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A pair of chopsticks holding a dumpling.
Devour a variety of dumplings for lunch at JIAO.
JIAO [Official Photo]

20 Standout Lunch Destinations in Chicago

Leave those sad leftovers in the fridge

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Devour a variety of dumplings for lunch at JIAO.
| JIAO [Official Photo]

It's 11 a.m. and the stomach's growling. The only thoughts racing through the mind are the options for lunch. Sure, one could finish last night’s leftovers or head to the nearest fast food chain, but why settle? The following spots excel at the midday meal, offering everything from jerk chicken to shish kabob sandwiches. The latest additions to the list include South Asian specialist Chiya Chai Cafe, Wicker Park noodle shop Phodega, and Pullman’s One Eleven Food Hall.

As of March 2, Chicago restaurants are permitted to serve customers indoors with a 50 percent maximum capacity per room, or 50 people — whichever is fewer. Regardless, the state requires reservations for both indoor and outdoor dining. However, this should not be taken as an endorsement for dining in, as there are still safety concerns. For updated information on coronavirus cases in your area, please visit the city of Chicago’s COVID-19 dashboard. Studies indicate that there is a lower exposure risk when outdoors, but the level of risk involved with patio dining is contingent on restaurants following strict social distancing and other safety guidelines.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Big Jones

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5347 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60640
(773) 275-5725
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Owner and chef Paul Fehribach’s lauded Andersonville spot celebrates Southern cooking with faithful dishes inspired by heritage recipes. The menu features classics like buttermilk biscuits, gumbo, and po’ boys, but it’s the fried chicken that steals the show. Based on an Edna Lewis recipe, the poultry is brined in herbs and spices and then fried in leaf lard, ham drippings, and clarified butter. Online ordering is available here.

2. Nhu Lan Bakery

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2612 W Lawrence Ave
Chicago, IL 60625
(773) 878-9898

Tasty banh mi sandwiches are the draw at this beloved Vietnamese bakery and restaurant. The house special is filled with paté, headcheese, ham, pork roll, and a medley of veggies, while other sandwich options include lemongrass chicken, meatballs, and roasted pork. They’re all served on fresh and crusty bread that’s made in-house. A second Nhu Lan outpost is located in Uptown.

3. Smoque BBQ

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3800 N Pulaski Rd
Chicago, IL 60641
(773) 545-7427
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Turning out great barbecue is no simple feat. Smoque’s dedication to the craft produces impressive results and has earned the restaurant numerous accolades. The meats are inspired by various regional styles and include St. Louis ribs with a dry rub and Texas brisket. Sides such as mac and cheese and brisket chili are first-rate as well. Carryout orders can be placed here; delivery is available through third party services.

A platter of St. Louis-style ribs and sides.
Dig into mouthwatering smoked meats at this barbecue mecca.
Smoque [Official Photo]

4. Chiya Chai Cafe

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2770 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 360-7541
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The preeminent place to sip on a chai beverage, Logan Square’s Chiya Chai also offers an equally excellent food menu. Enjoy South Asian specialties such as samosas, momo dumplings, curry rice bowls, savory pies, and more for lunch. Online ordering is available here.

5. Mr D's Shish-Kabobs

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6656 W Diversey Ave
Chicago, IL 60707
(773) 637-0042

The city’s finest shish kabobs are found on the Northwest Side at this mom-and-pop joint. Owners Mike and Ann Antonopoulos set up shop in Montclare back in the ‘60s and have gained a cult following over the decades for their sandwiches. The shish kabobs are marinated in a special sauce, charred on the grill, and served on a French roll with onions and tomatoes. A similarly superb steak sandwich features juicy rib eye and gravy. Every sandwich also comes with impeccably crisp fries.

6. Sultan's Market

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2057 W North Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 235-3072
Visit Website

Established in 1995 by the Ramli family, Sultan’s Market is a reliable go-to for affordable and delicious Middle Eastern food. In addition to veggie-centric items like crispy falafel and baba ghanoush, there’s also a full salad bar — stocked with dozens of ingredients — priced at $5.99 per pound. Two additional Sultan’s Market outposts are located in Lincoln Park and Logan Square. Online ordering is available through third party services.

