Same chef, different menu, easier reservations

In 2019’s gig economy, having a job doesn’t necessarily mean grinding away in an office from 9-to-5 every day. A generation rife with freelancers, contractors, entrepreneurs and telecommuters is changing the definition of work and, as such, changing the definition of the working lunch. And with Chicago’s most established restaurants trying to keep pace with a slew of new all-day dining concepts, there’s never been a better time to treat yourself to a quality midday meal.

Whether you’re sneaking out between meetings, entertaining a client or toting along your laptop, these 10 Chicago hotspots have you covered with top-notch lunch menus served in date night-worthy settings.

It’s time to leave that sad, soggy salad behind.

Fried Chicken Sandwich from Ema

River North

Top Chef alum CJ Jacobson helms this breezy River North mediterranean outpost, known for homey and approachable yet refined fare that forces you to slow down, take a breath and appreciate the simple pleasures that rustic cooking provides. Each weekday from 11:30 am to 4:00 pm, generous handhelds like eggplant sabich bursting with hummus, Israeli salad, pickles, hard-boiled eggs and garlic tahini and delectable fried chicken on fluffy challah with beet tzatziki, Israeli pickles and peppery arugula take over the menu, complemented by housemade spreads like spicy hummus with marinated fresno chilis and bright avocado and sweet pea spiced with jalapeno, lime, cilantro and mint. If you’re pinched for time, skip the sit-down and pop next door to Rotisserie Ēma for grab-and-go salads, soups, spreads and mouth-watering rotisserie chicken.

74 W. Illinois St.

Black Truffle Burger and Fries at RPM Steak

RPM Steak
River North

On weekdays between 11:00 am and 3:00 pm, this celebrated River North chophouse — and its polished dark wood, cool white leather and broad circular booths — assumes the role of every Chicagoan’s go-to for Mad Men-style power lunches. Throw caution to the wind by pairing a slew of specialty gin and tonics with dinner menu standards (dry-aged strips, bone-in ribeyes, tender Japanese cuts and ocean-fresh seafood) or keep it PG-13 with refreshing non-alcoholic cocktails alongside luxe daytime-friendly eats like a black truffle burger doused in foie gras butter, an overstuffed lobster roll or smoked prime rib dip with horseradish cream and aged provolone. This is the reason God created expense accounts.

66 W. Kinzie St.

Ahi Tuna Poke at Summer House Santa Monica Chicago

Summer House Santa Monica
Lincoln Park

Spend your early afternoon soaking up the California vibe and catching some rays under the retractable glass roof at this beachy Lincoln Park bistro, serving lunch every weekday from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. Daytime-only poke bowls packed with spicy Bigeye tuna, cucumber, serrano chilis and nutty sesame or Thai blue crab with sweet peppers and peanuts are a major draw here, as are the Baja fish tacos, three portions of plump tempura-fried sea bass, wrapped in local flour tortillas and garnished with guacamole and chipotle cream. And you’re probably going to need a revitalizing warm-weather cocktail as well, like the Garden Grove (Fords gin, honey, coconut water, celery juice, cucumber) or its zero-proof counterpart the Rise & Shine, an eye-opening mix of matcha, celery juice, lime and agave syrup. Just try not to come back with too nice of a tan — you don’t want your boss actually thinking you chartered a jet to Malibu over your lunch break.

1954 N. Halsted St.