The idea of lunch in the Loop doesn't immediately prompt images of high-end meats, an eco-friendly mission and the absence of extra-large sodas, but Florian Pfahler, owner of Hannah's Bretzel, is trying to change all of that.
"When I came to America (from Bavaria) to work in the advertising industry, I was shocked by the 'fast food' nature of lunch and all the waste that came along-plastic, paper, condiments I didn't request," he says.
He also missed his homeland's pretzels, which are as popular with Germans as croissants are with the French. Ultimately, he combined his passion for good food, German pretzels and a dedication to sustainability and opened Hannah's Bretzel, named for Pfahler's daughter.
Now with three Chicago Loop locations, and looking to add more spots in the next few years, Hannah's Bretzel is a delicious alternative for a quick lunch that leaves you feeling good about your choice.
First and foremost, the food is really good. On a recent no-school Monday, my sons and I all feasted on soup combo lunch specials. All the soups are house-made daily and taste it. Pfahler is committed to tracing the origins of the restaurant's food, from the soup ingredients to freshly cut meats.
Unlike many sandwich shops, the toppings don't taste as if they've been sitting in containers for weeks. The arugula was fresh and peppery. The cucumbers were crisp. Meats were thinly sliced at point of order, another plus for my sons, who loved watching the slicer work. Have I mentioned the pretzel bread? Flavorful without being salty, it truly is the bread that makes the sandwich.
In keeping with its environmental mission, Hannah's serves its food in minimal packaging, including biodegradable paper products for wrappings and soups. The drink selection is all individual waters, teas and juices in recyclable containers.
"Look, in this economy, we all have to trim the excess and keep only what works best," Pfahler says. With food this good, let's hope he's on to something.
Alena Murguia lives in Berwyn, Illinois along with her husband and three growing sons.
See more of Alena's stories here.