After I moved to Portland from Chicago, in an area downtown close to Oglivie and Metra stations they opened up an indoor marketplace, called the Chicago French Market. Inside you can basically eat around the world- there are more than 30 food vendors all in various aisles.
You could start with kosher lox on a bagel, go on to French crepes to a raw food stand, sushi and sashimi, sandwiches from Stephanie Izard’s Little Goat Bread or a cheese plate from Pastoral Artisan Cheeses. Order steaming bowls of pho or banh mi from Saigon Sisters, check out which gourmet lasagna that combines home grown with exoctic flavors is available today, or try ceviche from the Mexican vendor, wash it down with fresh smoothies/juices, and then finish off with beautiful little cakes and macaroons (such as below from Vanille Patisserie).
During my lunch visit during Christmas week, I made the Chicago French Market one of my stops while we were staying downtown our first 36 hours. As I was reading about the Chicago French market online, my eyes immediately zoomed in on this vendor and it was happening. Portland is a crab city, so being able to get my lobster fix, especially in a buttery lobster roll, was enough enticement that I even told F that if he wanted to meet his friend elsewhere for lunch, he could go ahead- I was coming here alone if I had to.
I was able to try clam chowder, and of course the lobster roll sandwich from Da Lobsta. And, boy did it happen.
I also tried Belgian frites with Belgian beers rom Frietkoten Belgian Fries and Beer. The frites are hand peeled, cut, and washed and double-fried in vegetable oil to ensure perfect crispyness. The beer selection is pretty impressive as a stop in the mid-afternoon before you return to the suburbs, or if you are coming from the suburbs on the Metra trains for an evening in the city. I tried 3 sauces from their selection of 12- Truffle Mayo, Blue Cheese Mayo, and Wasabi Mayo.
Of the two sizes the regular is more than enough for 2, and the large enough for 4 or more for just a $1 extra. They also offer hand pressed burgers, but with the lobster roll I had to defer the burger for a future Chicago visit in 2014. F’s friend testified to how good they are, and considering how great his recommendation was of the next item I’m covering, I believe that the cheeseburgers are excellent. The frites were all crispy- usually I pick around, looking for the crispy ones. They fry them fresh to order, and there is no need to pick around here- all the fries were perfect, every one.
Later, there was bonus sample round of what F’s friend shared with me, the best pastrami ever, a Montreal-style smoked meat sandwich from Fumare Meats. Their meat always includes fatty as well as crispy end bits, which makes it a perfect package of a sandwich. Poor guy, he gave me his leftover half of a sandwich before we bade farewell to our respective trains, and later I found out he forgot his keys to his home which left him in the cold December freezing weather and sandwich-less.
If you are ever in Chicago, definitely consider visiting. It is very reminiscent of a street market- but thankfully housed indoors, since it get can pretty cold in Chicago winters. Each vendor is an independent business- but they all seemed to accept credit card via Square, so it was also reminding me of food cart pods here in Portland but with the benefit of being indoors, access to more room and display cases etc. There is a main area for dining (in better weather there are also seats outdoors for al fresco dining).
They offer free 1 hour parking as long as you spend $20, and several of the vendors you can call or go online to order ahead of time!