If you're familiar with the hangry syndrome — that powerful combination of hungry and angry — you know that when the hanger hits, you need to eat now. These eight speedy spots, from counter-service standbys to power-lunch pros, will feed your hanger fast.
With its convenient River North location and another outpost in Streeterville, this casual sit-down concept has the art of the quick meal down to a science. Speedy service ensures that your crispy kale salad, brioche-crusted branzino or skirt steak chimichurri is delivered in a timely manner so you can get on with your day.
519 N. Clark St.; 312-284-1377
This meatier version of the Chipotle model will fill you up without draining your day or wallet. It might only take five minutes to grab a platter of pulled pork or a beef brisket sandwich, but rest assured that the meat spent 15 hours in the smoker before finding its way to your plate.
305 W. Lake St.; 312-621-9663
Sustainable seafood is the name of the game at this Loop lunch spot. A mix-and-match menu of crispy shrimp, teriyaki salmon, lemon-broiled whitefish and more served in tacos, sandwiches and salads satisfies without the usual fast-casual guilt trip. Its popularity has spawned a second location opening in River North in 2017.
340 E. Randolph St.; 312-496-3999
Speedy Indian food might raise some flags, but the chefs at this rapidly expanding fast-casual package big flavors in naanwiches, roti rolls, bowls and salads. Protein options range from tame tandoori chicken to spicy lamb. The Downtown restaurant recently expanded into a food truck and second location.
171 N. Wells St.; 312-578-8825
A top contender for the best deal Downtown is the “Just Bring Me Lunch” special. Monday through Friday from 11:30 AM–3 PM, enjoy a three-course lunch for $9.95. The feast comes with a cup of the soup of the day, followed by a choice of sandwich — veal meatball, housemade sausage, chicken pesto, BLT or prosciutto — and dessert.
620 N. State St.; 312-337-6634
Get in and out in under 30 minutes with the express lunch. Each meal comes with a half bowl of ramen and a rice platter topped with a choice of miso salmon, panko-crusted chicken or skirt steak. Bonus: whether you opt for the chicken shio ramen or classic pork tonkotsu, it’s only going to cost $15.
59 W. Hubbard St.; 312-377-9950
Tucked away in the Langham Hotel is a hot spot for power lunches and post-work cocktails. During the day, the Wabash Express offers a quick prix fixe meal for $29. It includes a choice of starter, entree and dessert; a potential combo might include field squash soup, Scottish salmon and pumpkin cheesecake pie.
330 N. Wabash Ave.; 312-923-7705
Experience all of the flavors of Rick Bayless’ inspired Mexican cuisine in an hour with their “Topolo in 60” lunch menu. The experience can start with classic ceviche followed by carne asada covered in Oaxacan black mole and conclude with a Cajeta brownie sundae. The meal costs $25 and wine pairings can be added for an additional $15–$25.
445 N. Clark St.; 312-661-1434