My, my umbrellas!

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Feel like you've got a rare summer case of seasonal affective disorder, thanks to your windowless cube? We recommend you get your daily dose of light therapy the natural way: Get outside for a sunny lunch at one of these fresh Loop options.

Lunch with a view: Plymouth Restaruant & BarThis casual American spot debuted a 85-seat outdoor cafe in the fall--about the same time the temps plummeted--so most of us didn't get to check out their take on an amenity more often associated with Cubs baseball: the rooftop deck. Although you'll only catch those hot-tempered Cubbies on the rooftop bar's flatscreens, the view from atop Plymouth is unbeatable. The "L" rumbles by (at conversation-friendly decibels) just south over Van Buren Street, and you can check out Loop landmarks like the Harold Washington Library and the Old Colony Building.
On the menu: The rooftop's mini kitchen serves a limited menu, including a skirt steak sandwich ($12.95), a patty melt ($7.25) and a tilapia Caesar salad ($8.99).

Lunch with out-of-towners: The GageSo you promised to meet your out-of-town guests for lunch, but you don't want blah bar fare? Head to this gastro-tavern's 38-seat open-air sidewalk cafe on Michigan Avenue. Look across the street, and you'll see the tourists gawking at Cloud Gate and splashing in the reflecting pool at Millennium Park's Crown Fountain.
On the menu: Chef Dirk Flanigan's lunch menu features choices such as a fire-roasted chicken sandwich with blue cheese, basil and hot sauce ($10); a burger with local camembert cheese and melted onion marmalade ($14); and pan-roasted whitefish ($17).

Lunch sans street traffic: Salseria Cantina & GrillThis L-shaped, above-street-level deck, slated for a June 14 debut in the Sears Tower, features palm trees and umbrella-fitted tables for lunchers. For those who can stretch lunch hour into happy hour: more loungy futon seating and the beanbag game (a.k.a. baggo or cornhole).
On the menu: The Mexican menu offers choices like a Tijuana Caesar salad with grilled shrimp arbol ($6.75); spinach-chicken enchiladas ($9.95); and chicken in mole sauce ($10.95). Drink specials will include $2 sangrias on Wednesdays and $4 margaritas on Thursdays.

Lunch with the boss: Custom HouseIf your boss grimaces at the thought of dining outside, tell her this isn't just any ol' sidewalk boite. The fare at this new 24-seat Printers Row outdoor space is from the 2006 James Beard Best Chef: Midwest winner, Shawn McClain. We're happy to report the cafe is on the quieter, Dearborn Street side of the restaurant, though you'll still get some background whir from Congress Parkway traffic.
On the menu: Seasonally motivated McClain changes the Med-influenced American menu frequently, but expect choices like a steak sandwich with horseradish cream and red onion marmalade ($12); a flatiron steak with duck-fat fries ($17); or a smoked chicken club with tomato jam and herb chips ($11).

Lunch with indoor perks: Petterino'sHate to lunch outside because of the lack of creature comforts (read: bad furniture)? This 1940s-inspired Theater District spot's newly upgraded wraparound patio should have you sitting pretty. Petterino's added 25 seats (and a new carryout area) this year, plus they moved the dining room vibe outside--look for red and white linen tablecloths and actual wooden chairs.
On the menu: Try the chicken chopped salad ($11.95); mini French dip sandwich trio with horseradish sauce ($9.95); and entrees like spaghetti Bolognese ($11.95).

[ Terri Mooney is a metromix special contributor. ]

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