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.
Roly Poly Sandwiches, as I learned during my research, is a chain restaurant that only serves wrap sandwiches. As I've mentioned in the past, I tend to shy away from chains for these reviews, because I prefer our hometown heroes. But Roly Poly only has one lonely outpost in the entire city of Chicago, and it's not too far from my office. My child-like curiosity got the better of me, and I knew I had to visit. Besides, the place is called Roly Poly, how could you not want to go? So, with a few other coworkers in tow, we roly-polyed it down to the little alleyway off LaSalle and dove right in.
Admittedly, the Philly melt roll ($4.25 for 6") isn't much to look at. It looks like a deflated burrito that an elephant sat on. It's hard to see, but it's filled with roast beef, cheddar and jack cheese, mushrooms, onions, and green pepper. It's actually more flavorful than it looks, and with the melted cheese and deli-sliced beef, it tastes like a Philly cheesesteak quesadilla, especially with the sweet flavor of onion. My gripe, however, is that this thing is tiny; at $4.25, it's not the best lunch value.
The California Hummer ($4.25 for 6") wins the prize for the most difficult lunch menu item to order without laughing. Is there a James Beard award for poorly named menu items? This hummer is supposed to feature hummus, along with provolone cheese and fresh veggies including lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, cucumber, carrots, and green pepper. However, the hummus in ours was nowhere to be found. The sweet sesame dressing it's dressed with hijacks all the flavor, so if you like a sweet mouthful, this one's for you.
I didn't expect to like the Nut and Honey ($4.25 for 6"), as it leans towards the sweeter side, but it's surprisingly decent. It's lined with cream cheese, dried cranberries, walnuts, avocado, lettuce, spinach, and tomatoes. The walnuts add a good texture to the salad mix, and each little cranberry added a quick rush of sugary tartness.
The Cape Codder ($4.25 for 6") is an appealing mix of turkey, Swiss, cranberries, walnuts, avocado, lettuce, and balsamic vinaigrette, wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla. In theory, it's good, but in practice, it's overwhelmed by the vinaigrette, which sort of ruins the whole thing. I highly recommend ordering the dressing on the side.
The Key West Cuban ($4.25 for 6") is a hot limp mess, and not in a good way. Flavor-wise, it tries to mimic a Cuban sandwich, but considering it also has smoked turkey, roast turkey, American and Swiss, along with veggies, there's a little confusion. The Key West reference applies to the lettuce and tomato (I did some research). Because of the vegetables, the wrap doesn't press and heat well, and the moisture from the veggies and pickle bleeds out, rendering the whole thing a flaccid tube that just doesn't firm up.
Avoid the potato salad ($1.50) unless you favor the mass-produced kind from the grocery store. The potatoes are mealy and taste like pickles.
Overall, I want to like Roly Poly Sandwiches; the fillings are almost all healthy and light, but it's difficult for me to recommend as nothing stands out as particularly delicious. As they say, though, every cloud has a silver lining—if you enter Roly Poly through the front door, there's a back door that leads directly to the secretive location of Courtway Restaurant.