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Lunch in the Loop: Perry's Deli

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.

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[Photographs: Dennis Lee]

This is my 200th post on Serious Eats as a contributor. Can you guys believe it? I've come a long way from my Fart Sandwich commenter days (if you don't know the story, I'll tell you sometime). I've done so much, eaten more food beyond my wildest imagination, and explored the nooks and crannies of the Loop. And thank you guys for sticking around, sending me tips, nice emails, a ton of comments, and confessions of love.

That fun stuff being said, let's get back to business! One of the lunch places I've neglected for ages is the legendary Perry's Deli. My Twitter buddy, Henry, asked to meet in person for the first time (we've been dorky Twitter buddies for many years now) and I thought I'd take him out to lunch. I've been known to take strangers out for a bite now and then, if you ask nicely enough and don't threaten to murder me. Perry's has had a fun reputation for years for serving monster-sized triple decker sandwiches loaded with Russian dressing along with a surly attitude about cell phones. Don't talk on your cell phone in line or they'll seriously get mad at you. Seriously, don't do it.

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When in Rome, you must order triple decker sandwiches. That's the saying, right? Do they even serve triple decker sandwiches in Rome? I'm confused. Well, when you're at Perry's, you can at least order Frenchy's Fantasy ($10.95). It's layered with roast beef, Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, bacon, and their housemade Russian dressing. And man is this a honker of a sandwich. It's easily a two-meal juggernaut. I don't eat roast beef with bacon very often, but maybe I should start doing that. Perry's serves bacon crisp, adding crunchy and salty bits to each jaw-unhinging bite.

The roast beef is a touch dry, but with the bright orange-red dressing, you won't notice too much. And even though the lettuce and tomatoes seem like they're just there, they do help add freshness to all that meat and starch.

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This guy, the Ormand Street Special ($10.95), gives you a pile of corned beef, roast beef, Muenster, coleslaw, tomato, and the ever-present Russian dressing. There are two things that stand out about this sandwich: the corned beef and the coleslaw. While the beef on beef action (I think I've seen that movie once) might seem a little too steamy, the two versions of cow are different enough to be good together. The tart coleslaw is refreshing and helps cut through the beef. I'd say both triple deckers we tried are neck and neck—they're interesting for different reasons.

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Among the more conservatively-sized sandwiches is the Brisket Galore ($9.95). The "galore" part might be a bit of an overstatement, but the brisket itself makes for a good and simple sandwich. It's tender, full of soft-cooked onions which pair well with the beef, and the Russian dressing really comes out on this one since there's less filling.

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The mac and cheese sandwich ($10.95) is the one that sort of falls flat. It's not on the regular menu, but is served as a special until it runs out. Our mac and cheese barely had any actual cheese on it. If it were gooey and super hot, it might make for a fun sandwich. You can ask for a meat, too—the pastrami is fine, but it'd be better with proper mac and cheese and not nude elbow noodles.

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If you absolutely have to eat another side along with the one included in your meal (coleslaw, potato salad, or macaroni salad), get the kettle chips ($1.25). They're slightly thick, salty, dotted with black pepper, and crunchy. By the time I started on them I was already stuffed, and I couldn't put them down.

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Now as a bonus, Vito (the boisterous owner of Perry's Deli) was able to convince me to try the Chocolate-Covered Maple Smoked Bacon Soda ($1.50). I know, I see you guys rolling your eyes at me over the internet. But I had to try it. You understand. I'm the guy that eats bugs and brains too, might as well. And you know what? It's actually pretty good! It tastes like chocolate and maple together, with a hint of smokiness and not that gross fake bacon flavor you get in a lot of bacon-flavored mistakes.

For my 200th post, I'd say Perry's Deli is a pretty good place to hit up. There's plenty of choices, the sandwiches are huge and entertaining, and there's just something about the place that'll brighten anybody's day (including the 1200 pound telephone booth by the door).

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.

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