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Noah Sandoval’s guide to lunching in Chicago

Chef Noah Sandoval and the Chicago skyline.

Chicago photo: iStock

Noah Sandoval’s guide to lunching in Chicago

The Oriole chef, a passionate supporter of Chicago’s best lunch spots, shares his favorites with us.
13 June, 2024

Noah Sandoval, the Executive Chef and owner of two-Michelin-starred Oriole in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood has racked up about as many accolades as one can in the city. Sandoval moved to Chicago in 2007, when it seemed like all the chefs with dreams in his hometown of Richmond, Virginia, were moving to New York City. He chose Chicago, which he had visited for years, because “it’s a lot cheaper and the music scene is amazing.” Oriole opened in 2016 on a shoestring budget, but “during Covid, we renovated, spent a ton of money, built my dream kitchen and became an adult restaurant,” says Sandoval.

When Sandoval isn’t serving tasting menus of 15 to 18 courses, heavily focused on seafood, he is a passionate supporter of Chicago’s best lunch spots. He shares his favorites with us.


“They do sandwiches, perfect salads, spritzes, and light drinks. It’s extremely European and somewhere to go when you want to drink for a couple hours and eat charcuterie. It’s light and airy. I [always] get the bresaola and the green monster salad (broccolini, zucchini, avocado, shishito peppers, pistachio, roasted farro with tarragon green goddess dressing) and I’ve been going once a week for the last two years.”

San Soo Gab San

“It’s an extremely casual Korean BBQ restaurant in North Center. I’ve been going there 20 years, before I even moved to Chicago. It’s high quality for how casual and efficient it is. The quality of the food is just perfect—it’s always the same and the people there are extremely friendly. My go-to order is the yuk gae jang (the spicy beef and vegetable soup). It’s exactly the right amount of spice. It's very rich, very comforting. I get it when I’m sick and it’s perfect every time. San Soo Gab San is ideal with a group because when you order the BBQ there’s a ton of banchan. I wouldn’t go solo. I’ve never been solo. Four is the perfect number but I’ve been with groups as large as 18.”

TenGoku Aburiya

Sushi at TenGoku Aburiya in Chicago.

Courtesy TenGoku Aburiya

“It’s a simple Japanese lunch spot but very high end. It’s connected to a restaurant called Omakase Yume which is a Michelin-starred sushi restaurant. It has the same finesse—and the same nigiri and handrolls, but you can get them at lunch. It’s really reasonably priced, everyone is very friendly. I only ever dine in, but you can also get takeout. I’ve been going there three years and always get the five-piece maki set, which comes with salad, soup, pickles. Their shrimp tempura is the best I’ve ever had—it’s extremely crispy.”

Uncle Mike’s Place

“It’s a Filipino lunch spot but they’re open later than lunch and it’s BYOB. It’s extremely casual and a place where I get coffee and the Spam breakfast: Spam, garlic rice, salsa, and eggs.”


Avec restaurant in Chicago.

Doug Fogelson

“This is a Mediterranean restaurant, Paul Kahan’s place, that I’ve been going to since before I moved to Chicago. It’s half the reason I moved here. They do perfect sharing small plate stuff and have delicious wine. It’s so easy and casual and it’s close to Oriole so I can walk there and have lunch. It’s also a beautiful restaurant. The brandade is my go-to, as well as the taleggio flatbread, and the chorizo-stuffed dates with spicy sauce. There’s always some sort of braised pork stew. It’s one of those restaurants I’ve been to a hundred times, and everything is always perfect.”


“This is knocking on the door of fine dining. It’s a very fancy and beautiful French restaurant. All the wines are curated perfectly. You sit down, you feel fancy, and you get an omelet with truffles all over it. It’s also very much an industry place to go. I can’t walk in there without knowing 10 people —I think those are the coolest restaurants.”


“They have this sandwich called a jibarito which instead of using bread they use smashed and fried plantains. American cheese, pork, raw garlic. It always hits the spot and I’ve been getting the exact same thing for years. It comes with Puerto Rican rice and beans. And the banana dumplings [alcapurrias] as an appetizer! Sweet, salty, and fried.”


Kimski in Chicago

“This is my friend Won Kim’s Korean-Polish restaurant. It’s exactly what it sounds like. Sandwiches and weird poutine, spicy pork bowls, and things like that. He does sausages and really fun, easy, weird, cool food. I love the Maria’s Standard which is a Polish sausage with kraut and soju mustard on a brioche bun.”


Hermosa's fried chicken sandwich.

Ethan Lim

“Hermosa is a sandwich shop doing fried chicken sandwiches but Ethan Lim, the owner, worked at Alinea. The fried chicken sandwich is ridiculous. Very Cambodian and done with the finesse that someone who worked at Alinea would have. There’s pickled papaya, long beans, Thai basil, and garlic mayonnaise with the fried chicken on a super light brioche bun. And the family-style meals he does at night are probably the best meals you can have in Chicago.”