$25 a Day: Intern Lauren Explores Veggie-Friendly Eateries at Water Tower on a Budget
Loyola Neighborhood News: Water Tower Campus - V3, I5
It was one of those nomadic days where everything on my calendar was timed to the minute, but I still wanted to squeeze in meals that would be healthy and vegetarian. As city dwellers, we’ve all been there: a schedule just as full as that paper, a laptop and gadget-filled bag on our shoulder. The mission was to make my belly just as full so I could power through the day. Luckily the neighborhood around Loyola’s Water Tower Campus is brimming with great options. I first hit the Original Pancake House for the ultimate foundation breakfast, had a light bistro lunch at Oak Tree Café, then hunkered down at Argo Tea for snacks, caffeine, and some serious work time.
The Original Pancake House, tucked between the restaurants and hotels that dominate the corner of Rush and Bellevue, is a neighborhood institution. Even on an otherwise quiet Monday morning, the little white cottage is buzzing inside with a mix of travelers and locals. Every table is full and plates are flying out of the kitchen as quickly as they’re made. With dishes ranging between $7 and $12 dollars, a breakfast there will take a bite out of your $ 25-a-day budget. Luckily the dishes are massive enough to either fill you to the brim or give you leftovers.
The eight-page menu boasts all things breakfast, with a page each for potato-and-egg skillets, crepes, waffles, and of course, pancakes. Flapjack options range from the usual suspects: pecan, chocolate chip, and strawberry; to exotic options like Hawiian-style cakes with pineapple and “tropical syrup”; to healthy ones like wheat germ or gluten-free. The original recipe batter, which boasts a house-made sourdough starter “just like your great grandmother used” is stellar. I wanted to see whether the gluten free option would stand up to the original recipe, so I tried the Belgian waffle. It was outstanding. Vegans, be advised: they still use milk and eggs and butter in their preparation. But the consistency was so light, fluffy and crispy that I never would have known I was eating g-free. I also had a fun lemon-rooibos-vanilla tea to accompany my meal. It’s a home-run hearty breakfast and great people watching, but look out for little extras if you’re on a budget… a side of strawberries to top your waffle or pancake costs $2.79.
After doing some work using the free Wi-Fi at the 900 North Michigan Shops, I was ready for a light lunch. Oak Tree Café, on the top floor of this posh shopping destination, was the perfect option. Different from the main restaurant, which has lunch items in the $8-$15 range, Oak Tree offers “bistro lunch” specials for much less. Sandwiches and soups are $5.50, and bistro salads are $6.50. For the price you get the perfect amount of grilled vegetable and goat cheese sandwich on their homemade six-inch baguette (most other sandwich options have meat but can be modified). The Caesar or Bistro salads can be made without chicken, and flavor-packed soups are fresh and filling. Salads and soups come with a choice of 15 different types of artisan bread made that morning. Standouts include the kalamata olive sourdough and jalapeno cheddar. Both are perfect for dipping in the chunky potato, carrot, and zucchini-filled Tuscan vegetable soup, which is what I did during my visit.
Oak Tree says their bistro menu is carry-out but they have a large area in the bakery section of the restaurant, separate from the main dining room, that has first-come-first-serve tables. Enjoy the atmosphere up there or take the escalator one level down to tables in a common area on the fifth floor. There you can have a working lunch amid the occasional shopper or other laptop ninja in an environment less bustling and cluttered than your local coffee shop.
Sometimes, as comfortable as one public workspace is, you just need a change of scenery. Argo Tea, my final destination, was that change. It is located right in the middle of Loyola’s Water Tower campus and feels like a chill Starbucks in atmosphere. Because of this, it’s predictably full of students and other neighborhood types at all hours. Argo offers an expanded list of specialty tea drinks, including bubble tea, along with more traditional fare. They also have quite a few filling options for a quick meal. Grab a couple miniaturized spinach and tomato Teanie Panini sandwiches or a grain or salad bowl, which feature ingredients that are tea-infused for flavor: all range in price between $3.95 and $4.95. My favorite item on the menu is the protein-packed lentil salad. Here you get green lentils with diced carrots, bell peppers and onions dressed in a light and zingy lemon vinaigrette. My tea and salad dinner were an energizing combination that made the end of an action-packed day a little easier. Argo also helps regular customer save money on future purchases with its LoyalTea reward system and offers free WiFi with purchase.
Here is a recap of how $25 will feed a busy vegetarian near Water Tower Campus:
Breakfast - Original Pancake House (22 E. Bellevue)
Gluten Free Belgian Waffle $ 7.99
Tea $ 2.45
Total (incl tax and tip) $ 12.58
Lunch - Oak Tree Café (900 N. Michigan)
Tuscan Vegetable soup with $5.50
Total (incl tax) $6.09
Dinner - Argo Tea (819 N. Rush)
Lentil Salad $3.95
White tea (small) $ 2.25
Total (incl tax) $ 6.85
Grand total for the day $ 25.52