Sky Full of Bacon

The two weeks and a day I spent on jury duty at the Daley Center are the longest stretch I’ve done of daily work in the Loop since March First (or as they spelled it in those wacky dotcom days, marchFIRST, or as we sometimes anagramatized it, crramhFIST) blew up in late 2000. One thing that quickly became apparent is, the Loop’s choices are a LOT better than they were in my daily work day. I mean, even if you’re stuck eating lame sandwiches, there’s no way that Cosi isn’t a big improvement on Wall Street Deli or Subway. And since I was trying to go vegetarian part of the time— figuring I’d end up grabbing fast food for the kids too often in the evening— I found the choices there surprisingly decent. So here are my notes on things I grabbed in my relatively few moments away from courtroom 2811, the Daley Center:

Cosi— I hit this three times the first week. After having their tomato-and-mozzarella sandwich on Monday,I was kind of craving it the next day, it’s so simple and tasty despite the fact that the mozzarella is nothing special and fairly flavorless. The second time, though, I forced myself to try the pizza. It’s simple, that’s for sure, but somehow I wasn’t that wild about its mere mix of crushed tomatoes and cheese on Cosi bread; it was fresh and basic without making the jump to interesting. I went back Thursday or Friday, I forget, and had the tomato-and-mozz sandwich again. That was a mistake, never eat the same thing twice in one week, that’s just being boring. Anyway, Cosi isn’t free of plasticness, to be sure, but it’s pretty good and real for a sandwich chain.

Sopraffina— This was a real food alternative back in the day, and the grilled veggie sandwich was more imaginative and restauranty than Cosi’s, but I don’t know that I’d travel that far for it now, as I once did. Or maybe didn’t, I think I mainly only ate there when it was straight downstairs at the Amoco/Aon building.

McDonald’s— got dragged to the one in the Theater District one day. How can things not be fresh at lunchtime in the Loop? Yet a QP was dried out and lukewarm. Lame.

Lavazza— I got coffee a couple of days at this Italian coffee chain, but the one time I tried something for breakfast, a raisin roll kind of thing, it was way over the hill and dried out.

California Pizza Kitchen ASAP— their basic vegetarian pizza is really unimaginative, same things you’d find on a veggie pizza at Chuck E. Cheese— green pepper, black olive, onion, oh boy. I was splitting it with someone else or I would have tried to get something better.

Oasis— Did I dare go home again to the middle eastern restaurant I had eaten at at least weekly all through my Leo years (1991-5) and much of the rest of that decade? Knowing that it had just reopened in its old place, I had to, even as I suspected my tastebuds for middle eastern food had grown far more sophisticated in the interim. Well, they had, and I’m not going to claim Oasis is great ME food, but it’s not bad, and for the Loop, it’s a nice slice of ethnic realness that gets you away from the chains— just as it was in the 90s.

Caffe Baci— Grabbed coffee here a couple of times, too, and one time I had a pain aux chocolate that was first-rate, it really was. However, this place also has the concession for lunches brought in to people who can’t go out (such as juries on deliberations), and the stuff that was made to the county’s spec was pretty lousy, and didn’t make me want to check out lunch there on my own dime.

Indian Buffet— I can’t remember if this place had an actual name; I think it’s just an Indian buffet being offered by the 7-11 downstairs. Anyway, as noted in the LTHForum thread, there’s an assortment of entirely decent Indian food which you can get either by paying $10.99 to load up your plate, or $6.99 a pound. I went the former way because I couldn’t decide if Indian food would tend to be heavier than average.

Hannah’s Bretzels— I tried this well-liked upscale sandwich place once a year or so ago and wasn’t that excited by what I had. This time, though, I ordered a Spanish ham and cheese sandwich— and it was terrific, honestly, good enough to be considered for my ten best list, what with the flavorful jamon serrano, a sweet-citrusy spread and thin slices of onion that tasted like they’d been soaked in something (red wine vinegar?) All in all, a remarkably good sandwich for lunchtime in the Loop.

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