A plate of falafel, rice, and hummus.
Vegetarians have plenty of options at Sultan’s Market.
Sultan’s Market [Official Photo]

7. Phodega

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1547 N Ashland Ave
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 687-8187
Visit Website

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 two exceptional versions — a beefy pho bo teeming with brisket, meatballs, and rib eye, and a lighter pho ga consisting of chicken broth and poached chicken thighs. They’re joined by other remarkable bites like Hainanese chicken rice, fried chicken skins, fiery crab rangoons, and a Viet dip sandwich. Customers can also pick up a handful of Asian snacks and groceries. Carryout and delivery ordering is available here.

A bowl of pho.
Pho and Hainanese chicken rice are the main attractions at this Wicker Park shop.
Phodega [Official Photo]

8. Tempesta Market

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1372 W Grand Ave
Chicago, IL 60642
(312) 929-2551
Visit Website

Craving an epic sandwich? Then head to this West Town deli run by father-and-son Agostino and Antonio Fiasche. The creative offerings are in a constant rotation but one permanent fixture is the “Dante,” an Italian sub packed with six layers of house-cured meats and ‘nduja. Online orders can be placed here.

9. XOCO

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449 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 723-2131
Visit Website

Rick Bayless’s sandwich shop is a popular lunchtime destination for downtown workers. The menu highlights tortas — filled with proteins like braised short rib, pork carnitas, and roasted shrimp — cooked in a wood-burning oven. For a sweet ending, order churros or a cup of the Mexican hot chocolate that’s roasted in-house. Carryout orders can be placed here; delivery is available through third party services.

10. JIAO

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18 S Wabash Ave
Chicago, IL 60603

Regarded as one of Chicago’s premier dumpling experts, Qing Xiang Yuan Dumplings expanded in 2019 with the opening of a fast-casual spinoff in the Loop. The dumplings are based on a secret family recipe and the selection has been pared down to a handful of steamed and pan-fried favorites, such as lamb with coriander. Folks can also save valuable time by ordering ahead through the restaurant’s app.

A pair of chopsticks holding a dumpling.
JIAO offers some of the best dumplings in Chicago.
JIAO [Official Photo]

11. Manny's Cafeteria & Delicatessen

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1141 S Jefferson St
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 939-2855
Visit Website

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 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.

12. Carnitas Uruapan

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1725 W 18th St
Chicago, IL 60608
(312) 226-2654
Visit Website

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 for hours. Order it by the pound or get the special, which includes a half-pound of meat, chicharrones, refried beans, a taco dorado, and a drink. A second location is in Gage Park. Online ordering is available here.

13. Pleasant House Pub

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2119 S Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60608
(773) 523-7437
Visit Website

Specializing in savory “Royal Pies,” Pleasant House Pub is the place for a hearty midday meal. The British-inspired restaurant’s signature buttery pastries are filled with beef stew, chicken stew, mushroom and kale, or a blend of veggies. Other menu standouts include Scotch eggs, a terrific burger, and fish and chips on Fridays. Carryout orders can be placed here; delivery is available through third party services.

A Royal Pie.
Savory pies are the focus at Pleasant House Pub.
Pleasant House Pub [Official Photo]

14. Chi Cafe

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2160 S Archer Ave
Chicago, IL 60616
(312) 842-9993
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With a large menu that includes everything from fried rice and lo mein to beef, chicken, pork, and seafood dishes, Chi Cafe is an approachable spot for Chinese cuisine. The prices are wallet-friendly and the happy hour specials offered in the late afternoon are an even better deal. The vast amount of options can be overwhelming, but the sizzling beef tenderloin is always a good choice. Online ordering is available here.

A plate of rice noodles with beef.
Diners will find all of their favorite American-Chinese dishes at Chi Cafe.
Chi Cafe [Official Photo]

15. Ricobene's

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252 W 26th St
Chicago, IL 60616
(312) 225-5555
Visit Website

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 the sandwich, plus other eats like Italian beef, chicken parm, and pizza, by ordering here.

