Location – 1534 N. Wells (North and Wells) or 233 N. Michigan (Illinois Center)
In one word – Smoothie
Food – I had a craving for a sandwich and smoothie, so my eating partner and I headed to Fresh Choice in Old Town. The meal totally satisfied my craving. I had the Avocado Sandwich – Avocado, Provolone, lettuce, roasted peppers, tomatoes and mayo. The only thing I didn’t like about it was the bread. They used submarine bread instead of regular loaf bread.
Drink – Fresh Choice is really known for their smoothies. They are made with skim milk, so they feel lighter than your average smoothie. I chose the raspberry smoothie and was not disappointed. My eating partner was raving about his strawberry and pineapple smoothie.
Service – There’s not too much to say about the service. You order at the counter and then they bring you your food. No negative things to say about the staff here.
Scene – It’s your average lunch spot. We came on the weekend and ran into Old Towners, people headed to a movie at Piper’s Alley and a few cops. They have an outdoor seating area in the front of the restaurant, which is nice for a quick lunch.
Dress – Um, just have a shirt on and you’ll get service. There’s no dress code here.
Cost – For my smoothie and sandwich, I paid $11. It was sort of expensive in my opinion, but the meal definitely was filling.
If you like, try…Potbelly’s
Location – 1252 N. Wells (Wells and Division)
In one word – Broadway
Food – We came here for a friend’s birthday, so we were somewhat indulgent. Here’s what we ordered: guacamole picado (standard, but that’s good in my eyes) and queso empanizado (kind of reminds me of Greek saganaki). None of the entrees grabbed me that night, so I opted for two appetizers as my main course: Ensalada espinica con queso de cabra (spinach salad with goat cheese and sesame seeds, unexpectedly satisfying) and one of the specials, empanadas filled with lamb (also quite satisfying). Three of my eating partners had the chiles dona queta (peppers stuffed with veggies), which they were raving about. That might be the perfect vegetarian meal here. The other eating partner had the double-cut pork chop, which he said was just okay. For dessert, we had the tres leches cake. That was some good stuff. I would come back here just for that; it was like eating whipped cream (which is a good thing).
Drinks – We sampled the margaritas. Nothing amazing, but they quenched my thirst.
Service – This is where my “In one word” comes from. I had some issues with our server. I felt like he was using his time at our table as his audition for a Broadway revue, at any moment he was going to break out into a showtune complete with jazz hands. His performance was over the top. Telling me the specials doesn’t have to be done as a soliloquy. One thing I can say is that he knew his stuff. Every question we threw his way, he was able to answer in his stage voice. He was being shadowed by a trainee, which was a little bit awkward. The trainee kept crowding one of my eating partners when she and the Broadway server came by the table, the restaurant obviously hasn’t taught her about personal space yet.
Occasion – It’s not super cheap here, so it’s better to come when you have an occasion to celebrate. Birthdays, dates you want to impress, and anniversaries (not the super important ones) are perfect for this spot.
Dress – This is one of those places where if you make any effort, you’re okay. Old Town isn’t super formal, so nice jeans or a cute dress work.
Price – We split the meal and each paid $56 including tip. Like I said, not super cheap, but I was very full when we left.
If you like, try…Zocalo
Location – 1610 N. Wells (North and Wells) or 2005 W. Division (Division and Damen)
In one word – Guacamole
Food – When you get here, order the guacamole before even looking at the menu. It’s their claim to fame. They’ll have someone come to your table to make the guac to your specifications. My friends and I then shared four appetizers: quesadillas (which have huitlacoche, my favorite!), empanadas potosinas (this was the best), salbutes de pollo (marinated chicken on tostadas) and taquitos dorados (filled with mushrooms and potatoes). For the four of us, this was a perfectly portioned meal.
Drink – The server told us that they have the best margarita in the city, so we tried it. Best? I don’t know, but it was good and worth ordering.
Service – While a little bit nerdy, our server was attentive. No complaints from me.
Occasion – This place is great when a friend from out of town visits. It’s loud and has a party feel to it. A lot of people come here before seeing Second City (which is next door to the North/Wells location). If you want less of a scene, go to the one in Wicker Park. It’s big and isn’t as cramped as the Old Town sibling.
Cost – For a margarita and my share of the guacamole and the four other appetizers, I paid $22. I thought that this was reasonable.
If you like, try…de cero, Uncle Julio’s Hacienda, Carnivale