Whether you’re new to the campus food scene or the employees at your go-to lunch spot have your order memorized, it’s always good to try somewhere new. Unfortunately, I’m not very good at that. When I find something good, I eat it until people start to question my life choices (recently it’s been chicken fingers). But if you’re looking for a new lunch to spice up that hour block of time between classes, try one of these joints:
bopNgrill (6604 N. Sheridan Road)
I always hesitate to suggest bopNgrill because a lot of students seem to already know about it, but just in case you haven’t yet experienced the glory that is Korean-American fusion, this is for you.
If the fact that Guy Fieri (from Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives TV show) ate here doesn’t get you excited enough to go, then perhaps I can convince you. Although a bit on the pricey side, the burgers are juicy and topped with tons of fresh and sometimes wonky ingredients (truffled mushrooms or short rib gravy, for example). The fries are crispy and come with their own set of unique toppings, including (my favorite) kimchi — a spicy pickled cabbage. But if you’ve already tried the famed Umami Burger ($9) and kimchi fries, I recommend the Chicken Katsu Bop Plate ($9). With a hefty helping of golden brown, crunchy fried chicken, two scoops of rice, a side salad and kimchi, it’s a filling dinner that will leave you with leftovers for lunch the next day.
Dak (1104 W. Granville Ave.)
Admittedly, I’ve only eaten here once. But if I’ve only tried it once and it still makes my list of the top places to eat around campus, it must be good. Dak (which is how you phonetically say “chicken” in Korean) serves up humongous wings with a kick.
The menu offers five- or 10-wing orders, for $9 and $17, respectively. If you’re used to the typical wing size, you may think five is too few for a meal, but you would be very, very wrong. At Dak, you get the whole two-bone wing, and five is definitely enough for one meal plus leftovers. And with great size comes great flavor. There are two types of sauces: spicy BBQ and Dak sauce, which has soy, garlic and ginger. The spicy BBQ sauce has a menacing appearance but doesn’t deliver much in the spice department. It uses gochujang (a Korean chili paste), which makes it sweeter and less vinegary than typical Buffalo wings, with just a hint of spice.
In addition to wings, Dak has rice bowls with meat and veggies and some other dishes that I couldn’t pronounce but would love to try, such as the bulgogi dukbokki (grilled marinated meat on spicy rice cakes).
SP Kebab (6808 N. Sheridan Road)
After trying this place my sophomore year, it quickly became my favorite spot to grab lunch near Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus. The menu is all about kebabs and customization, but don’t expect to get any food on a stick.
To order, you first choose a meat: mild or spicy pork or chicken, both of which have been cooked on a rotisserie. You can also go vegetarian and get vegetables or falafel as your protein. Then you decide how you’d like to transport your filling of choice to your mouth: in a lahmacun wrap (a round, thin piece of dough similar to a pita), in bread or in a cup. Whatever vessel you choose, you can add other fillings such as salad (romaine lettuce, onions, tomatoes and cucumbers), homemade sauces (garlic, tzatziki, hot or tahini), feta cheese and french fries. Yes, fries are stuffed in some of the sandwiches, because eating them separately is just a waste of time.
The food is cheap when you consider the portion size (you can eat one wrap, which costs $7, for at least two meals), the staff is friendly and always eager to give suggestions or explain menu items, and, most importantly, it’s delicious. Pro-Tip: If you go on Tuesdays and dine-in, show your Loyola ID for half off.
Mercadito Counter (738 N. Clark St.)
If you’ve ever passed up Mercadito Counter because you thought it would just be another place to get a $3 taco downtown, shame on you. Mercadito is so much more than just tacos — even though the quesadillas are pretty delicious.
The absolute best thing I’ve tried from the small fast-casual restaurant is the Little Nutty Mexican milkshake ($5.50), which has vanilla ice cream, Nutella, cajeta (a thick caramel-like sauce) and abuelita chocolate. Nutella definitely predominates the flavor of the dish, but I would never complain about that.
The Fundido Dog ($4.50) — a fried hot dog topped with melted cheese, chorizo, chile de arbol ketchup and dijon mustard — is also flavorful. Paired with the Mexican onion rings ($4.50), which have a kick of chipotle flavor in the batter, it’s a flavorful, unique lunch.