Every Columbia College student, from a few years back, remembers this nightmarish grease pit beneath the Travelodge dubbed Chicago Carry Out. One customer remembers their first heartburn experience at 20 years old occurred after lunching here. Fresh tiles, glossy custard-colored tables and a new menu of healthy-leaning meals aim at reclaiming some of those disheartened diners.
Since manager Libby Youkhana took the reigns, she's brought a fresh face along with student-friendly deals. Despite the name, the restaurant holds a dining area with 80 strawberry-stained chairs. Tables beside windows offer panoramic views of the CNA Building and maybe a train or two pummeling over Harrison curve (the Harrison Red Line stop is one block west). Anyone wishing for an escape from the South Loop grime may do so into any number of the mountainside-meadow portraits hung on taupe walls.
While commuter-friendly (parking includes meters and a Park One lot across the street), most guests compile of thrifty University Center kids taking advantage of the 10 percent student discount and a $2 after 2 p.m. special that includes hot dogs, BLT sandwiches, burgers and grilled cheese.
Tourists make up another chunk of the business. Guests occupying rooms upstairs enjoy the perks of a room-serviced breakfast. Delivery is also available within a three-block radius.
Friendly service, that no longer appears bathed in French fry grease, approach clientele in accommodating manners, preparing plates in an open kitchen. Expect tailoring to 50 percent of the menu as Youkhana plans introducing healthier Mediterranean dishes in exchange for the artery combusting patty melts. However, she assures the famed beefs and dogs always have a place at Chicago Carry Out. Place your order online.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: David-Anthony Gonzalez