Lunch is a great way to experience Chicago’s local flavor. In a full-service restaurant, like the Loop’s lively Dearborn Tavern or the contemporary Robata outpost of Roka Akor, you’re likely to spend less money than at dinner while savoring the same deep flavors. Sit down or carry out healthy, delicious menu specials, sandwiches and salads, fresh-squeezed juices, robust coffee and beautiful pastries at any of the four Beatrix eateries.

If you want deep dish (or thin crust) pizza but can’t wear elastic for the rest of the day, the Art of Pizza on State Street is your ticket to excellent slices. If there a Portillo’s in the neighborhood, you’re on your way to satisfying and authentic Chicago style hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches. Look for The Fat Shallot rolling by in truck, at Revival Food Hall or the new brick and mortar restaurant – the sandwiches are outstanding. Wow Bao offers comforting noodles, dumplings, rice dishes and the titular baos in just a couple of minutes. IAnd, it’s right there in the name – Dove’s Luncheonette.

If you have some time, explore Chinatown, Argyle Street, Pilsen, Greektown or the Polish “downtown” of West Town for authentic flavors, friendly people and low prices.

Beatrix

The coffeehouse-meets-restaurant concept, Beatrix, is known for healthy meets delicious menu specials, fresh-squeezed juices and an appealing coffee and pastry counter. Launch lunch with a freshly squeezed juice (Power Greens or a Blueberry Basil Smash sound good); and if you’re going light, try a snack of hummus, tuna crudo, Kung Pao Brussels sprout; or go all out with luscious chile and chocolate glazed salmon; warm pot roast sandwich; giant chopped salad; poke bowl; or a burger. There are gluten-free items, cocktails and an incredible coffee and dessert menu, too. Basically, it’s everything good. In a hurry? Beatrix Market is a quick, grab and go market experience with self-serve salad, soup and hot food bars, rotating chef-prepared salads, sandwiches and snacks.

Wow Bao

Baos, or steamed Asian buns, are considered fast food in China, and they’re picking up steam across the country thanks to Chicago born Wow Bao. Baos are stuffed with teriyaki chicken, barbecued pork, spicy beef, Thai curry, and veggies. Asian salads, potstickers, noodle and rice bowls, and soups are also served. Moisten the pipes with homemade ginger ale, Thai iced coffee or a variety of hot and iced tea. The original location at Water Tower Place (835 N Michigan) and the Theater District store (1 W Wacker Blvd) are also open on weekends. There are additional locations in the Loop, Gold Coast, Lakeview, Michigan Plaza, O’Hare airport and a Near North outpost at Chicago and Wabash opens soon. The new Wow Bao location at 200 N Michigan comes fully automated with self-serving cubbies, so lunch here is speedy and a throwback to automats of the mid-century. In fact, the company says Wow Bao serves “at the speed of life.”