16. Taqueria El Milagro

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3050 W 26th St
Chicago, IL 60623
(773) 847-9407
Visit Website

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 chunks of beef, rice, refried beans, and cabbage. They’re larger than the average tacos, and two should be enough to keep most stomachs full until dinnertime. Online orders can be placed here.

17. Gorée Cuisine

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1126 E 47th St
Chicago, IL 60653
(773) 855-8120
Visit Website

The underrepresented flavors of Senegal take center stage at this Kenwood restaurant. Though many diners might be unfamiliar with 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 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.

A plate of whole grilled fish, rice, and sides.
Discover traditional Senegalese dishes at Gorée Cuisine.
Gorée Cuisine [Official Photo]

18. Soul Veg City

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203 E 75th St
Chicago, IL 60619
(773) 224-0104
Visit Website

A pioneer for plant-based cuisine in Chicago, Soul Veg City (previously Original Soul Vegetarian) has been serving vegan soul food for almost 40 years. The restaurant promotes healthy eating with meatless variations of wings, nachos, burgers, po’ boys, and other classics. Soul Veg City currently offers a rotating selection of hot bar items out of the Quarry Event Center (2423 E. 75th Street) while its original space undergoes renovations.

19. St Bess Jerk

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4838 W 79th St
Burbank, IL 60459
(708) 634-2057
Visit Website

Jerk chicken shops are a staple on the South Side but this newcomer over in suburban Burbank is making a strong case for being the best. The X factor is the jerk sauce, which takes the chicken to another level. It’s made from a blend of spices, scotch bonnet peppers, and other ingredients and also serves as an overnight marinade for the dish. When the birds are finally ready to go, they’re cooked on a charcoal grill in order to create a smoky and complex flavor profile. During lunch hours, diners can have their choice of white or dark meat plus two sides for $10. A second outpost of St Bess Jerk recently opened in Norwood Park at 5729 N. Northwest Highway. Online ordering is available here.

20. One Eleven Food Hall

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756 E 111th St
Chicago, IL 60628

The historic neighborhood of Pullman is home to this food hall and business incubator. During lunchtime, guests have a trio of exciting vendors to try. Majani puts a vegan spin on soul food with dishes like jerk tofu tacos, barbecue cauliflower, and a black-eyed peas burger, while Lexington Betty Smoke House delivers succulent brisket, pulled pork, and more. Those in need of an afternoon pick-me-up can stop by AndySunflower Café for a caffeinated beverage.

1. Big Jones

5347 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60640

Owner and chef Paul Fehribach’s lauded Andersonville spot celebrates Southern cooking with faithful dishes inspired by heritage recipes. The menu features classics like buttermilk biscuits, gumbo, and po’ boys, but it’s the fried chicken that steals the show. Based on an Edna Lewis recipe, the poultry is brined in herbs and spices and then fried in leaf lard, ham drippings, and clarified butter. Online ordering is available here.

5347 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60640

2. Nhu Lan Bakery

2612 W Lawrence Ave, Chicago, IL 60625

Tasty banh mi sandwiches are the draw at this beloved Vietnamese bakery and restaurant. The house special is filled with paté, headcheese, ham, pork roll, and a medley of veggies, while other sandwich options include lemongrass chicken, meatballs, and roasted pork. They’re all served on fresh and crusty bread that’s made in-house. A second Nhu Lan outpost is located in Uptown.

2612 W Lawrence Ave
Chicago, IL 60625

3. Smoque BBQ

3800 N Pulaski Rd, Chicago, IL 60641
A platter of St. Louis-style ribs and sides.
Dig into mouthwatering smoked meats at this barbecue mecca.
Smoque [Official Photo]

Turning out great barbecue is no simple feat. Smoque’s dedication to the craft produces impressive results and has earned the restaurant numerous accolades. The meats are inspired by various regional styles and include St. Louis ribs with a dry rub and Texas brisket. Sides such as mac and cheese and brisket chili are first-rate as well. Carryout orders can be placed here; delivery is available through third party services.

