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.
One of the perks working in an office downtown is that sometimes, if you're lucky, there are restaurants on the ground floor of your building. My office has two of them: Lloyd's and Lloyd's Express (or Baby Lloyd's, as I like to think of it). If I'm feeling magnificently lazy, I can just stroll down to the lobby and strut my stuff right into one of these places. That's how this week's Lunch in the Loop was conceived. Pure laziness.
And now that I'm more or less employed for the near future, I thought I'd treat myself and a coworker to the nicer of the two—Lloyd's (not the baby one). Lloyd's Express is just a little stand, while Lloyd's is a lot nicer, with white tablecloths and waitstaff. Fancy food for a fancy person. That's me! I'm as fancy as a can of Spam.
The chicken and waffle strips ($8.95) are the chicken fingers of my dreams. They're breaded in waffle crumbs, resulting in a coating that's crunchy and satisfying, and they come with a side of sweet and peppery barbecue sauce. The chicken is as juicy as a gossip website after a a wardrobe malfunction. But the waffle underneath is soggy, limp, and sad. It's topped with maple-chipotle butter that doesn't really taste like maple or chipotle. Can't win 'em all.
The cheeseburger chopper salad ($13.95) is one of the most unintentionally funny things I've ever eaten. Chopped salads are one of my favorite salads to eat for lunch; they're usually a robust combination of greens, blue cheese, bacon, and egg. But that's where the cheeseburger chopper salad at Lloyd's decides to go renegade: They add pickles (what?) and a freshly-grilled cheeseburger patty (double what?) on top of the lettuce.
Don't get me wrong, I totally understand the low carb thing. But why is the salad wearing a hot, overcooked cheeseburger patty as a hat? Do people eat salads with pickles in them? I laughed while I ate it. Does that make me a strange person? I still have so many questions. By the way, the combination of a traditional chopped salad with a cheeseburger doesn't work well at all.
The clam roll ($12.95) is one of the more interesting sandwiches on the menu (the rest are the usual suspects, like a Reuben, pulled pork, blackened chicken, etc). It's a heavy sandwich, stuffed with fried clam strips, lettuce, tomato, and spicy tartar sauce, served on a buttered and grilled New England-style bun. The clams are very chewy and have a powerfully strong shellfish flavor. Eaten with the tartar sauce, the flavors balance out a little better, but overall, the clams are just too strong for my liking, which makes the sandwich difficult to recommend.
The menu at Lloyd's has an entire section called "Noodles and Tacos," which is where you'll find the barbacoa tacos ($13.95). They're listed in the same section with the mac and cheese, which makes about as much sense as a hot cheeseburger on a salad, but, hey, maybe this is all part of a magical master plan.
The shredded braised beef in the tacos is extraordinarily tender with a delicious beefy flavor, but it's underseasoned. The tortillas suffer immediate structural failure and fall apart before they hit your mouth. Good thing I dress like a homeless person, because otherwise I would have ruined a really nice outfit. Just kidding, I don't have any really nice outfits.
I asked my current coworkers about what they thought about Lloyd's, and most of them, while having been there, didn't actually have an opinion. One coworker chimed in and said, "It's an okay place for lunch meetings." But now, if you ask me what I think, I'll probably say, "Lloyd's? Oh, man. That place is hilarious. It has a cheeseburger chopped salad. Don't eat it, though."