Lunch in the Loop? Pret a Manger

Pret A Manger

Pret A Manger has a serve yourself approach to lunch.

When I was in high school, I took an overseas trip that had a 14 hour layover in Heathrow. The only meals available at the airport were pre-packaged sandwiches wrapped in little plastic containers or candy bars. I decided sugar wasn’t a healthy way to get through my trip, so I grabbed the ham and cheese instead. Bad choice. That sandwich was one of the nastiest I have ever had — damp, flavorless, and I discovered after biting into it, with mold on the packaging. Something about the look and packaging of Pret A Manger reminded me so strongly of that experience that it kept me from considering it seriously as a lunch spot.

Sweet Chili Shrimp & Avocado | Pret a Manger

Sweet Chili Shrimp & Avocado

I ended up there one day because it was at a perfect in-between restaurant between me and a friend, and because I’d been chatting with someone about my royal wedding coffee mug that I won online. Pret A Manger, if you didn’t know, started in London in 1986 — a year after my first trip there.

I brushed off my bad memories and walked in just before the press of business people descended like locusts on the place. Pret A Manger reminds me strongly of an industrial cafeteria — neat, tidy and with an ample amount of shiny seating if you get there early. It wouldn’t be out of place at O’hare at all.

There are several pre-packaged full and half-sandwich and salad options available, and you can dispense your own soup to-go as well. However, that’s where the comparison to my remembered airport food stops. The chain prides itself on items made fresh daily, and their sandwich choices include seasonal and ethnic choices.

Nicoise Salad | Pret A Manger

Nicoise Salad

I tried a half-sandwich stuffed with shrimp, avocado, and fresh greens. The sweet chili sauce on top had a satisfying kick, and made me wish I’d gotten a full-size portion. My friend went with a nicoise salad that was perfect and sizable. The boiled eggs didn’t have that ring of green around the yolk that comes from over-cooking, and the tomato wasn’t at all mushy. Fresh, tasty, and healthy? Yes to all three.

I was suitably impressed with the food, though I still don’t like the looks of the place. Pret A Manger just released their new Summer menu, so I’ll probably drop by and get a hummus & veggie sandwich or some lentils & couscous to go. For $10 or less, it’s in-line with downtown lunch prices and a better choice than most of the fast-food in the area.

Pret A Manger
211 West Adams Street
Chicago, IL 60606
(312) 546-8270

  1. Krista from left a comment on June 1, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    I have a huge fondness for Pret after living in the UK for so long. I love the Pret Pots for breakfast–honey, granola and yogurt. But interestingly…the US only seems to have the LARGE Pret pots. In the UK, most are small and there are a few large ones available.

    I also love the 1/2 baguette sandwiches. There’s a roast beef and arugula one in particular that I like.

    In London, I loved Fridays at Pret because they made mushroom risotto. I’ve had the mushroom risotto here (which I don’t think is a Friday thing) and it’s a bit too soupy for me. I also loved their UK tomato soup, but I haven’t tried it here yet. (Delicious, filling, and low calorie.)

    One last comment and then I’ll stop…the majority of Pret locations I’ve been to in London don’t have much seating. So the Lasalle location is a bit of an anomaly for me because there are so many seats! And it’s always packed.

  2. Tammy left a comment on June 2, 2011 at 11:21 am

    The 1/2 sandwich is a genius idea, I agree Krista!

    We talked back in January about getting together for dinner. Let’s make that happen before December sneaks up on us. 😉


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