3800 N Pulaski Rd
Chicago, IL 60641

4. Chiya Chai Cafe

2770 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

The preeminent place to sip on a chai beverage, Logan Square’s Chiya Chai also offers an equally excellent food menu. Enjoy South Asian specialties such as samosas, momo dumplings, curry rice bowls, savory pies, and more for lunch. Online ordering is available here.

2770 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60647

5. Mr D's Shish-Kabobs

6656 W Diversey Ave, Chicago, IL 60707

The city’s finest shish kabobs are found on the Northwest Side at this mom-and-pop joint. Owners Mike and Ann Antonopoulos set up shop in Montclare back in the ‘60s and have gained a cult following over the decades for their sandwiches. The shish kabobs are marinated in a special sauce, charred on the grill, and served on a French roll with onions and tomatoes. A similarly superb steak sandwich features juicy rib eye and gravy. Every sandwich also comes with impeccably crisp fries.

6656 W Diversey Ave
Chicago, IL 60707

6. Sultan's Market

2057 W North Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
A plate of falafel, rice, and hummus.
Vegetarians have plenty of options at Sultan’s Market.
Sultan’s Market [Official Photo]

Established in 1995 by the Ramli family, Sultan’s Market is a reliable go-to for affordable and delicious Middle Eastern food. In addition to veggie-centric items like crispy falafel and baba ghanoush, there’s also a full salad bar — stocked with dozens of ingredients — priced at $5.99 per pound. Two additional Sultan’s Market outposts are located in Lincoln Park and Logan Square. Online ordering is available through third party services.

2057 W North Ave
Chicago, IL 60647

7. Phodega

1547 N Ashland Ave, Chicago, IL 60622
A bowl of pho.
Pho and Hainanese chicken rice are the main attractions at this Wicker Park shop.
Phodega [Official Photo]

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 two exceptional versions — a beefy pho bo teeming with brisket, meatballs, and rib eye, and a lighter pho ga consisting of chicken broth and poached chicken thighs. They’re joined by other remarkable bites like Hainanese chicken rice, fried chicken skins, fiery crab rangoons, and a Viet dip sandwich. Customers can also pick up a handful of Asian snacks and groceries. Carryout and delivery ordering is available here.

1547 N Ashland Ave
Chicago, IL 60622

8. Tempesta Market

1372 W Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60642

Craving an epic sandwich? Then head to this West Town deli run by father-and-son Agostino and Antonio Fiasche. The creative offerings are in a constant rotation but one permanent fixture is the “Dante,” an Italian sub packed with six layers of house-cured meats and ‘nduja. Online orders can be placed here.

1372 W Grand Ave
Chicago, IL 60642

9. XOCO

449 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

Rick Bayless’s sandwich shop is a popular lunchtime destination for downtown workers. The menu highlights tortas — filled with proteins like braised short rib, pork carnitas, and roasted shrimp — cooked in a wood-burning oven. For a sweet ending, order churros or a cup of the Mexican hot chocolate that’s roasted in-house. Carryout orders can be placed here; delivery is available through third party services.

449 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60654

10. JIAO

18 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60603
A pair of chopsticks holding a dumpling.
JIAO offers some of the best dumplings in Chicago.
JIAO [Official Photo]

Regarded as one of Chicago’s premier dumpling experts, Qing Xiang Yuan Dumplings expanded in 2019 with the opening of a fast-casual spinoff in the Loop. The dumplings are based on a secret family recipe and the selection has been pared down to a handful of steamed and pan-fried favorites, such as lamb with coriander. Folks can also save valuable time by ordering ahead through the restaurant’s app.

18 S Wabash Ave
Chicago, IL 60603

11. Manny's Cafeteria & Delicatessen

1141 S Jefferson St, Chicago, IL 60607

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 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.

1141 S Jefferson St
Chicago, IL 60607

12. Carnitas Uruapan

1725 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608

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 for hours. Order it by the pound or get the special, which includes a half-pound of meat, chicharrones, refried beans, a taco dorado, and a drink. A second location is in Gage Park. Online ordering is available here.

