So good it hurts
One of the many unique features of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago is that nary a meal plan is offered. Sure we have Sonny’s in the Columbus building, and some new mystical joint opening up in the Michigan building (see our story on such and such on pages ?), but where do students who live in the dorms or those who want to mingle with Chicago’s office workers eat? I offer several downtowny alternatives for your lunchtime munchies and night time cravings.
72 E. Adams St. | (312) 987-0900
Here’s the deal with Patty’s: it’s owned by the folks that brought you Potbellys, so it should be better than it is. They have good milkshakes and fries, but I wasn’t bowled over by the burger. Apparently their veggie burger is two chunks of eggplant on a bun, so if you dig eggplant you’re in luck. Personally, eggplant makes me gassy. Patty’s is reasonably priced and, for those that don’t want to leave the block for lunch, probably your best option. The institutional-chic interior they have whisks you away to the poshest hospital cafeteria of your mind’s eye for a brief moment and then BAM slaps you back into reality when you open the door, step out onto the sidewalk and buy a streetwise from the dude that owns that block. I heard him say that out loud. He OWNS that block.
116 S. Michigan Ave. | (312) 223-1061
OH GOD. Not another creepily-textured, asymmetrically-sliced bagel from Cosi. Seriously. In lieu of their square, springy, egg-cake breakfast bagel, you may be better off tossing back a couple brand-new sponges, right out of the wrapper, so they retain that not quite wet but not quite dry feeling. Since Cosi redecorated to embrace the least effective ordering-and-receiving structure ever, you can’t go in there to get a salad without a half-hour time commitment on your part, but if you’ve got time to kill and are desperate for a surprisingly good cobb salad, treat yo’self. Don’t let me hold you back from spilling diet coke all over their soda counter while you jockey for a spot on the counter-intuitively designed purgatorial bench. Plus they take your articard. And dammit, you love your articard.
Potbelly Sandwich Works
55 E. Jackson | (312) 427-9347
Think Subway sandwiches are made out of stinky, salty, wet formica? me too. Potbelly’s provides an equally as healthy alternative (based on my zero nutritional knowledge). They have cold cuts and crap, if you’re too lazy to make your own damn sandwiches from cold cuts from Jewel Osco, but the real deal here is the meatball sandwich with hot peppers on it. Due to my personal policy of not buying anything at a restaurant that I can make better at home, the lusty meatball sub makes the cut. Also plus: banana milkshakes. No I’m not pregnant. And all the sandwiches are 4.19.
226 S. Wabash Ave.
Dude. Five words: One Pound Burger. Also Beers.
Takashi Yagihashi’s Noodles
Macy’s 111 N. State St., 7th Floor
Got a hangover? Tired of 59 cent ramen noodles that come in a brick? Do not walk, RUN to the Macy’s food court and treat yourself to some REAL ramen noodles created by fancy pants chef Takashi Yagihashi. The cure to hangovers, li’l ones, is hot spicy soup, and this is available en masse at Noodles. Fight your way through the fruit flies that shut down the first floor cafeteria and bask in the delight of light broths and fresh noodles. Sure there are some other yuppie delights to be had in “Seven on State,” but do you really want to eat anything from that guy on PBS who started Frontera Grill? Snooze-a-roo Batman. The menu at Noodles has been described as “pork-centric” for sure. But there are vegetarian options. I think. You know what? I don’t remember because I love pork.
You’ll spend about ten dollars here (but you’ll get two meals out of it), but more if you look around Macy’s, and if you’re hungover you might wind up with a new pair of shoes you’ll regret once the fog lifts from your soul. Don’t worry. The fog will lift.
21 N Wabash Avenue
For years those “in the know” headed over to the Jeweler’s Mall on Wabash, plowed through the sea of diamonds and men with gold chains tangled up in their chest hairs to enjoy one of Solomon’s delicious falafel. (Note: Solomon is really smart and nice. He quit being an engineer to open his falafel shop. I could easily make cheesy statements that involve both cooking and engineering here, but will leave those up to the reader to arrive at when eating the actual falafel). But when some weird renovations happened in 2006 and the cafe shut down for a while, Oasis moved into a food court a block north that also houses a Popeye’s and a hotdog stand. Some sneaky entrepreneur moved into Oasis Cafe’s old jewelers mall location and kept the same name but sells less delicious food. Don’t be fooled!
If you want to eat something made with care for under five dollars in the loop, this is one of your best bets. Plus falafel are always hip and your friends will think you’re way cool if you show them this surprising find. It’ll be like when you put Pearl Jam on that mix tape, but it wasn’t the song they played on the radio, and CDs had just come out, and your boyfriend was like, “I totally love that song. Where did you hear it?” And you were like, “I bought the CD. I can make you a tape copy, if you want,” and then you went up on the golf course behind your parents house and made out. Remember?
230 S Wabash Ave.
I know that a few sentences ago I claimed that hot spicy soup is the cure for hangovers, but now I’m going to tell you the cure for everything else: Kramer’s. Go to the juice bar at Kramers and tell them what is wrong with you. I’ll be damned if they don’t have some concoction to cure it. PMS? No problem. Getting a cold? Easy. Broken wrist? Maybe not, but they’ll try. This is maybe the best deal in the loop: you can get a huge bowl of soup, some main dish type thing (I prefer the spinach pie), and a fresh juice. Stock up on your Dr. Bronners and grab a fancy candy bar on your way out. Vegans, listen up: this is the one place in town you can eat more than just a salad.
14 S. Wabash Ave.
If you miss going to diners with your grumpy Jewish grandparents, or if you miss New Jersey, then you’re in luck, because Ada’s will make you feel right at home. I have never ever been able to finish any meal I’ve gotten from them (sandwiches), nor have I ever been able to get a knish from them, despite many attempts, because they always sell out before I get there. There are only a few places in Chicago to get a knish (from what I can tell, and I’ve searched), and Ada’s is one of them—if you can get up early enough to snag one. They also have beers and coffee and an intimidating dessert counter your grandmother would kvetch over.
It’s a little pricey, but you can get out of there under 10 bucks if you try. Plus you’ll have the other half of your sandwich to eat later.Bennigan’s
150 S. Michigan Ave.
Do it. Join the hoards of fanny-packing tourists and head over to Bennigans for tiny burgers and fries during happy hour. Who cares. Go ahead. Irony is cool in art school, and you better use it up before you hit your late 20s, because irony is not so cool then. As you approach 30, irony turns out to be a wee bit alienating. Your friends all secretly want to go to Bennigan’s and order a blue drink with Swedish Fish in it anyway. You can sit around together and feel better than those people after a rough critique, while secretly enjoying tiny burgers and banana daquries.
Au Bon Pain
122 S. Michigan Ave. | (312) 427-4925
Au Bon Pain has half price baked goods after 6. Their breads hurts my mouth, and the sandwiches they keep in that weird incubator are at once repulsive and tempting, though the repulsive impulse always wins out. Maybe it’s all those years of eating at truck stops that make incubated sandwiches perk my ears up. Anywho, there’s no real reason to eat here. Their orange juice is overpriced, as are their grapes and containers of Swedish Fish (YES! I mentioned Swedish Fish twice in one article!), and their salad bar is expensive too. Remember when nobody wanted to eat at salad bars in the 80s, and so they came free with your entree? What? You weren’t alive then? Oh.