Loop lunch ideas

Student seeks cheap eats in downtown Chicago

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French Market

The Chicago French Market at 131 N Clinton is a nice spot for lunch in the Loop. (Phil Velasquez / Chicago Tribune)

Q: Now that I am back in the Loop daily for school, I have found myself discovering new places for lunch that are out of the box. Price point under $15. I did stop by the newly opened Rustle + Roux and was quite pleased. Any other thoughts?

--Jenna North, Munster, Ind.

A: I'm sort of embarrassed to say this but I rarely eat lunch in the Loop unless it's a special occasion. Like most people these days, I find it hard to carve time in the middle of the day to go out to lunch. And when I do, it tends to be somewhere near Tribune Tower on the north side of the Chicago River.

In a subsequent email, you told me you've checked out a few Loop buildings for lunch options besides Rustle + Roux (rustleandroux.com), which is located at 227 W. Monroe St.

Phil Vettel, the Tribune's restaurant critic, thinks that is a good move but added a few tips:

Stay really local. You don't want to schlep all the way across the Loop every time you're hungry. You've got enough to do at school and with your commute.

Look for crowds. Restaurants are crowded for a reason. Usually, it's what gets put on the plate. Give them a try; perhaps going before or after the noon crunch time if you want a more relaxed experience.

Ask people. Ask your friends, your fellow students, your teachers, the security guards — anybody — where they like to eat around the school. I used to do this while on vacation. I'd park myself by the door of a supermarket and ask departing shoppers where to find good food. Usually they pointed me in the right direction out of some sort of civic pride or desire to help. So, do the same.

Vettel suggests a quick walk west of the Loop to Saigon Sisters, either the restaurant at 567 W. Lake St. or at The French Market, 131 N Clinton St. (saigonsisters.com). Or try the various food outlets at Macy's (visitmacyschicago.com), 111 N. State St. Steve Johnson, my Tribune arts and features colleague, pointed to Blackwood BBQ, 305 W. Lake St. (blackwoodbbq.com). I would also check out Siam Rice, 117 N. Wells St. (siamricethai.com); I go before the theater for an early dinner but it is also open for lunch. And don't forget Wow Bao for steamed buns and salads. Locations include 1 West Wacker Blvd. (entrance at State and Lake streets) and 175 West Jackson Blvd. (entrance at Financial Place and Van Buren Street) (wowbao.com).

Given all the places to eat in and around the Loop, I'm curious to hear from readers about their faves. Write to me via the contact info below. I hope I get enough response to update this column.

Do you have a question about food or drink? E-mail Bill Daley at: wdaley@tribune.com. Snail mail inquiries should be sent to: Bill Daley, Chicago Tribune, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago 60611. Twitter @billdaley.

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