I have worked in the Chicago Loop the majority of my professional career and, as a lover of all things food, am always on the lookout for destinations for a quick, yet great, lunch. Luckily, one such spot – or should I say seven such spots in one – recently opened in The Franklin.
Located on the second floor mezzanine of the office building at 227 West Monroe Street is Rustle + Roux, an elevated food court. Here, you will find the only sanctioned Illy coffee station in the United States, which also serves up gelato and other Italian desserts; a deli, serving sandwiches, paninis and wraps; a grill, cooking up beef, turkey and quinoa burgers; and a “create” station which changes weekly and, so far, has featured everything from pho to mac & cheese.
What many people visit for, however, is the Mercadito station, which, just like its big sister restaurant, serves homemade tacos and salads, along with fresh guacamole, salsas and refreshing aqua frescas, as well as Mercato, helmed by Siena Tavern consulting chef and Top Chef alum Fabio Viviani, which features seasonal pizzas, salads, pastas and tapas.
At the center of this dining mecca is a large salad bar which is bigger and better than most Whole Foods, and offers a plethora of organic and locally sourced produce.
Personally, I visit Rustle + Roux at least once a week, and the food station from which I order depends upon my mood and hunger level. The first time I visited, I was able to sample food from both Mercadito and Mercato. From Mercadito, I tried the seasonal guacamole, with mango and jicama, which is served with a small bag of tortilla chips, along with a shrimp taco, with chipotle mojo and avocado. While the dark, brownish color of the seasonal guacamole was a bit off-putting, the flavor was nice and refreshing with the mango and jicama. The portion was generous for a single serving and I had enough left over for an afternoon snack. The shrimp taco was delicious, with the chipotle mojo offering a perfect amount of spice and flavor. I will definitely return for the tacos.
From Mercato, I tried Fabio’s famous potato gnocchi, with a basil and parmesan pesto and sundried tomatoes, in addition to the oven roasted Napolese pizza, with homemade creamy ricotta. The gnocchi was incredibly fresh and fluffy, and the pesto was deliciously flavorful. I enjoyed this gnocchi even more than the one served at Siena Tavern. Once again the portion was extremely generous, and left enough for dinner. The pizza was equally as fantastic. Fabio perfected the dough specific to the humidity levels and temperatures in the space and it shows in the consistency and texture of the pizza. At $6.79, this pizza is a steal! I would happy order this pizza again, and even order an extra to take home for dinner.
Rustle + Roux has quickly become my favorite go-to spot for lunch in the Loop. The offerings are diverse and delicious, and where else can you find food from Mercadito and Fabio Viviani without a reservation or an hour long wait? Along with the freshest salad bar in the city, Rustle + Roux cannot be beat.
227 West Monroe, 2nd Floor, Chicago, IL