photo of Bandera's Macho Salad by Joseph Storch
If it weren't for the promise of a satisfying lunch, many of us wouldn't even bother with holiday shopping. Seriously, if you don't fuel up, you're going to get cranky, and that's going to affect how much you spend on Uncle Random, right? Herewith, five tasty recommendations for notable noshing near our most splendid shopping centers.
1. Michigan Avenue: Bandera
Yes, it's a chain, but there are only five in the country, and this is the only one in the state. I could go on and on about their Macho Salad, jammed with rotisserie chicken, goat cheese and incomparable cornbread croutons (thanks, Meme) but really, you have to try it for yourself.
2. Northbrook Court: Charlie Beinlich's
Ok, so it's not exactly IN the Mall, but it's only a five-minute drive, and the burgers, shrimp and crabmeat cocktails and tuna salad are well worth the wait.
3. Old Orchard: Ruby of Siam
I may have overlooked this last week, as an honorable mention for my top Thai, but this unassuming little joint in the Fashion Square Mall just a few blocks South of Old Orchard has remarkable home-cooked dishes. Be sure to order the One-Bite Noodle!
4. Ford City Mall: Zacatacos
I'm referring to the 71st Street location, just a few minutes' drive from the Mall, but well worth it, compared to the crap actually within the Mall. There is extremely high turnover here, so you know everything is incredibly fresh.
5. Oak Brook/Yorktown Mall: Labriola Bakery & Cafe
Again, this is actually closer to Yorktown Mall - and you'll have to get in your car to get there - but the pizza and burger alone are worth it. Surprising fact: the homemade gelato here is just about as good as Freddie's in Cicero. No joke.
Also: can't ignore Woodfield Mall, and would recommend the Shaw's/Big Bowl combo at the Streets of Woodfield. Someone on Twitter also reminded me of the Frontera Fresco at Old Orchard (inside Macy's) which is also great (if there isn't a Hot Doug's-esque line).