style highlighted by sticky tomato-based sauces and the rib tip. Honey 1 BBQ serves pork baby backs, fried fish, and pulled pork. It’s some of the best barbecue in Chicago and a great spot for a special lunch.
The underrepresented flavors of a small Senegalese island take center stage at Gorée Cuisine. Though many diners may be unfamiliar with what’s on the menu, it’s easy to appreciate the comforting plates coming out of the kitchen. Owner Adama Ba pays homage to his family’s restaurant back home in Senegal through dishes like tiebu dejun — fried fish stuffed with parsley and herbs in a tomato sauce over rice — and yassa, meat or seafood that’s marinated overnight and cooked in onions and mustard.
After opening in 2022, Bronzeville Soul earned a loyal following. But in summer 2023, Jay-Z walked through the doors and brought unprecedented attention to this small restaurant. Bronzeville Soul is open for lunch and dinner. Pan-seared salmon, beef short ribs, and jerk lamb are highlights.
The poundcake is the featured dessert.
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This glorious Mexican restaurant with locations near Midway International Airport and in Uptown is a can’t-miss Chicago restaurant with the best goat in town. Perfectly spiced, served with peppers, cilantro, and other accouterments. All alongside some of the best tortillas in town. This is the type of restaurant worth altering entire workdays to get to.
St Bess Jerk
Jerk chicken shops are prevalent on the South Side but this relative newcomer over in suburban Burbank is making a strong case for being the best. The X factor is an addictive jerk sauce, which takes the chicken to another level. It’s made from fiery peppers, onions, celery, garlic, ginger, and a blend of spices and also serves as an overnight marinade for the dish. When the birds are ready to go, they’re roasted in a barrel smoker over coals in order to impart a smoky flavor. During the day, diners can order white or dark meat plus two sides for $10. A second outpost of St Bess Jerk is located in Norwood Park. Online ordering is available here.
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This legendary smoked fish shack on the far South Side is a great way to escape the city. Buy a bunch of fish and enjoy your food from the comfort of your car. This is one of the city’s most beloved restaurants, having opened in 1928.