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.
Is it just me, or do a lot of restaurants that advertise healthy meals always reference California in some way? I mean, I get it, a lot of you are healthy, sun-kissed, and attractive, so your food probably has at least a little to do with it. And the avocado thing. There's a lot of avocados in California, but does every sandwich with an avocado in it belong to the state of California? It's not like I take a bite of avocado in it and think, "Wow, this must taste like what living in Santa Monica feels like."
Don't get me wrong, Californians, I love all of you. And I admit that I'm player-hating a little (a lot) out of jealousy. Only because I can't think of any sandwich, salad, or any food thingie I'd eat containing the word "Illinois" in the name. In fact, I'd probably avoid any food item named after my home state. But don't worry, there's a reason why I'm being a geographically-specific wiener right now. At Goodwin's in the Loop, they seem to have a bit of a California fetish. A large portion of the menu is named after cities in California (but to be fair, there's lots of items named after sunny places other than in California).
Take, for example, the Oceanside ($8.95). It's a cold wrap filled with shrimp ceviche, red onion, cilantro, avocado, and lettuce, all in a spinach-green tortilla. Everything about it is straightforward—the ceviche is citrusy, tart, and bright, with plenty of shrimp, but there's also a big problem. The ceviche isn't drained much before it goes into the wrap. By the time I opened the box, the wrap turned into a leaky tortilla tube that fell apart instantly.
The San Jose ($7.95) wrap is filled with turkey pastrami, diced tomato, chipotle peppers, avocado, and pepper jack, and it's served hot. And this Californian...is leaky too. Water collects in the bottom ridges of the carryout box pretty quickly from the heated tomatoes.
The chipotle peppers are okay in theory, but they blitz the whole wrap, filling your mouth with an extremely spicy smoky flavor. I know, that's no surprise, considering chipotle peppers just so happen to be smoked jalapeños, but they're pretty much ruin the wrap along with the soggy bottom situation. You Californians might want to get that wrap incontinence checked out by a doctor. It's kind of serious.
The San Clemente ($8.95) highly resembles a Hannah's Bretzel sandwich in appearance, but under the hood, it's anatomically a bit different. This turkey, avocado, lettuce, tomato, and chimichurri sauce-doused sandwich on a pretzel roll would be fine if the chimichurri sauce wasn't so prevalent. The raw garlic in the sauce will turn you into a vampire and coworker repellent after lunch. It's very, very, strong. Perfect for close-talkers.
All is not lost! The Sunset Beach ($8.95) is surprisingly delicious. Spring greens are topped with shrimp, papaya, carrots, caramelized onions, goat cheese, and toasted sesame seeds, accompanied with a sweet mango vinaigrette. The combination isn't something I would have thought would work, but all the sweet ingredients play off each other in a refreshing way. The mango dressing is fruity, binding everything together. Notice that Sunset Beach isn't in California, and is in fact, across the states in North Carolina.
Goodwin's menu is absurdly large. Trust me. I counted, using a complex method involving my finger, pointing, and counting out loud under my breath. There's 62 sandwiches and salads on the menu, which is a little scary to look at. So there's bound to be some winners and a few losers. And oh yeah, sorry about the California hatin' earlier, but I figure if I can't be in you right now, California, I might as well put a little piece of you inside me.
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.