A funny thing happened on the way back to semi-normal: Chicago became a lunch town. Not a lunch town like New Orleans or Mexico City, where you can spend all afternoon drinking French 75s and eating platters of seafood. But a lunch town where more than a few of the city’s dynamic chefs are plying their craft. Some of the most creative and craveworthy meals now come midday between two slices of bread. 

Consider Hermosa, Ethan Lim’s West Side hideaway. His Cambodian “family meal” tasting menus at night sell out a year in advance, but go during the day and you can try what just might be his greatest creation: a spicy fried chicken sandwich with green papaya slaw. Or take our No. 1 restaurant, Kasama, where for lunch you can try a Filipino take on Italian beef and all of Genie Kwon’s remarkable pastries, including the lovely ube and huckleberry Basque cake and the chocolate and salted caramel tart. Nearly half of the restaurants on this list serve lunch; besides Kasama, you can stop by midday and see what all the fuss is about at Sochi Saigonese Kitchen, Lardon, Taqueria Chingón, Evette’s, and Tengoku Aburiya.

Some places we actually prefer for the midday meal. We always want to drop into Bocadillo Market for a crispy calamari sandwich with herb aïoli whenever we’re nearby. And Sochi serves a more limited menu at lunch, but the fantastic cha gio egg rolls look mighty pretty when sunlight is flooding the dining room. Often, there’s no time of day we’d rather sit down for a meal in Chicago.