Friday, April 11, 2014

Recent Chicago Restaurant Visits: Downtown Lunch

I have told you this before and I will say it again: Lunch is probably my least favorite-- or certainly my most overlooked-- meal. During the week I find myself rushing through it while trying to get work done and on the weekends I'm making fun plans for girls brunches and dinner dates, but lunch is rarely on my radar. Lately though, I've ventured out for a few memorable lunches that I want to tell you about. Check these out the next time you're looking for lunch downtown!


Publican Quality Meats
West Loop

Just like it was a shame that lived in neighborhood and waited 3+ years to try The Publican for the first time, it was just as much a shame that we waited until recently to try its sister restaurant Publican Quality Meats. PQM is part butcher shop, part gourmet grocery, and part cafe/casual restaurant. It has the same unpretentious vibe and quality ingredients that you'll find at the Publican, but in an even more laidback setting. A few communal tables are tucked in the back of PQM while the front is used primarily for ordering meats and takeout sandwiches from the butcher's counter. We stopped in on a Sunday afternoon for lunch and there was a bit of a wait, but it was worth it!

I was totally overwhelmed by the menu-- PQM has tons of really great and different combinations to offer, so I ended up making a gametime decision and went with something I rarely, if ever, order: a roast beef sandwich. The Cosmo Stole The Beef is two slices of thick country bread generously layered with slices Slagel Farms roast beef (lean and flavorful, not fatty), butter lettuce, and the two ingredients that truly attracted me to this sandwich: smoked onions and blue cheese aioli. For having some pretty hearty ingredients, this sandwich was filling, but still surprisingly light-- in a good way. The tangy blue cheese aioli (so good!) and the smoky onions were perfectly paired with the simple roast beef. And the sandwich came with a side of what is probably the best kale I have ever tasted. It was slightly wilted and tossed in a tangy vinaigrette dressing with a little bit of heat and some shaved cheese. My sandwich was great, but I could have ordered a big bowl of this and would have been satisfied. The flavors were perfect.

Alex went with the Parm #2, PQM's take on a chicken parm sandwich. A breaded chicken cutlet was layered with a sweet tomato basil sauce, fresh mozzarella, and fried sage leaves (yum!) all on a sandwich roll from local favorite Franks 'N Dawgs, which was then buttered and pressed for a panini effect. He polished it off really quickly (read: that means it was really good) while I stole several bites of the potato salad that was served on the side. It was a mustard-based potato salad, but not the bright yellow picnic kind that you pick up at the grocery store. This one was made with fresh chives and onions and had that great spicy deep flavor of Dijon mustard.

This is the perfect spot for a quick lunch, casual dinner, or if you're looking for the quality food of The Publican without the heftier price tag.
Publican Quality Meats on Urbanspoon

The Loop

I have mentioned before that finding a great place to eat in the Loop can be a difficult task, but I'm happy to report that I have one more gem that you can add to your list: The Gage. I've been here for drinks and appetizers before and had a great time. I love the look and feel of the space-- it's got a cool vintage European tavern vibe. So I was excited to return with some colleagues recently to check out the lunch menu.

The Gage has a great menu with a variety of options. There was something for everyone at our table of eclectic eaters. I saw beets on the menu and immediately knew what I was ordering. A combination of roasted golden and chioggia (those pretty red and white) beets, thinly sliced apples, fennel, crisp green beans, and frisee. It was topped with a little bit of goat cheese, a sprinkle of pecans, and tossed in a sweet vinaigrette. It was a delicious and refreshing salad on a chilly winter day.

And while I didn't get to try it, I did have to snap a photo: check out this cauliflower that my boss ordered (hey Steph!). I love this trendy cauliflower "steak;" it is such a cool way to prepare cauliflower. It was grilled until brown and crispy and arranged over a bed of cauliflower puree. They topped it with toasted pepitas, pickled raisins, and lightly dressed greens. It was a pretty impressive portion and presentation for a side dish and I would totally try it next time.

The Gage is a great place for a business lunch, for drinks and a bite after work, and also for poutine. Try the poutine and let me know what you think!
The Gage on Urbanspoon

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