Slideshow: 7 Surprises from One Year of Lunch in the Loop

Walgreens on State Street
Walgreens on State Street
Walgreens opened up their flagship store early this year, and for better or worse, the food offerings are vast and varied. I was there for the spectacle more than anything else, but is the food good? Well, if you're into convenient self-serve frozen yogurt, salads, sandwiches, and inoffensive grocery-store style sushi, then Walgreens is for you.

Walgreens isn't something I put on this list because of the food, though. It's really just a marvel that Walgreens can even be considered a true Lunch in the Loop option.

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Walgreens, 151 North State Street, Chicago IL 60601 (map); 312-863-4249; walgreens.com

Native Foods Cafe
Native Foods Cafe
Who knew vegan food could get me so excited? While Native Foods Cafe isn't a Chicago-based chain, that's not important. What is important is the fact that they serve great sandwiches, salads, and bowls. Any open-minded meat eater should at least give this a try for lunch. My favorite is anything that involves the fried "chicken," whether it be the Buffalo-style appetizer, the sandwich, the wrap, or anything, really. For someone who loves his meat as much as Sloth loves Baby Ruth, it was a true eye-opener.

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Native Foods Cafe, 218 South Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60604 (map); 312-332-6332; nativefoods.com

Kamehachi Sushi Café
Kamehachi Sushi Café
After the Walgreens sushi escapade, I needed to find some of the good stuff. Kamehachi Sushi Café is a solid option with salads, curry bowls, teriyaki bowls, and, of course, fresh sushi. I've noticed that truly good sushi for lunch in downtown Chicago can be difficult to track down. In a big city like Chicago, you'd think that finding sushi in the Loop neighborhood would be easier, but it really isn't! To this day, my favorite roll there is the simple spicy scallop roll (pictured on the right), which features a huge piece of sweet scallop adorned with a touch of spicy mayo.

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Kamehachi Sushi Café, 311 S. Wacker Drive, Chicago IL 60606(map); 312-765-8700; kamehachi.com/sushi-cafe/

Courtway Restaurant
Courtway Restaurant
Wow. Talk about a secret entrance. Courtway Restaurant is really one of those places you go to and think, "Damn. I'm like Indiana Jones, discovering temples and... restaurants. Yay!" And the interior of the restaurant is like a time machine, with a diner menu of griddled greasy spoon stuff. It might seem trivial, but the bread is not to be overlooked. Maybe it's just me, but it leaves a lasting impression. I'm not talking fancy-pants bread, but it tastes rustic and helps you escape from a sh*tty Monday at the office. You can ease your sorrow with bread and not that secret stash of whiskey in your desk.

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Courtway Restaurant, 29 S La Salle St # A, Chicago, IL 60603 (map); 312-332-8519; Courtway on Facebook

Pollito's Grill and Rotisserie
Pollito's Grill and Rotisserie
Like Courtway, Pollito's Grill and Rotisserie is a find. It's hidden right behind an El staircase and you'd be hard pressed to see it off the street unless you're passing right by. It feels like a discovery. Pollito's serves rotisserie chicken, like Chicken Planet, but their handheld options, like sandwiches and wraps, are worth considering too.

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Pollitos Grill and Rotisserie, 39 North Wells Street, Chicago, IL 60606 (map); 312-263-0078

Baba's Village
Baba's Village
Baba's Village is in the same building as a parking garage, and they serve a huge array of Indian food. (Indian food is still a little rare in the area, but places like Bombay Wraps are popping up now.) Drinks are't always something you think about for lunch, but the sweet and pale green shardai—nutty from blended pistachios and almonds, cold from crushed ice—will make you rethink ordering the usual mango lassi. And you might just come back for it later for an afternoon snack.

I can't believe it's been a full year since I started. I've hardly scratched the surface! So here we go—onto another year of Lunch in the Loop!

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Baba's Village, 310 South Canal Street Chicago, IL 60606 (map); 312-880-0010; babavillage.com