14 Chic Places Where the Ladies Lunch

In a perfect world, I would sit down to a civilized lunch at a chic boîte every day. The reality is a little closer to standing in front of an open refrigerator with baby carrots and a bowl of hummus in hand, but a girl can dream, right? Meanwhile, in this alternate universe, I would have plenty of time to shop Michigan Avenue with friends, or perhaps hit one of Chicago’s fabulous art museums or attend a CSO matinee before settling in with a mound of grilled salmon-topped arugula and a glass of rosé. I would not be wearing yoga pants, and here is where I would be eating:


While I’d happily make a meal of their salumi and salami—especially as accompanied by the whole-wheat bread “pillows” and melty Parmesan fonduta—but the Roasted Vegetable Salad and the Roasted Pear and Gorgonzola Pizza are equally alluring. 18 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, 312-578-0762

Allium at the Four Seasons Hotel

The three-course, 500-Calorie Lunch is but one of the many reasons to visit: Market Crudité with Avocado-Green Goddess Dressing; King Salmon with coconut, snap peas, radish and pea broth; and 99% Pure Chocolate Sorbet? If this is magic math, I don’t want to know. 120 E. Delaware Place, Chicago, 312-799-4900

Balsan at the Waldorf Astoria Chicago

Top the Mediterranean-influenced Farro Salad with grilled shrimp and you are talking my language. And FYI, the Prime Rib Monte Cristo Sandwich is not remotely ladylike and I don’t even care. 11 E. Walton St., Chicago, 312-646-1401


The Chicken Liver Mousse is essentially ethereal meat butter and I can’t think of a better way to harden my arteries. But all the thin women are eating the Salade Niçoise, so I’m a bit conflicted. 840 N. Wabash Ave., Chicago, 312-944-8400

Fig & Olive

You will feel so very, very European here, because everyone else around you is talking a different language. The citrus-dressed Salmon Crudo is light and refreshing; the Crostinis are the chicest open-faced sandwiches around; and the thinly sliced and layered Octopus a la Gallega is a work of art. 104 E. Oak St., Chicago, 312-445-0060


Fred’s at Barneys New York

Mark’s Madison Avenue Salad, chopped within an inch of its life, sports 17 different ingredients, including imported Italian tuna, and I’m here to tell you, it’s delicious. And the Tuna Tartare is literally just what the doctor ordered. Fish…it’s brain food! 15 E. Oak St., Chicago, 312-596-1111


Ikram Café

We are obsessed with the salads here, especially the Loch Duart Salmon served atop mixed greens with radish, shaved carrot, pickled rhubarb, English peas and pistachio vinaigrette. It’s like spring on a plate. 15 E. Huron St., Chicago, 312-587-1000

Le Colonial

In my opinion, it’s all about the Goi Bo, a watercress salad with chunks of beef filet sautéed with chili, lemongrass and basil, tossed with garlic vinaigrette. But the Chao Tom, grilled shrimp wrapped around sugar cane, runs a close second. 937 N. Rush St., Chicago, 312-255-0088

Nico Osteria

This über-chic seafood-centric Italian spot is a lunch favorite, plus it’s easier to get a table during the day. Truffled Burrata with grilled asparagus, marinated cannellini beans and endive is never a bad idea—and I’m quite fond of the Sicilian-style Seared Tuna with avocado, pistachio, orange and basil with poppy seed vinaigrette. 1015 N. Rush St., Chicago, 312-994-7100

Osteria La Madia

In a pizza mood? You’ll do well here, especially if you order the deeply flavored Moroccan-Spiced Lamb Sausage with Mint Pesto or the Shaved Artichoke with Parmigiano. Made in a wood-burning oven, the crust is perfectly blistered and oh-so-tasty. 59 W. Grand Ave., Chicago, 312-329-0400


RL Restaurant

Everyone who’s anyone (Oprah!) has dined here, and they often order the Riff Raff Salad (chopped salad with salami, shrimp, chicken, provolone and more). We also love the Tomato Bisque with Goat Cheese Gratinée and the Steamed Saffron Mussels. This is prepster heaven. 115 E. Chicago Ave., Chicago, 312-475-1100

Terzo Piano 

This beautifully designed room is one of the most civilized places to lunch in all of Chicago. Under the watchful eye of Chef Tony Mantuano (of Spiaggia fame), Italian influences reign. The Arugula Salad with seared beef, asparagus, chopped egg, Parmesan cheese and green goddess dressing is a bounteous tangle; the pastas are always spot-on. Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago, 159 E. Monroe St., Chicago, 312-443-8650


Steps away from the Art Institute and Symphony Hall you’ll find one of my favorite kale salads around, laden with roasted bits of cauliflower, butternut squash and Brussels sprouts, and sprinkled with Grana Padano cheese and crushed croutons. Add a piece of pan-roasted salmon on top and you will feel quite virtuous. 65 E. Adams St., Chicago, 312-786-9911

Travelle in the Langham Hotel

When the ladies are feeling naughty, you’ll find them snarfing down the Flaming Chicken Wings gilded with lemon and oregano. When observed, however, they’ll order the healthier Carrot Salad with roasted-chile dressing and sunflower seeds. But surely everyone can get behind the Asparagus & Mushroom Melt with oozy goat cheese and roasted garlic, because it’s simply delish. 330 N. Wabash Ave., Chicago, 312-923-9988