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.
Ever since I started this Lunch in the Loop column, everybody's been harping on my ass to put up a post about Chicken Planet. It's a well known haunt for local office workers who want a cheap lunch. The reason why the sign says "grand opening" on it is that it just recently moved from Jackson to Van Buren, but it's definitely the same old place.
With a name like that, you're posed with a metric buttload of important questions: Can you imagine a planet consisting of nothing but chicken? Is the planet itself composed of chicken? If that's the case, is the core of Chicken Planet comprised of hot molten chicken? Or is it an earth-like planet that is a chicken paradise, which only supports chicken life? My brain is melting with the possibilities!
If you couldn't figure it out by the name, all the restaurant serves is chicken—grilled chicken, that is. If you peek in the storefront in the morning, you'll see the huge grill covered entirely in whole butterflied chickens. It's amazing! The first time I saw all that glorious chicken, I died. This time, I showed up after all the chicken was cooked, but you haven't lived a full and amazing life until you see the grill in use.
With all this in mind, you have lots of choices and they are all cheap! Seriously! The half-chicken order was a whopping $5.47. Quarter chicken plates are also available for just over four dollars. It's not the moistest chicken around, but the charred flavor from the grill is great. You can mix dark and white meat, go all dark, go all white, and no, this isn't the beginning of a Chris Rock joke.
I'm always a thigh person, myself, but nice legs are always good and you can't go wrong with a moist breast in your mouth. Also, I'm a walking HR violation. I'm totally getting fired.
You get one side and a grilled pita with the chicken meals. But I'm not going to sugarcoat this next part. The sides are consistently terrible. The rice is dry, the cole slaw is drenched in mayo, the mashed potatoes are covered with the most flavorless gravy I've ever had, and the corn on the cob is the worst thing ever. But that's why it's awesome! Sometimes bad things are just good.
However, the grilled pita is a whole different story. It's just a store-bought pita, but when it's grilled on that post-apocochickenlypse grill, you get a crisp and oily pita that looks simple, but is totally awesome.
The chicken roll ($4.78) comes on that same amazing pita. It comes overstuffed with charred chicken, iceberg lettuce, tomato, red onion, and mayo. For something relatively simple, it's really good.
An interesting detail at Chicken Planet is that they serve this unique salsa that looks sort of like a discolored gazpacho. If I had to guess what was in it, I'd say fresh tomatoes, vinegar, jalapenos, and a ton of cilantro. I love it, but I never know what to do with it. It's good with the chicken, but I always dip my pita into it. There's also a standard tangy barbecue sauce, but to me, the chicken is always best by itself.
If you're a space cadet like me, and you really want some grilled chicken, BLAST OFF TO CHICKEN PLANET! (I hate myself sometimes.)