By night, Avec has a dark date-night vibe, but by day it’s brighter and more casual. The famous chorizo-stuffed medjool dates are reborn as a chorizo and beef burger topped with bacon, date mostarda and zippy piquillo pepper aioli ($14), while a slow-roasted pork sandwich is a soul-satisfying bánh mì riff with marinated carrots, turnips and cilantro and spicy harissa aioli ($12). Low-octane drinks, like a fizzy Jerez spritz ($11), keep it light. Mon-Fri 11:30am-2pm.
The lunch menu at the nouveau Czech gem includes dinner mainstays, like an elegant chicken paprikash ($25), plus a new burger ($12) and refreshing mango mint soda ($6). Among the hearty offerings are knackwurst brightened by sauerkraut and mustard seeds ($13) and a comforting mushroom and cauliflower-packed spaetzle ($17). End with a fruit kolacky with sweet elderflower ice cream ($8) before heading back to work. Mon-Fri 11am-2pm.
The River North restaurant has a new $18 set lunch menu, with a choice of a salad or crisps, portabella sandwich, chicken sandwich or ensalada Latina, and a soft drink. Start with the bag of crisps, which a server will pour an egg over and shake up, leaving the chips coated with egg yolk, vinegar powder and sea salt. It sounds like an odd combination, but it works. Make sure your napkin is secure in your lap before diving into the grilled beer-brined chicken sandwich, topped with crunchy giardiniera, piquant beer mustard aioli and fried pickles—it's a bit of a mess to tackle, though so worth it. Mon-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm.
The Pilsen spot has great midday drinks like the beer-based Dusek Cooler, lemony and full of rich cloves from Becherovka ($9). But even if you aren’t imbibing, you'll find plenty to try, like a po’boy with perfectly fried oysters balanced with Old Bay aioli and crunchy pickle slices ($14). Still hungry? Chef Jared Wentworth recently launched a lunch menu at Hyde Park’s Promontory as well. Mon-Fri 11am-3pm.
Skip the long dinner waits and go to Fat Rice for lunch, when you can sit right away and get down to business with gingery pork dumplings in chile oil ($8); nasi lemak, a Malaysian dish with coconut rice surrounded by peanuts, fried anchovies and pickled cabbage ($10); and two takes on piri piri chicken ($16). Booze is available, but for midday refueling, you can’t beat the energizing Hong Kong-style milk tea ($3). Wed-Sat 11am-2pm.
When you can take a long lunch, this classic Italian spot delivers pastas like orecchiette with sausage and rapini ($18), a pimento cheese and grilled onion-laden burger ($15), and a great wine list. When you need a lightning-fast lunch, hit the daily-changing salad bar—it’s $19 per person and includes salads like roasted carrots with figs and cured meats with olives and onions. Mon-Fri 11:30am-2pm.