The Loop is a crowded beehive of activity; the streets are filled with delivery trucks, bike messengers, and traders rushing back and forth, ferrying coffee and sandwiches; the lobbies and hallways are grounds for impromptu meetings that will be continued later on in the buildings up above; the air itself pulses with the hurried energy of all those working so hard simply so they can go home on time. Their hours are precious, every minute important, and every second counted so as not to be wasted.
All of this suggests that lunch could rarely be a leisurely activity, that, most of the time, the best one could do is grab a sandwich or run to whichever place is closest and cheapest. Perhaps this can explain the rapid rise of such restaurant chains as Subway and Chipotle. Unlike McDonalds, which offers choices between set meals, these chains offer an assembly line of options that culminate in a sandwich (or burrito) that is the result of a string of personal choices.
Benjyehuda takes this business model and makes of it a labor of love. The owner himself attends to each customer, offering to top off a box of rice and chicken with (clearly) fresh tomato and cucumber, sprinkling shredded carrots and red cabbage on pita pockets stuffed with falafel, and generously applying hot sauce and zesty tzatziki to the steak and hummus filled laffa wrap. It is comforting in this day to see the owner of an eatery working side by side with his employees, directly involved with ensuring that each ingredient is of the highest quality.
Like Chipotle, Benjyehuda offers several different forms of ingesting these high quality vegetables and meats: laffa, pita pocket, and a box. While “pita pocket” is self-explanatory, the box is (surprise!) a box filled with rice and green lettuce, over which the vegetables and meat are topped. The laffa is a type of large, circular flatbread stuffed and rolled like a burrito. There are choices of chicken and steak shwarma, or falafel, for all the vegans out there. Most of the vegetables have been marinated in olive oil with mint and parsley, and are absurdly tasty and fresh.
Aside from that, Benjyehuda also offers fantastic fries that should (or must) be purchased with the cheddar; they are unlike any fries I have ever tasted and they are so good that the owner will not reveal the recipe. Simply put, they are rich, fried until they are golden brown, and succulent bordering on decadent.
The prices are fairly cheap as well, with the average item costing around $7 and the fries about $3.
It is often difficult to find (much less to expect) a lunch spot that brings something unique, something interesting, really what is a whole different dimension of flavor than what is often peddled throughout the Loop. What must have been a yearning in the hearts of workers throughout the Loop has been, finally, articulated. Benjyehuda. Come and give it a try. Learn how to pronounce the name later.
Benjyehuda is located at 212 W. Van Buren. Find more information at www.BenjYehuda.com.