Located directly across the street from the park, one could forgive this bar and restaurant for phoning it in. But while it's not exactly cheap, the quality is entirely better than it has any right to be, making this one of my most frequently recommended restaurants in the area. From daily sausage specials, incredible fried fish, and a great beer list, this crowded eatery is worth checking out—if you don't mind waiting.
Noodles by Takashi
If you're looking for lunch, it's hard to thick of a better place to check out than Seven on State in Macy's, which features three high quality options. My personal favorite is Noodles by Takashi, where you can score one of the best bowls of ramen in the city.
Noodles By Takashi Yagihashi, 111 North State Street, Chicago, IL 60602 (map); 312-781-4483
Though not as stunning as Xoco, Rick Bayless's Frontera Fresco offers a great collection of tacos, tortas, and huaraches (not to mention, aguas frescas and salads). The real highlights, however, are the soft and fragrant tamales. I still can't decide whether I like the chipotle chicken or the sweet corn and green chile tamale the most, so do what I do and order both.
Though it's nowhere near as picturesque as Macy's seventh floor, the food court under the Chase Building is also close and offers a couple of interesting options. The highlight is definitely Tortas Frontera, another Rick Bayless project. When it comes to the Mexican sandwiches, I prefer the offerings here to those at Frontera Fresco.
Toni Patisserie and Cafe
"Though it's only been open for a few years, the charming Toni Patisserie and Café feels like it's been in the Loop for years. That's probably due to the focused menu of French classics that will never go out of fashion. Take the Le Breton ($7.50), which is basically just a ham sandwich with salted butter and cornichons. That's it. But thanks to the baguette that is at once soft and crackly, the those three ingredients are all you really need. Sure, you could add some gruyere cheese for a dollar, but that just seems like overkill." Read more here >>
Al's #1 Italian Beef
It's not quite as good as the original, but the Italian beef at this local chain is still an excellent introduction to the sandwich. Hot giardiniera is a must. Actually, the natural casing hot dog is also awesome, making this a great one-stop shop if you're looking to experience some classic Chicago street food.
It's worth walking out on the Nichols Bridgeway just to experience the stunning views of the park from up high, but it also happens to drop you off right in front of Tony Mantuano's Terzo Piano in the Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago. Where the high-end Spiaggia is seductive and serious, Terzo Piano is light-filled and open, with an outdoor patio that looks directly out on the park. For the most part, the food follows the same light route, which is a plus if you don't want to get weighed down before some epic museum walking. The only drawback is that while the restaurant is open seven days a week for lunch, it's only open for dinner on Thursdays.
Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine
Seating is scarce, but if you're looking to grab a couple sandwiches for a picnic in the park, Pastoral offers a one shop stop for cheese and charcuterie. Plus, you can combine the two on some light and crusty bread for one of the best sandwiches in the city. Don't pass on the daily grilled cheese special.
There are a surprising number of falafel joints in the Loop, each with its own identity. One of the newest, and best, is Falafill, which stands apart with its crispy falafel balls and fresh salad and condiment bar.