There are approximately a zillion places to buy a quick lunch in downtown Chicago, but unfortunately a lot of them are greasy or heavy or just plain mediocre. The following places tend to be a little on the pricier side ($8-10 for lunch) but I try to limit myself to buying lunch once a week so I can splurge, instead of doing 3-4 cheaper, lower-quality meals per week. For the purposes of this list I've limited myself to places actually in the Loop, to which I can reasonably walk during my lunch hour.
This local chain makes a-may-zing sandwiches, most served on whole-grain pretzel bread. Their ingredients are super high quality and mostly organic, and the flavors are interesting and unusual. My favorite is the Sergio's special, which has mango chutney, pickled jalapenos, gruyere, and avocado. It's normally made with ham, but I prefer to get it with turkey.
This is a newer local chain focused on high-protein meals. Maybe it's due to the increased interest in paleo eating, but if the lines out the door are any indication, they're having a ton of success. They make "bar-ritos," salads, bowls, and blended drinks, using quinoa instead of rice and a salad mix that includes kale and broccoli instead of the more typical iceberg. My favorite is the southwest salad, which has chicken, quinoa, black beans, avocado, and cholula hot sauce. Unlike many lunch salads, this one keeps me full for HOURS. Great for people who need to eat gluten free- TONS of options.
Another local chain, also focused on healthy food, Freshii has noodle bowls, rice bowls, salads, and wraps, and while they have suggested combinations, each person gets a little clipboard to fill out exactly what you want, letting you can customize your meal however you like. Also great for gluten free folks.
Roti is like Chipotle for mediterranean food. You choose whether you want a rice platter, or a sandwich made on lavosh or pita. Then you choose your filling (chicken shwarma, felafel, chicken or steak kabob) and as many toppings as you want from an awesome selection including hummus, baba ganouj, feta, grilled vegetables, Jerusalem salad, olives, hot sauce, roasted onions, and on and on. Always crowded at lunch, but the line moves fast.
Oh, how I love this place. Oasis is a felafel and schwarma stand that operates out of the back of a jewelry store on Wabash Avenue. (Yes, really). It is cheap, the food is delicious (try adding a cup of the lentil soup to your meal for a dollar!) and the family that runs it is friendly. Highly recommend.
Chicagoans: any healthy-ish lunch favorites I've missed?
(Photos from: the websites linked above)