So I’ve heard mixed reviews about Grahamwich. On the one hand, it’s considered a fancy-schmancy sandwich shop with underwhelming-yet-overpriced sandwiches. On the other hand, this hot, Windy City lunch spot is also considered an out-of-this-world offshoot of the immensely popular Graham Elliot restaurant over at 217 W. Huron, both created by Chicago’s own Graham Elliot Bowles himself – apparently the youngest 4-star chef in the US and one of the judges on the tv show “MasterChef” – which, I’ll admit I’ve never seen.
(Another cooking challenge show? Slit my wrists now!)
I’ll also admit that I never would have gone here had I not gotten a couple of Groupon-esque vouchers from Gilt City. So I snatched up a voucher for breakfast and a voucher for lunch as soon as they came out . . . and so now I’ve tried both their breakfast and lunch. From both experiences, Grahamwich lies somewhere in between both opinions referenced above. It’s solid and guaranteed tasty, but not life-changing.
When I first went for breakfast, the place was pretty quiet. I think there might have been a couple people sitting at the counter by the door and that was it. I was able to get my order pretty quickly and chat up the nice girl working the register. I got the shaved pastrami croissant sandwich and a coffee. At first I thought the sandwich was a little small – by the time I finished it, I thought it was super-satisfying, maybe almost a bit heavy for breakfast. Very good quality, though. The real treat was the french press coffee to go. I’ve never had that before and it worked/tasted great. FUN!
Today I used my lunch voucher and went over right during lunch hour. The place was packed, with the line snaking around in the little entryway. There was a small wait once I ordered, nothing unreasonable given the amount of people in there. I got the pastrami reuben (what can I say, I love pastrami!) with the g’wich popcorn and lemon lime soda. The sandwich was big enough and certainly filling, with a big chunk of layered meat and healthy topping of kraut and fondue-y like sauce. Loved the marble rye. Loved everything about the sandwich. The lemon lime soda had a tasty little zing to it, but was still kind of flat. I’ve also read where they serve $3 diet coke drinks from a 2-liter? WTH is up with that? For the price point Grahamwich is charging, they should be slinging top-notch fountain drinks. Dumb.
I also noticed there are various pastries in a case by the register and I’ve heard they sell soft-serve that is amazing. Would definitely like to try that at some point before it gets cold again here in Chicago. So the food is definitely well thought out and fun and quirky. But there are some draw-backs: along with the $3 2-liter diet coke drinks, the space features a big communal table. Some folks don’t mind this, I’m sure some folks dig on it. But not for me. Give me my own table with my own space. And stay out of it. On the plus side, apparently they also have 15-minute courtesy “hazard parking” out front – I don’t drive, but anyone can tell you, that’s a definite plus here in the city.
So while there’s no such thing as a perfect restaurant, you can easily tell GEB has put a lot of thought into this place, not only with the menu, but the space overall. His website says Grahamwich was created “to redefine what a sandwich shop should and could be.” And it largely succeeds – in fact they knock it out of the park. But there’s still some issues to work out. Starting with the Diet Coke.
- Name – Grahamwich
- Neighborhood – Near North Side
- Where – 615 N. State Street
- Phone – (312) 265-0434
- Meals – Breakfast and Lunch
- Hours – Mon-Sat 8am – 5pm, Sun 8am – 2pm
- Attire – Casual