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.
Having a lot of free time right now, wandering around the Loop for lunch is a pretty exciting adventure. Sometimes my lunch trips are meticulously planned, and sometimes they're totally improvised. I improvised my way to lunch on a sunny Friday, wandering around the Loop with my trusty DSLR.
When I'm out trolling for lunch downtown, I tend to look like a tourist with a serious case of being Asian. I peek around with genuine curiosity, marveling at skyscrapers, while taking pictures of most of the food that goes in my mouth. Speaking of being Asian, my dad used to go around telling people we were 7th generation Cherokee when I was growing up just to screw with them. So to celebrate my Cherokee heritage, I wandered into a Jewish sandwich shop and parked my badonkadonk at Eppy's Deli.
One of the coolest things at Eppy's Deli is that they base their soup prices off the temperature outside—no kidding. When I visited, it was 63 degrees, which translated to a $0.63 cup of soup!
No trip to a Jewish deli would be complete without a bowl of matzo ball soup, and Eppy's version comes with a single ball bathing in chicken soup. Unfortunately, the matzo ball is somehow a bit dry and grainy in the middle, which seems odd to me, considering the fact it spends its lifetime languoring in that poultry bath. The broth itself is strongly flavored with carrot and celery, which comes through more than the actual chicken flavor. There are multiple soups on the menu, so if you're low on pocket change, getting a few of these cups may genuinely be the cheapest lunch in the loop, even if it's 100 degrees outside.
We asked one of the nice employees what she recommended, and she emphatically replied, "Everyone loves the turkey pastrami!" My dining companion wanted a Rueben ($9.25), so we fudged the recipe a bit and replaced the traditional corned beef with the turkey pastrami (which is more like a Rachel rather than a Reuben).
To my surprise, the turkey pastrami is excellent. I always have my misgivings about replacing red meat with turkey, but in this case, it's a non-issue. It's tender, very flavorful, and moist, seasoned with classic peppery pastrami spices. The thousand island dressing bolsters the sandwich with creamy richness and a bit of sweet tanginess, and the sauerkraut adds a bright sour kick along with the lightly crunchy texture of the cabbage.
The turkey meatloaf sandwich ($8.25), unfortunately, proved my prior misgivings to turkey. The regular meatloaf wasn't ready by the time I'd ordered, so I took a leap of faith into meatloaf made from our favorite leaner gobble monster. The texture of the meatloaf is mushy, while the meatloaf itself is nearly flavorless. Stick to the turkey pastrami instead.
With each sandwich, you have a choice of either two cold sides, or one hot side. My dining companion picked the mashies and gravy (included in price of sandwich). Yes, the name is a bit on the silly-goose side, I know. The mashed spuds are garlicky, and the chicken gravy is lumpy and tastes a little bit like flour, but I appreciate the homey flavor to it.
The mac and cheese (included in price of sandwich) is disappointing. It's got the bright fakey orange color I'm fond of when it comes to this type of mac and cheese, but it's surprisingly flavorless and bland, even lacking on the salt.
Eppy's Deli is a charming place in and of itself (sort of like me, hardy har). It has cute little quirks, like paying for your lunch after you eat, something you see rarely nowadays. The turkey pastrami is delicious and filling, and there's always that wonderfully cheap soup. They even serve a bottled Brooklyn egg cream. There's a few landmines in the menu, but as long as you stick to the crowd favorites, you'll be just fine.
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.