It happens every weekday, sometime around 5:01 p.m.: the collective shuffling of feet as thousands of commuters board trains from Chicago and head for suburbia and beyond. With the smell of dinner only in their minds, commuters face rides that can seem to take forever . . . and ever. A bagel from the morning's meeting that's stuffed in a briefcase has lost its appeal. So has the half-eaten pasta primavera from lunch in the Tupperware container.
Fear not, lovers of gastronomy, because there is decent food in and around Chicago's four main commuter stations. We tasted, noshed and sipped our way around the train stations to find the 19 best dishes that are easy to carry home, fast to order, don't require a fork and knife (eat on the train!) and are wholly delicious.
Ogilvie Transportation Center
Because this station shares real estate with the Citicorp Center, it benefits from the enormous food court at the building's base. Many of the few dozen vendors stay open late -- good news for commuters logging overtime.
Lobster bisque at Soupbox: $4.95 after tax (regular portion)
Time in line: 1 min.
Closes: 9:30 p.m.
Warm your soul with this highly caloric but highly delicious soup. Pureed lobster is mixed with cream and tomato paste, plus a splash of white wine to give it some oomph. Even the wafting steam is delicious. The bisque is so rich and transcendent, you momentarily close your eyes and sigh.
Garlic pretzel and lemonade at Auntie Anne's Pretzels: $4.50 after tax
Time in line: 1 min.
Closes: 7:30 p.m.
Imagine, for a moment, heading to a steakhouse on an empty stomach and noshing on a million garlic bread knots. Try as you might, you can't stop. That same feeling of absolute submission can be found here, with the buttery, warm, crispy garlic pretzels made on-site and oven-baked. Pair that with the sweeter-than-tart Old-Fashioned Lemonade, and you have an inexpensive and addictive snack-to-go.
Honey mustard grilled chicken-breast sandwich at Robinson's: $4.72 after tax
Time in line: 6 mins.
Closes: 6 p.m.
As the name suggests, ribs are #1 at Robinson's #1 Ribs. But meaty slabs of bone-in pork equal sticky fingers and sauce on your lips, and that's not meant for consumption on-the-go. Might we suggest a neater alternative: the honey mustard grilled chicken breast sandwich. The chicken is freshly grilled (real char marks!) and the sauce strikes the right balance between sharp, tangy mustard and honey. Lettuce, tomato, red onions on a kaiser bun round out the sandwich. (There's also a location at Union Station, though it doesn't have this sandwich.)
Cabo shrimp burrito at Burrito Beach: $6.60 after tax
Time in line: 5 mins.
Closes: 9 p.m.