Serious Eats: Chicago
Lunch in the Loop: Miller's Pub
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.
Miller's Pub is one of those places I've passed by frequently, but I've never had a real reason to pop in. But Lunch in the Loop is about scoping out lunch joints to see if they're any good, and hey, that's as good a reason as any for me to go in and stuff my face. When you walk in, it's like a classic Chicago pub had a baby with the bar from Cheers. There's old signed celebrity photos plastering the walls, so if Ol' Blue Eyes has been there, it's got to be good. Right?
"Our Famous" Greek Salad ($9.95) is, well, apparently famous according to the menu. It's your typical Greek salad, heavy on the iceberg lettuce, with a few pieces of salty and crumbly feta cheese, tomato, cucumbers, Kalamata olives, pepperoncini, and red onions. Supposedly there's anchovies in it too, but I didn't detect any. It comes overdressed, so the iceberg starts wilting fairly quickly. There's nothing standout about the salad; if you've had one, then this one won't be bringing you any surprises.
It's been a long time since I've had a good chicken pot pie ($9.25), and my search, unfortunately, continues. Remember this one? Rather than being a full pie, Miller's Pub's version is a casserole wearing a pastry crust hat. The filling is a thick cream of chicken soup with little cubes of dry chicken, some soft peas and mushy carrots, and the pastry crust gets soggy quickly.
I was looking forward to the open-face prime rib sandwich ($16.25) the most. I generally try not to spend that kind of money on lunch, but sometimes a treat is nice. The prime rib is beefy, fatty, and tender, but woefully underseasoned. Even the au jus is lacking a salty punch, which would have saved the day.
The classic Reuben ($9.75) is easily one of my favorite sandwiches in general. The corned beef in this version has plenty of flavor, but it's a bit dry. As usual, the Thousand Island dressing and sauerkraut both step in to add moisture, but there was a fatal flaw: the cheese on this one wasn't melted. Unmelted Swiss on a lukewarm Reuben takes the fun out of the sandwich, and it adds a plastic-like texture to every bite. The restaurant was pretty packed, so my guess is that the sandwich was rushed to service.
Miller's Pub is one of those places that's an ideal place to relax during lunch, with a cozy, worn-in feel, but unfortunately, the food puts a bit of a damper on the experience. So instead of lunch, hop in after a long day at work and have a few drinks instead.
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.