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Local Experts: Chicago, Amy Tara Koch

By Local Expert Amy Tara Koch

Best Lunch Spots in Chicago

Searching for the perfect midday meal while traveling is serious business. When you find yourself in a foodie capital like Chicago, wasting a golden eating opportunity on forgettable soup and a sad little sandwich should be considered a high culinary crime. Lunchtime choices in this city run the gamut from humble diner dishes to gourmet plates full of Midwestern flavor. The Windy City is known for its comfort food—old-school diners serve well-executed mac and cheese, burgers, and Italian beef on the daily. Or, you could kick that concept up a few notches at Top Chef Stephanie Izard’s Little Goat Diner. “Fashion food,” also known as a restaurant within a high-end retail emporium, is increasingly becoming a trend in Chicago. The food at these establishments is excellent, as is the people watching. Then, there is the just-darn-great food: American fare served with farm-to-table ingredients and old-fashioned Chicago pride. Before you pop in a national chain, check this list of the best lunch spots in town. 

Ikram Cafe

In Chicago, top-tier style mavens have a singular shopping destination: Ikram. On the second floor of this high-end shop is a café serving up farm-to-table dishes and stellar people watching. Dig in to your roasted salmon with kale and watch the parades of a-list Chicagoans take their seats for lunch.

RL Restaurant

Ralph Lauren's fashion vision is perfectly parlayed into food at this classically clubby restaurant. The crisp martinis and American menu (think steak Diane, cobb salad, and filets) are part of the draw. But, it’s the proximity to banquet mates like Oprah, Beyonce and Jay Z, and Billy Joel that keep the power lunchers coming back. 

Purple Pig

There are many small-plate Italian enotecas in town. But only one features the tagline “cheese, wine, and swine.” A porcine paradise, menu standouts include balsamic braised pork tails, “smears” of pork neck rilette, and sow’s ear. There are rich and flavorful non-pork options as well, plus an extensive wine list.

Little Goat Diner

Top Chef and James Beard-award winner Stephanie Izard loves comfort food. She celebrates the concept of the old-school American diner with a massive menu filled with upscale versions of greasy-spoon classics like biscuits and gravy, corn beef hash, and patty melts. Try the smoked pork and toffee milkshake.

Parson's Chicken & Fish

This tiny paen to street food doles out killer iterations of fried chicken and fish. First order a slushy Negroni. Then, swan dive into a bucket of buttermilk fried chicken seasoned with garlic, cayenne, and smoked paprika paired with a side of hamhock and cream cheese-filled hush puppies. Finish with funnelcake topped with green peppercorn brittle.

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