1725 W 18th St
Chicago, IL 60608

13. Pleasant House Pub

2119 S Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60608
A Royal Pie.
Savory pies are the focus at Pleasant House Pub.
Pleasant House Pub [Official Photo]

Specializing in savory “Royal Pies,” Pleasant House Pub is the place for a hearty midday meal. The British-inspired restaurant’s signature buttery pastries are filled with beef stew, chicken stew, mushroom and kale, or a blend of veggies. Other menu standouts include Scotch eggs, a terrific burger, and fish and chips on Fridays. Carryout orders can be placed here; delivery is available through third party services.

2119 S Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60608

14. Chi Cafe

2160 S Archer Ave, Chicago, IL 60616
A plate of rice noodles with beef.
Diners will find all of their favorite American-Chinese dishes at Chi Cafe.
Chi Cafe [Official Photo]

With a large menu that includes everything from fried rice and lo mein to beef, chicken, pork, and seafood dishes, Chi Cafe is an approachable spot for Chinese cuisine. The prices are wallet-friendly and the happy hour specials offered in the late afternoon are an even better deal. The vast amount of options can be overwhelming, but the sizzling beef tenderloin is always a good choice. Online ordering is available here.

2160 S Archer Ave
Chicago, IL 60616

15. Ricobene's

252 W 26th St, Chicago, IL 60616

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 the sandwich, plus other eats like Italian beef, chicken parm, and pizza, by ordering here.

252 W 26th St
Chicago, IL 60616

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16. Taqueria El Milagro

3050 W 26th St, Chicago, IL 60623

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 chunks of beef, rice, refried beans, and cabbage. They’re larger than the average tacos, and two should be enough to keep most stomachs full until dinnertime. Online orders can be placed here.

3050 W 26th St
Chicago, IL 60623

17. Gorée Cuisine

1126 E 47th St, Chicago, IL 60653
A plate of whole grilled fish, rice, and sides.
Discover traditional Senegalese dishes at Gorée Cuisine.
Gorée Cuisine [Official Photo]

The underrepresented flavors of Senegal take center stage at this Kenwood restaurant. Though many diners might be unfamiliar with 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 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.

1126 E 47th St
Chicago, IL 60653

18. Soul Veg City

203 E 75th St, Chicago, IL 60619

A pioneer for plant-based cuisine in Chicago, Soul Veg City (previously Original Soul Vegetarian) has been serving vegan soul food for almost 40 years. The restaurant promotes healthy eating with meatless variations of wings, nachos, burgers, po’ boys, and other classics. Soul Veg City currently offers a rotating selection of hot bar items out of the Quarry Event Center (2423 E. 75th Street) while its original space undergoes renovations.

203 E 75th St
Chicago, IL 60619

19. St Bess Jerk

4838 W 79th St, Burbank, IL 60459

Jerk chicken shops are a staple on the South Side but this newcomer over in suburban Burbank is making a strong case for being the best. The X factor is the jerk sauce, which takes the chicken to another level. It’s made from a blend of spices, scotch bonnet peppers, and other ingredients and also serves as an overnight marinade for the dish. When the birds are finally ready to go, they’re cooked on a charcoal grill in order to create a smoky and complex flavor profile. During lunch hours, diners can have their choice of white or dark meat plus two sides for $10. A second outpost of St Bess Jerk recently opened in Norwood Park at 5729 N. Northwest Highway. Online ordering is available here.

4838 W 79th St
Burbank, IL 60459

20. One Eleven Food Hall

756 E 111th St, Chicago, IL 60628

The historic neighborhood of Pullman is home to this food hall and business incubator. During lunchtime, guests have a trio of exciting vendors to try. Majani puts a vegan spin on soul food with dishes like jerk tofu tacos, barbecue cauliflower, and a black-eyed peas burger, while Lexington Betty Smoke House delivers succulent brisket, pulled pork, and more. Those in need of an afternoon pick-me-up can stop by AndySunflower Café for a caffeinated beverage.

756 E 111th St
Chicago, IL 60628

Related Maps