I’ve been working downtown-ish in Chicago for the last 12 years: the Streeterville neighborhood is certainly an urban area and there are plenty of lunch options. But now I’m working right in the Chicago Loop and I’m sure this area has the highest concentration of restaurants in the city. I’m going to explore the variety and try to eat at every single one of them. I’ve got my work cut out for me: the Loop Lunch site lists 388 restaurants, I can tell at a glance that their list is out of date.
I’ll report on the food, but I’ll also try to cover things important to Loop lunchers, like how long it takes to get your food if you show up right at noon. My office is located in the south-east corner of the Loop (don’t be creepy) so I’m going to start by just going once around the block:
20 E Jackson, 60604
Time: In the door at 12:05pm, 5 minutes until seated with food
Meal: 6” sub, can of Coke, fancy chips = $8.18
Fontano’s is part of a small local chain (3 stores in the city, 3 in the suburbs) and the walls are covered with newspaper and magazine articles mentioning the shop in lists of “best sandwiches in the city” and so on. The sandwiches are very competent, boring cold-cut subs. I got one of the subs recommended on a big sign beside the menu: the Block Buster (or, “Blockbuster”, it’s spelled both ways on different signs) — ham, salami, capocollo, provolone, and swiss. Good bread, nice tomatoes, good italian dressing. They make their own Giardiniera, which I’ve had on a previous visit and it’s pretty good. Fountain Pepsi products, Coke by the can, nice selection of both plain and ‘fancy’ chips (I got Rosemary and Olive Oil).
The space is small and crowded. I got to spend my lunch listening to two guys at a table behind me pontificating on the sad state of lunch meats at Subway. At the front window and along one wall, there’s a very narrow counter with short stools in a row. There’s just something odd about sitting down on a short stool—I’ve been trained by bars and diners that a stool is going to be 4’ off the ground, and sitting down at a chair-height stool, and then facing a wall 6” away feels a little weird.