On Monday, nearly 50,000 visitors will descend upon Neocon, the commercial design world’s most highly anticipated annual convention.
For 50 years Neocon has called Chicago’s Merchandise Mart (otherwise known as “The Mart”) home. This year, 500 companies will showcase the latest products and innovations in interior building products, finishes and material, movable wall systems, and more.
If you’re attending Neocon this week and are searching for an excellent Chicago restaurant or two, The Mart’s location on both Chicago’s Riverwalk and at the northern edge of the Loop is ideal. For those craving style - and a little decadence - we can’t recommend highly enough Bavette’s Bar & Boeuf, Siena Tavern, and for a drink on the river, City Winery.
However, if you are trying to avoid extra convention pounds (ugh, we’ve all been there) and seek more whole foods to put the power back in your exhibition hall walk, you don't have to look too far. Here is a snapshot of just a few conveniently located Chicago restaurants, (a few of them located right inside The Mart), where you will find food that is fresh, healthy, and fast.
Protein Bar & Kitchen (theproteinbar.com)
Over the years PBK has been very responsive to the desires and needs of customers who crave fast protein-based meal options. The restaurant has implemented several menu changes recently, and for the better. There aren’t many places where you can find a fast spinach and pesto egg scramble, overnight oats with tons of fruit, or a “healthy” club salad. And of course, don't forget the fun juices and protein shakes like the green Health Nut or fruity Wrigley Peeled.
Where: Second Floor, near the center elevator banks.
When: Monday-Thursday, 7:00 AM – 6:00 PM; Friday, 7:00 AM – 4:00 PM.
HiVibe’s juices and smoothies are 100% Paleo and “vegan friendly.” Besides the huge range of juices, smoothies, and acai bowls, Hi-Vibe is one of the few places in the Chicago where you can pick up an Original Bulletproof Coffee or some other Bulletproof-influenced elixir. The menu is a little on the pricey side, but it’s worth the reprieve from the fast food options nearby.
Where: Second Floor, on the outer edge of The Mart food court, near the El exit/entrance.
When: Weekdays, 7:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Marshalls Landing (marshallslanding.com)
As the only sit-down restaurant at The Mart, Marshall’s Landing is typically a little packed during lunch and after work. But give yourself a little time in the morning to stop by the Coffee Bar and pick up your caffeine of choice along with an Avocado Toast topped with a fresh farm egg. For dinner, grab a few colleagues and seats on the river side of the restaurant to enjoy a chilled Gulf Shrimp Cocktail, a Poke Bowl, or the Date Salad along with the view. (Or you can order your meal to go on the Ritual App.)
Where: Second floor, near the Orleans elevators.
When: Coffee Bar, 7:00 AM – 5:00 PM Daily; Restaurant, 11:00 AM – 8:00 PM Daily
Joe and the Juice (joejuice.com)
This highly anticipated Danish coffee and juice chain just touched down in Chicago earlier this year, and already there are three locations including one just across the street from The Mart. In addition to coffee, juice, shakes, and acai bowls, Joe and the Juice also features interesting sandwiches like the Tunacado with tuna mousse, avocado, tomato and pesto.
Where: 215 W. Hubbard Street
When: Weekdays, 6:00 AM – 9:00 PM; Weekends 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Brown Bag Seafood (brownbagseafood.com)
Right next door to Joe and the Juice is another newcomer to the Chicago restaurant scene, Brown Bag Seafood. Okay, so the menu features three types of tots or crispy shrimp tacos. But fortunately, those are outnumbered by a wide variety of protein and vegetable choices. Order grilled shrimp, teriyaki scallion salmon, or lemon broiled whitefish on top of salad, sautéed veggies, or as a “powerbox” with a blend of ancient grains and spinach.
Where: 414 N Wells Street
When: Daily, 11:00 AM to 9:00 PM
Farmer's Fridge (farmersfridge.com)
And finally, back at the Mart there's a super fast option for those who simply don’t have time to stand in line. Famer's Fridge is like a high-tech glossy vending machine with a touch screen to order breakfasts, salads, grain bowls, and even a little extra side of protein. The Greek Yogurt and Granola Bowl is a favorite along with the Mediterranean Bowl. Get there in the morning to stock up on breakfast and lunch before the crowd discovers it.
Where: Two locations on the first floor at the Orleans Side and Wells Side of the Mart.
When: 24 hours, or, until the machine is empty.
Are there any healthy eats we’ve missed near The Mart? Let us know in the comments.