Bandera A mega-rotisserie serves as the heart and hearth of this cozy Mag Mile restaurant, where the simple, high-quality American food has a dash of Tex-Mex flavor. Rotisserie chicken and lamb find their way into many of the oversized sandwiches and salads, and the veggie burger stuffed with rice, veggies and sweet potatoes is one of the best in town. It’s popular with the suits during lunch, and in the evening, tired shoppers looking for a substantial dinner stop in for a meal that won’t challenge their palates or their purses. 535 N Michigan Ave, second floor (312-644-3524). El: Red to Grand. Bus: 3, 65, 145, 146, 147, 151, 157. Lunch, dinner. Average main course: $20.
Heartland Cafe Heartland is as much a playground for twenty- and thirtysomethings as it is a restaurant. Local music acts ranging from folk to rockabilly to jazz flock to its stage as frequently as the local art on the walls changes. Top billing, however, belongs to the menu. To the delight of vegans, vegetarians and the cholesterol conscious, organic whole wheat breads, a vegan lentil burger and spicy black bean burger are offered. Red-meat seekers won’t be disappointed with the free-range buffalo burger and turkey alternatives to bacon and ham that arrive plated next to their generously sized omelettes. The general store adds to the close-knit community feel, selling a range of items from clothing and books to fair-trade coffee and jars of honey. 7000 N Glenwood Ave (773-465-8005). El: Red to Morse. Bus: 22, 96, 147, 155. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. Average main course: $12.
The Flying Saucer Don’t be fooled by the 1950s greasy spoon atmosphere. That’s just retro decor; this Humboldt Park diner focuses on local ingredients and healthy options. Get the thick and smoky veggie burger— it’s just as good as (if not better than) the hormone-free meat options here. Not in the burger mood? Order the sweet potato and tofu hash. Like any good place with a focus on local ingredients, the menu can change depending on what’s in season, but for breakfast there’s always a number of solid standard egg dishes. 1123 N California Ave (773-342-9076). Bus: 49, 52, 70. Breakfast, brunch (Sat, Sun), lunch. Average main course: $9
Jerry’s Sandwiches This sophisticated sandwich shop—an outpost of the West Loop sandwich shop of the same name that just recently transitioned into Mac and Min’s—has swank digs, a well-stocked bar (including around 60 American craft beers), and an expanded menu that includes burgers, a fish-of-the-day sandwich and apps. Of the latter, the massive portion of hummus is a garlic-lover’s dream, and of the burgers, surprisingly, it’s the veggie version that takes best in show. Loaded with black beans, fresh corn, cauliflower, roasted red peppers and eggplant, it’s a great match for a yeasty Bam Bière from Jolly Pumpkin. For dessert, reach for a cocktail like the horchata martini or fresh mai tai, and you’ll have a pretty hard time recalling Jerry’s humble beginnings. 1938 W Division St (773-235-1006). El: Blue to Division. Bus: 50, 70. Lunch, dinner. Average main course: $9.