Who eats: This West Loop dining room pulls in business types, a surprising number of students and the occasional mild-mannered reporter.
Why eat: Blackbird is one of the finest restaurants in the country (multiple James Beard nominations) as well as one of Chicago's best, and lunchtime prices, especially the three-course, $22 option, are extremely reasonable.
Dress code: Business attire isn't too dressy, though you'll also see casual tops over jeans.
Noise factor: Evenings can be noisy when crowded, but customers are less boisterous around noon. Low-key conversation is effortless; background music doesn't intrude. But if you're dishing anything good, you'll likely be overheard.
Overheard: Suit-and-tie trio were talking business two tables over, but much too discreetly.
Menu: Contemporary-American, cutting-edge but accessible. Extraordinary balance of sweet and bitter, tangy and mild flavors. Desserts skillfully incorporate savory flavors along with the sweet.
Reliable options: Sepia (cuttlefish) with green tomatoes, blueberries and a touch of cynar (artichoke liqueur) made a memorable starter. The wood-grilled sturgeon with chanterelle mushrooms and poppy seed jam is terrific, but poppy seeds at lunch mean you'd better carry some dental floss. Bigger appetites can chow down on the short-rib burger with sweet shallot jam and plenty of thin fries. Desserts are remarkable, in particular the bittersweet chocolate soup with a scoop of eggplant stracciatella (chocolate-chip gelato). Eggplant and chocolate, you read that right.
Portions are somewhat smaller with the three-course, $22 menu, but you won't go hungry. And you won't find a better deal for food at this level.
Service: Waiters are attentive, but no faux-familiarity here. Servers' suits are nicer than any I own.
Reservations: By phone, or online at opentable.com.
Expect to pay: A la carte, $50 to $70 for two; with the prix-fixe option, half that.
Cellphone reception/Wi-Fi: Full cell reception; free Wi-Fi in the dining area and outdoor cafe. Two-seat tables won't accommodate a laptop and lunch, though.
Contacts: 312-715-0708; blackbirdrestaurant.com