Finding quality food in the Thompson Center's circular basement that's not a burger or a national chain is a challenge. But along comes City Rock, the product of two brothers, both with excellent pedigrees in local restaurants, tapping into their own Korean heritage.
So now, like those other you-decide-what-you-want-in-your-bowl places scattered throughout the Loop, here's one where they're adding a dose of Korea and Japan.
You've got like an hour, tops, for lunch if you work in the Loop. If you're near the Thompson Center, City Rock is like a beacon at the back of the food court.
"City Rock translated in Korean is 'toshi rock.' Toshi translates to city. Rock is rock. And Toshi rock means 'packed lunch'" said co-owner Andy Lim.
And they pack in quite a bit to your bowl or rice roll. Choose white or brown rice, then any number of homemade beef, pork or chicken that's been marinated for up to three days.
"All of our ingredients are prepped daily. That's kind of what we wanted to offer in a place like this. Something healthy and fast and high quality," he said.
There's beef bulgogi, for instance. Try adding spinach or shredded carrots, maybe bean sprouts with a perfectly-cooked egg that's still a bit runny, and some finely-diced scallions. Top it off with sesame oil and a shake or two of seasoning, which contains sesame, nori, chili flakes and caramelized onions. Korean-influenced sauces help add additional flavor.
Same goes for seafood. There's marinated tuna and salmon, and again, you choose as you wish from the vast array of freshly-prepared vegetables made that morning. You can even opt to get your protein rolled up in a sheet of dried seaweed with rice and vegetables.
One of the important things they've done here is removed some of the potentially confusing Korean terms that are used freely up on Lawrence Avenue or if you're in a strip mall in Niles, and replaced them with more easy-to-understand terminology for beginners.
"We don't call anything like gojuchang or bulgogi or anything like that or bibimbop, we say it's a mixed rice bowl or it's a vegetable bowl; this is our spicy City Rock sauce," said Lim.
In Steve's Extra Course video, he takes a closer look at the homemade kimchi that the storefront sells in jars, if you want to take some home.
Atrium at Thompson Center
100 W. Randolph St.