5 Places to Eat Your Packed Lunch Outside in The Loop

I love working in the loop. There’s a nice energy here, and more importantly, there are tons of great restaurants to enjoy. But, lunch is one of those meals that you should probably pack and bring because it does get pricey with $12 lunches and $5 lattes.

But just because you pack your lunch for work, doesn’t mean it has to be boring. And most important, it doesn’t say that you have to sit at your desk. There are so many hidden gardens, lakefront spots, and cozy corners to enjoy the sunshine on your lunch break.

Below are my top five favorite places to go to lunch in the loop:

The Gardens at The Art Institute:

Just a few blocks from the Harold Washington Library, I like to grab a book and then head to The Art Institute. There’s a garden on the south side where you can read under the trees and by the fountain. It’s a serene and peaceful lunch spot. Sure, people meetup there, but most of the people are alone. The gardens at The Art Institue are perfect for meditating, reading, and treating yourself to a hot dog.

The Chicago Riverwalk off LaSalle and Wacker:

It may be hard to find a seat on the steps, but it’s worth it. You’ll be in direct sunlight, under the bridge sitting on the newly developed Riverwalk watching yachts or runners go by as you dip into your packed lunch and dream about happy hour.

South Riverside Plaza:

The Chicago River by the Lyric Opera House (on Madison in between Canal and Wacker) is truly one of my favorite places to have lunch in the loop. There are some nice trees for shade, and there are ample benches to sit with coworkers. There aren’t any picnic tables. But for a pb&j lunch, it’s nice to sit and look out at the water.

Millenium Park:

It’s cliché, but it’s great. I like to sit on the steps and look out over the city. You can choose to sit by the giant waterfalls, the bean, the gardens (and stick your feet in the water) or sit on the grass in the amphitheater. Personally, it’s a beautiful skyline view of the city, and it’s a great motivator to walk around.

Chase Plaza:

At 10 S. Dearborn St. is the Chase Tower, landmarked by it’s leaning tower design. There’s a beautiful plaza to sit and enjoy a waterfall. But, there’s also an underground auditorium. If you go through the Chase building and take the escalator down a level, there is an amazing Chase Auditorium.

Networking in the loop during your lunch break:

If you want to eat outside – then I recommend this guide, which has 25 great places from patios to rooftops to eat throughout the city.

If you’re networking on your lunch hour, and need to keep lunch under an hour, Yelp put together this list of places to eat in the loop in under an hour.

Lunch is one of those underutilized times for working professionals. But, it should be an opportunity to go to the gym, take a walk, meet up with friends or meet other professionals (which you can do using the Shapr app).

Personally, though, there are days when you need to recharge at work – and a tranquil garden, some fresh air, and a park bench are truly motivational and calming. You can’t do better or cheaper than Chicago parks and a homemade lunch to help you relax on your lunch break. What do you think?

As a bonus, there are healthy lunch ideas to pack here, and some more here, and here. 

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