I haven't ever been much of a "luncher."
It's not that I don't eat lunch—I do, along with many other things during the day. But for me, lunch is usually a kind of quick, rushed meal that I eat while working. Or while looking at gossip Web sites.
My attitude astounds my friend Matt. For Matt, lunch is a delicious time period during which to dine and rekindle friendships, meet social obligations, network. I just want soup. I usually don't agree to or suggest meeting anyone but my microwave for lunch. However, people sure do love that midday meal, so for the past two weeks, I've—cautiously—been giving lunch a try.
Last week, I met up for sushi with a friend who had just moved back to town. And, always hungry for a bargain, I tried Bin 36's No Tax Lunch yesterday, which—as the name implies—offers you dining and a deal.
The offer is simple to redeem: If you eat between the hours of 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., Monday to Friday, the restaurant will subtract all tax from your meal from the bill before you pay. There's no dollar limit and alcohol is included. (Woo hoo!) And, since Chicago is no stranger to taxes—including the extra one-percent food and beverage tax that gets lumped on to the other taxes on restaurant meals—that's good news.
The first plus: Bin 36 offers four sandwiches for lunch, about half a dozen entrees, several salads and appetizers. It's enough to provide a good mix of options, but not too much to overwhelm you with choices. And, keeping with Bin 36's dinner menu, each menu item has a twist to take it beyond basic food fare. The Chilled Olive Oil Poached Salmon, for example, comes with a green-tomato jam; the club sandwich is made with lobster and the Bin 36 Market Salad has currants.
I first sampled the cheese plate, which featured six different varieties and offered just enough creamy goodness to snack on—but not enough to make you stuffed before the food arrived. (Damn you, cheese...when will I learn!?!)
Because I work from home and could probably conceal more daytime drunkenness than it ever occurs to me to attempt, I also had a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. The server recommended it; as promised, it was light, refreshing and really good. (If your boss for some reason frowns upon excessive drinking on weekdays, that’s OK, it just means that A) You're not a journalist and B) You may want to opt for one of Bin 36's smaller 2.5-ounce glasses, perfect for those who'd like to have a taste without getting tanked.)
I also enjoyed the corn-and-arugula flatbread I had, which the restaurant made as a special order because I was a vegetarian. (And speaking as someone whose mother for years addressed that situation by preparing a special dish for me on Thanksgiving—two slices of processed cheese, still in the wrapper, laid gingerly on my plate—the effort was much appreciated.)
OK! I admit it! I enjoyed lunch. Bin 36's open, airy dining room was a nice place to have a relaxing meal. It was enjoyable to leave my laptop for a while. And I was lucky enough to snag a peanut butter cookie as I left. I had a later lunch, so the full spread had been put away, but Bin 36 also puts free cookies, water and coffee near the door to take as you leave. Complimentary cookies? Sure, that makes the journey back to your email in-box a whole lot easier.
But seriously, if restaurants are now giving out free cookies at lunch, not only will I eat lunch out more, I no longer need or want my oven. Or forks. I'm lookin' at you, kitchen. And your days are numbered.
Looking to try Bin 36's lunch deal? The restaurant has plans to continue it through Oct. 31. Stop by 339 North Dearborn, call (312) 755-9463 or visit http://www.bin36.com for more information.
Erin Brereton is our resident urban cowgirl on a bi-weekly search of life on the cheap. If you know of an epic happy hour that she missed, do clue her in.