Lunch in the Loop: Standing Room Only
Editor's Note: Whether you're a tourist or an office worker in downtown Chicago, you can get sick of eating at chain restaurants all day. So we've started a series to get you the lowdown on where to find a great and affordable lunch.
If you're ever tried to find lunch in the little section of the South Loop called Printer's Row, you'll know there aren't a ton of food options. You've got Hackney's, Custom House Tavern, and a sprinkling of other restaurants—but not many. There used to be a really strange combination Subway and Taco Bell restaurant (I love Taco Bell, don't judge me!), but they're gone now.
However, there is a little place called Standing Room Only, not to be confused with Nick Kindelsperger's regular feature, also called Standing Room Only. First off, this place has seats. Second, they're well known for their turkey burger, and rumor has it former Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley used to drop by for one every once in a while. The interior of the place is decked out with Chicago sports memorabilia, but for a dork like me who isn't into sports (I like to call football "helmet touch" and am known to laugh at the names "tight end" and "wide receiver"), the hockey sticks and jerseys just don't do it for me.
Right when you step in, it's easy to get overwhelmed by the menu choices. There's a giant menu board to your right as you enter the restaurant. When you're at a place with a lot of choices, it never hurts to order the items listed with the word "famous" attached to them.
The gyro sandwich ($7.75) came out looking picture perfect, with a healthy dose of tomato, white and red onions, and a ton of tzatziki sauce. It also came with a side crinkle cut fries. Unfortunately, it was kind of a disappointment. The gyro meat was somehow dry and yet oily at the same time, and undoubtedly was that preformed pressed cylinder type you see so often in the upright rotisseries in Chicago hot dog stands.
Kronos Foods, based out of Illinois, is almost always the supplier of those popular preformed meat cylinders. You can usually tell if a place serves them by the presence of a really weird poster of a sexy woman posing with a gyro in her hand. Nothing says sexy like gyros. Nothing.
The turkey burger ($6.50) had the architecture of something potentially great—a well toasted bun, good char on the meat, lettuce, tomato, pickle. But the actual patty was dense, with a strange texture. The addition of ketchup, mayo, and mustard couldn't save this thing. I wish I knew why it was famous.
However, the big surprise of the bunch was the portobello mushroom sandwich ($6.50).
This sandwich was absolutely delicious. It was composed of two portobello caps, soaked in what tasted like a soy sauce-based marinade, garlicky spinach, roasted red peppers, and asiago. The bun was toasted and the mushrooms were drip-down-your-hands juicy. Plus, the spinach was garlicky, the roasted red peppers were sweet, and the asiago added a last bit of saltiness. I was genuinely surprised at how much I liked this sandwich.
The chili ($2.95) was decent, your typical midwestern blend of ground beef, kidney beans, tomato-based sauce with a blend of cumin dominated spices. Good for a winter day.
Standing Room Only
About the author: After a failed attempt at starting a chain of theme restaurants called "Smellen Keller," Dennis Lee traveled the world to discover his true passion. Sadly, midwifery didn't pan out. Now he works in a cubicle, and screws around as much as possible. Follow his shenanigans on Twitter.