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.
I had totally forgotten about Harry's Sandwich Shop until recently. A dirty secret about my Lunch in the Loop shenanigans is that sometimes I don't know where I'm going. I just grab that camera and run out the door, flailing my arms like wiggly noodles and screaming like a child. This was almost the case until something tickled me in the back of the brain, and I remembered that our handsome, bearded man of action, Joe Roy, had gone to Harry's a while back.
I had only been to Harry's once a long time ago, when I stumbled upon it by accident on a lunch stroll. It's a beautiful, clean, and sparsely decorated 50's-style space, run by a cute older Korean couple. I came in, practiced my shamefully poor conversational Korean, butchering every single word, and left with a delicious sandwich. I promptly forgot about it afterwards. Until now. Good story, Dennis. Good story.
Harry's Sandwich Shop serves Potbelly-style sandwiches, except you get the option of them served cold or hot. If you don't know what to pick, the sunny little Korean lady taking your order will cheerfully let you know which way to have it. The pastrami sandwich ($7.35, regular size) is one she emphatically told us to eat hot, and it was a great suggestion. The bread is toasted on a little conveyor belt, and as you can see by the cross-section, their sandwich construction involves meat and cheese on both the top and bottom for maximum toasted pleasure. Whoa.
When my coworker took his first bite, his eyes got all round and he put the sandwich down and looked at it. He looked at me and said with intensity, "This is a sandwich." The bread is crackly and toasted on the top and bottom, and the white American cheese, which looks like a thick layer of mayo, is melted into the deli-style pastrami. The pastrami is black peppery and sharp, the iceberg lettuce crunchy and cooling, and the tomatoes bring your usual slice of juiciness. As Joe mentioned, the onions are sliced paper thin, which is perfect for this kind of sandwich, because they aren't overpowering in any given bite.
While most of this sounds like your usual deli sandwich, this is really one of those things where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I'm pretty sure when Aristotle said that, he was talking about Harry's pastrami sandwich.
I wanted to see if the roast beef and corned beef combo ($7.35, regular) would work, and I'm happy to report it is also a satisfying sandwich. Ordered with everything, not only do you get your usual lettuce, tomato, onion and cheese, but you also get bell peppers, which add an extra layer of fresh crunch to the sandwich. There's also a squirt of sandwich vinaigrette for good measure, giving you a bit of zing on top. The deli meat isn't anything extraordinary, but again, it's a solid and satisfying whole package. If I had to pick, I think the pastrami wins out by a small margin.
The cold version of the turkey sandwich ($7.15 regular) comes on a sesame roll, which is a great enhancement to a typically bland sandwich. My coworker ordered his without tomatoes, and without them, the bell pepper stands out and makes the whole thing taste fresh. The turkey itself is your usual moisture enhanced deli turkey, but on a sesame bun with bell peppers makes it much more interesting.
The egg salad sandwich ($5.59) is sort of a disappointment. I love eggs and naturally I love egg salad, but Harry's recipe has a strong dose of vinegar in it, which is distracting from the familiar flavor of egg. On the plus side, it's served on a fluffy croissant which is nice and big, even filling the container it's packed in. All the salad sandwiches are served on a croissant, like the egg salad, the chicken salad, and tuna salad.
I don't know how the other soups stack up, but the split pea and ham isn't my favorite. It's got your usual slightly mealy pea texture with little cubes of ham.
Harry's Sandwich Shop
336 South Dearborn Street, Chicago, IL 60604 (map)
312-663-0838 No website
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.