There are a lot of choices when it comes to soup, sandwich and salad shops, especially in a city such as Chicago. But the first time I popped the lid off the buttermilk ranch dressing at Potbelly Sandwich Shop, I knew I had something suited to my foodie tastes. Add to that the selection of sandwiches and unusual Zapp’s Potato Chips (Sour Cream & Creole Onion, anyone?) and you have a great place for a quick and casual meal.
Each of the Potbelly locations, and there are a bunch of them, have a casual, laidback, almost funky vibe. There’s lots of rich wood, jewel tones and friendly people. In fact, it’s not unusual for the counter staff to share a laugh or let you in on their inside joke as you move through the line.
As anyone in a hurry for their lunch knows, it’s the details that count. Potbelly will take your order as you enter and help you speed through the process, while still ensuring your food is made-fresh-to-order.
Remember that dressing I mentioned? Well, it’s another detail they got right. It is thick and has a rich buttermilk flavor, and they give you plenty. I paired it with the Farmhouse Salad simply because the nice guy taking my order said, “You look like you’d really like our Farmhouse Salad.” Good enough for me, and he was right. It was a substantial size, with crisp bacon, chicken, red onion, hard-boiled egg and plenty of crisp cucumber.
So, the next opportunity I had to go back, I figured I’d try a sandwich. I opted for the Italian, which gave me a mouthful of great Italian meats and cheese on whole wheat bread, with my choice of toppings: Italian seasonings, oil, lettuce, tomato, onion and hot peppers. With that, I needed the Boylan brand Black Cherry soda. It was just one of the choices in their refrigerator case, although I could also have opted for a fountain drink.
Potbelly offers intimate booths or tables if you want to be more front and center. Follow up your meal with some hand-dipped ice cream or an ice cream sandwich and you’ll be ready to head back to work.
Next on my list? Breakfast. Potbelly has an oatmeal that looks interesting . . .