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Diners sit at a lit-up communal table at Revival Food Hall
Photograph: Courtesy of Revival Food Hall

The best lunch spots in the Loop you need to try

From a food hall to upscale eateries—and all the sandwich shops in between—here are the best lunch options in the Loop.

Written by
Morgan Olsen
&
Jeffy Mai
Contributor
Isaiah Reynolds
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If the thought of lunch is the only thing that gets you through the morning, well, you’re not alone. The Loop, an unofficial epicenter of corporate professionals, has plenty of gems for suits to grab delicious midday bites. You can expect to nosh on a variety of cheap eats, including sandwiches, barbecue, dumplings and much more. There are some upscale options as well, in case you’re looking to treat yourself or conduct business over a fancy meal. There are even a few Loop bars to grab drinks for "team building" on slow Fridays or get happy hours started early. No matter what you’re in the mood for, the best lunch spots in the Loop will brighten your day.

RECOMMENDED: The best restaurants in the Loop

The best lunch spots in the Loop

  • Restaurants
  • Food court
  • Loop

Revival Food Hall, a.k.a. the lunch headquarters of the Loop, offers over a dozen different top-notch vendors from neighborhoods across Chicago. Choose from poke, empanadas, burgers, barbecue, tacos and more (yes, more). The massive food hall has plenty of seating for groups big and small, and there's even a bar if your afternoon calls for an adult beverage. To avoid the crowds, stop by before noon or after 2pm.

  • Restaurants
  • Loop

The best dumpling maker in Chicago, Qing Xiang Yuan Dumplings, also operates this fast-casual spin-off in the Loop. The menu is pared down to 10 options here and while they’re all delicious, the lamb with coriander and the truffle-y beef are particular standouts. You can get them steamed or pan-fried, and washed down with a cold tea drink. Order ahead on the restaurant’s dedicated app to avoid a wait.

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Jeffy Mai
Editor, Time Out Chicago
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  • Restaurants
  • Steakhouse
  • Loop
  • price 2 of 4

There’s no better spot for an impressive lunch in the Loop than Prime & Provisions. You’ll rub elbows with power brokers and those wielding large expense accounts throughout the dining room at this luxe and contemporary steakhouse, and for good reason. Fresh shellfish towers, crab Caesar salads and charred octopus are all executed with deft precision, but the dry-aged prime burger is also an excellent, and economical, choice.

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Jeffy Mai
Editor, Time Out Chicago
  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Loop
  • price 1 of 4

Brown Bag Seafood Co. makes eating right easy with two simple steps: Just pick your protein (choices include salmon, crispy cod and grilled shrimp) and a format. You can get your fish straight up or in a salad, powerbox or veggie box. If you're looking for something a bit more filling, opt for a fish sandwich, tacos or a lobster roll. Brown Bag also has additional (and equally convenient) location at Willis Tower and Riverside Plaza.

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  • Restaurants
  • Barbecue
  • Loop
  • price 1 of 4

If you're looking for a soul-warming midday meal, make your way to Blackwood BBQ for premium meats between buns, on a platter or atop a salad, plus drool-worthy sauces and house-made sides. If it's your first time, order the brisket, which spends 15 hours in the smoker, and toss in a side of mac and cheese and Chicago-style sauce. Vegetarians are welcome here, too: You can choose smoked, hand-pulled jackfruit as a protein, a welcome update to the traditional barbecue joint.

  • Restaurants
  • Cuban
  • Loop
  • price 1 of 4

You don’t have to claim a bunk at the adjacent Hi Chicago Hostel to get your hands on one of this café’s ridiculously good Cuban sandwiches. Sure, sides of croquetas de jamon and nachos Cubanos are flavorful, but there’s no confusion over the star of the show: The Cubano’s crusty bread is toasted just right, its roast pork juicy, its pickles thick, and its mustard and gooey cheese plentiful. And once it’s devoured, only a potent café con leche will keep you from calling the Cafecito's comfy couch home for the day.

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  • Restaurants
  • American
  • Loop
  • price 1 of 4

There aren’t many Italian beef purveyors in the Loop but even if there were, it’d be hard to top Luke’s. The sliced beef is consistently well-seasoned and dripping with jus, and the zesty giardiniera pushes the whole thing from good to great. Each bite leaves you wanting more, so it’s fortunate the sandwiches are sizable as well as reasonably priced for the area.

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Jeffy Mai
Editor, Time Out Chicago
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  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary American
  • Loop
  • price 3 of 4

Most folks know this hotel rooftop bar for its fab views and fancy cocktails, but Cindy's also offers an awesome under-the-radar lunch menu. Nosh on handhelds like the Korean fried chicken sandwich or the "not-so-secret" burger, which is topped with butterkase cheese and cherry bomb aioli. If you've got time, hang around for some freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.

