Want to know the best places to enjoy a great lunch in Chicago? Don't reach for the city's Zagat Survey, or flip to the Chicago Tribune's restaurant guide. Just ask the Streets and San Man.
Dan Foley, an electrician for the Streets and Sanitation Department, has spent a lengthy career driving his blue van over the city's roads and thoroughfares to whatever location his workday takes him. According to Foley, a very important part of each workday is lunch.
“Any reasonably intelligent Streets and San guy—and some say those can be few and far between—will map out his day according to where he wants to eat lunch,” said Foley.
Thanks to his far-reaching travels, Foley has scarfed down midday meals at taquerias, pubs, pizzerias, and delis in every corner of Chicago, making him an authority on the ins and outs of local dining establishments. He has deposited his epicurean expertise into The Streets & San Man's Guide to Chicago Eats. Published by Lake Claremont Press, the book is a comprehensive guide to Foley's favorite Chicago eateries, and it provides reviews on an eclectic group of restaurants, from Wikstrom's Gourmet Deli in the Andersonville neighborhood to the Riverside Marina near the Calumet Canal.
Amidst the reviews, Foley has scattered a wealth of cultural and sightseeing tips. Like many public works staff, a Streets and San employee sees more of the town he serves than any other denizen, so Foley is a uniquely qualified Chicago tour guide, offering treats for the reader's eyes and stomach. He points out quirky bookstores, a prime courthouse spot for people-watching, historic Wrigley Field, and other notable locales that you might want to take a gander at after your belly is full.
One word of advice: the guide is very light on high-end restaurants. “When Streets and San workers head to lunch, we don't go to many white-tablecloth joints,” said Foley. That lot tends to be economically minded. As a result, Foley's book mentions no bank-breaking restaurants like Charlie Trotter's or Le Francais. It does include plenty of places to get a good meal for less than $10, and it features $25 in coupons at the back.
“That way, you'll have plenty of leftover cash for your kids' college fund, or to get your wife some new lingerie for your anniversary,” said Foley.
But while the fare offered by the guide's restaurants is easy on the budget, it also tends to be heavy on the calories. The menus of many of the restaurants touted by Foley are filled with fried, meaty, cheesy fare. However, if you're forking over less than $5 of your hard-earned cash for an amazing lunch experience, you might not care so much about your plate's cholesterol content.
A man of many talents, the Guide isn't Foley's first published work. He holds a master's in creative writing from Columbia College Chicago, and his work has appeared in Block's Magazine, Poetry Motel, and The Beverly Review. He also has taught English composition at Richard J. Daley College, and he coaches basketball at St. Laurence High School, his alma mater.
The Streets & San Man's Guide to Chicago Eats is available at bookstores, or you can buy a copy online from www.lakeclaremont.com.