Lunch in the Loop: Jaffa Bakery
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.
Oh, Thanksgiving, why are you only once a year? What injustice is it that you're not once a month—nay, once a week? I raise my fists to the sky in desire of piles of turkey and cranberry sauce! I shake them at the heavens in deep, deep sorrow and internal rage!
Wow. Working in a cubicle all day does really strange things to a man. So anyway, Thanksgiving. It's hard not to crave those leftover turkey sandwiches, layered with cranberry sauce, especially six months past November. Luckily, Jaffa Bakery is the only lunch place I know of that carves a giant turkey right off the bone in front of you, meaning that all year long you get a fix of that leftover turkey sandwich you miss so much.
Jaffa's turkey sandwich ($5.95) is priced well, and you can specify whether you'd like white meat, dark meat, or a mix. Only then is the meat cut off the bird. You also have a choice between a kaiser roll, pita, or French roll. I say go for the latter. It's the right size for the amount of filling, and it's the least messy of the options.
Along with the standard toppings like lettuce, tomato, mayo, mustard, and cheese, you can also get... cranberry sauce! Oh, man. It's the perfect addition to the big round flavor of the turkey, and with a touch of mayo, a leaf of lettuce, and a slice of tomato, you've got Thanksgiving leftovers without having to deal with a giant mess in your own kitchen.
If you don't care about Thanksgiving so much, and instead you're thinking about the Taste of Chicago and Manny's giant BBQ turkey legs, you can also order a BBQ leg plate ($6.95), which comes with vegetables, rice, or mashed potatoes. Jaffa's BBQ turkey leg doesn't quite have the same outer crunch that Manny's does, but it's doused in sauce and should tide you over until the Taste. The dark leg meat is well roasted and full of turkey flavor, and the barbecue sauce adds a sweet and tangy layer. I can't recommend the flavorless and under seasoned vegetables, but the mashed potatoes and turkey gravy are comforting.
The other interesting thing about Jaffa is that along with whole turkey, it serves bagels and Middle Eastern food, like falafel, shawarma, and kababs. The grilled chicken kabab sandwich ($5.95) features a chicken and vegetable kabab stuffed into a pita, which you can then get topped with fresh Jerusalem salad, tabbouleh, and hummus. The all white meat chicken ends up being dry and overcooked, but the fresh salad and parsley from the tabbouleh bring a lot of flavor. Honestly, I'd stick to the turkey.
If you need something to soothe your sweet tooth, Jaffa also offers baklava ($2.45). The rich phyllo dough is stuffed with crushed peanuts and honey, and it's good enough to impress coworkers. Trust me! One of my coworkers was apprehensive about the dish, because he'd never tried one before. But I said, "Try it, it's sweet!" He took a big bite, his eyes got big and round, and he said, "Wow! This is the bomb! How come I didn't know this stuff existed?"
So if you want turkey, but your coworkers want falafel, you can get your fix all in the same spot. Who knew?
186 W Van Buren St, Chicago, IL 60604(map)
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.