  • Restaurants
  • Sandwich shops
  • Loop
  • price 1 of 4

Come summertime, you can find Gayle Voss and her famous grilled cheese sandwiches at various farmers' markets around town. But when cravings strike during the workweek, you can always seek out her brick-and-mortar location in the Pedway at Block 37. We're fans of the classic grilled cheese, with Prairie Pure Butterkäse cheese and crispy sourdough bread from Bennison's Bakery. It's melty and creamy, just like mom used to make. Order a side of the tomato pesto soup.

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  • Restaurants
  • American
  • Loop
  • price 2 of 4

Situated on Michigan Avenue, this culinary gem is best for sit-down lunches with clients (or playing hooky with friends). Soups, salads, entrees, sandwiches and burgers round out the menu, but a few favorites include the Scotch egg and the venison burger with smoked gouda. 

  • Restaurants
  • Mediterranean
  • Loop
  • price 1 of 4

With falafel joints aplenty, the Loop is competitive territory in which to open a Middle Eastern restaurant. Fortunately, Naf Naf is a veritable lion, a place whose creamy falafel, juicy chicken shawarma or spiced meatballs can easily go head-to-head with any existing quick-serve spot in the city. The secret to the success: exceptional condiments and the just-out-of-the-oven pitas (rolled and baked on site).

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  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Loop
  • price 1 of 4

New York-based Luke's serves up a pretty tasty lobster roll for $23. The meat is lightly dressed with both butter and mayonnaise, sprinkled with spices, including thyme and celery salt, then tucked into a well-buttered bun. But it's the surprising crab roll, packed with tons of sweet crab, that steals the show.

  • Restaurants
  • Pan-Asian
  • Loop

Healthy Asian cooking drives the menu at this fast-casual kitchen. Diners can build their stir fry with a host of proteins, veggies, rice, noodles and sauces, or go with one of the pre-customized bowls. They’re all good choices but the Earth, Curry and Fire (chili coconut curry, white rice, carrots, onions, peppers, kale, crispy egg, protein) is our go-to.

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Jeffy Mai
Editor, Time Out Chicago
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  • Restaurants
  • Fusion
  • Loop

Former food truck chefs Amy Le and Rafael Lopez teamed up to create a menu inspired by their family's dishes. We can only imagine that these two ate very, very well, if the bao tacos, dubbed "bacos," are any indication. They're two-bites big and filled with taco ingredients like Panang curry chicken and soy-ginger tofu.

  • Restaurants
  • Indian
  • Loop

This flavorful South Asian spot offers a huge selection of chai, ranging from traditional masala chai to dark chocolate and caramel sea salt. Enjoy your tea with crispy flour puffs (pani puri), curry bowl, momo dumplings, naan or other Indian and Nepalese dishes that will leave you feeling equally warm. If you’re not a fan of chai, there are a variety of other teas available as well as espresso drinks to help you beat that 3pm crash. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Loop
  • price 2 of 4

Variety is the spice of life, which is why you should book it to Chinese stalwart Minghin Cuisine for lunch. Opt for a dim sum spread of dumplings, buns, rice noodle rolls and more to sample the most options. But if you’re craving roast pork or a plate of Mongolian beef, the kitchen’s got you covered, too.

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Jeffy Mai
Editor, Time Out Chicago
  • Restaurants
  • Mediterranean
  • Loop
  • price 1 of 4

Pass up the cases of sparkling diamonds and watches that line the Jeweler’s Mall, and make your way to the back for the real hidden gem—a Middle Eastern takeout joint. Fan favorites are smoky baba ganoush, crispy falafel and Tuesday-Wednesday's special Moroccan chicken (roasted chicken with potato, sauteed onions and cilantro). Keep an eye out for the other unbeatable daily specials.

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  • Restaurants
  • Hamburgers
  • Loop
  • price 1 of 4

Fit for those days when you're not counting calories, Shake Shack's location inside the Chicago Athletic Association has a quick fix for all cravings. The ShackBurger and fried chicken sandwich make awesome lunch choices, and if you're feeling wild, go ahead and toss in cheese fries.

  • Restaurants
  • Sandwich shops
  • Loop
  • price 1 of 4

Established in 1960, Fontano’s knows how to make a solid sandwich. There’s no going wrong with any of the cold cut specialties—the Wise Guy is a winner—but the meatball sub is among the best of its kind. If you’re having an office party or feeling extra ravenous, the three-foot subs are just what you’re looking for.

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Jeffy Mai
Editor, Time Out Chicago
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  • Restaurants
  • Loop

Broken English Taco Pub has long been a meeting ground for great food and an even better time. From the minds of Adolfo Garcia and long-time restaurateur Phil Stefani comes this vibrant spot just steps away from Millennium Park. Start off with classics like the chicken al pastor nachos, but save plenty of room for the range of taco delights—brisket, cod and fried chicken tacos are just a few favorites for the selection. If you're planning an especially long lunch, indulge in a churro shot with vanilla vodka and Fireball or the house sangria.

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