Oasis vs. Field’s Food Court Smackdown

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When you live and work downtown, those lunchtime eateries we all frequent on weekdays merit added importance–and scrutiny. Because when you live down (or up, depending) here, you’re bound to eat at them more. And, yes, a few really are open past weekdays at 3pm. Two of these face catty-corner across Washington and Wabash: Oasis middle-eastern cafe; and Marshall Field’s lower level Field’s Marketplace gourmet food court. And the one spectacularly worth making a special trip for is not the one you might think.

Yours Truly works half a block from both. And though I do walk home for lunch half of the time (thanks be to God for downtown living), the attraction of two popular lunch spots so close by often has been too hard to pass up. Trouble is, in the case of Field’s Marketplace, I frequently wish I had.

That pulls for me at Field’s Marketplace are the breakfast granola parfaits, the sushi bar, and occasionally the fish-and-chips. I mean, you can walk in at almost any time of day–and even on the weekend–and see some great food spread out in front of you.

But God help you if you actually want to pay for it. I’ve been keeping track and one out of every two times I try to buy food at the Marketplace, I walk out because I can’t find anyone to take my money. Even during lunchtime, cashiers are often off gabbing behind one food counter or another with coworkers while patrons spin in circles looking for a staffed check-out counter.

And then there’s the permanent “mosey” speed that the whole staff seemingly runs on. (Oh, did you have to get back to your office today?) If there’s more than one person in front of you at a Marketplace counter, take heed and settle in for a nice long wait.

But the kicker is the number of times that you sit down at your table or get back to your office with food that you didn’t order or that isn’t completely prepared. Want spicy sushi without the wasabi? Fish and chips without the (pick a condiment, ANY condiment)? A sandwich that opens up to display only half of the ingredients listed on its label? You have come to the right place. (When I reported this last problem to Charles, one of the food-service managers, his reaction was one of resignation rather than surprise.)

So where do I go when, fifty-percent of the time, I walk out of Field’s Marketplace in disgust? Well, right across the street to Oasis. If you’re not in the know, you’d miss it. It’s a full-fledged Lebanese pita shop very oddly nestled in the back (waaaay back) of the Jeweler’s Mall jewelry marketplace on Wabash between Washington and Madison. And why do I go there? Hmm.

First and foremost, for the best falafel and chicken shwarma in town. For four bucks or less. That’s downtown lunch for four bucks. And for food as impeccably fresh as you’d find at Field’s, but served up (are you listening, Charles?) in a friendly and speedy manner.

And for smiles and recognition for we many and happy regular customers from Solomon and his staff (when he first asked me why he would often see me in the cafe on Saturdays and I told him I live in the nabe, he gave me a Turkish coffee on the house). And for food quality that is unwavering and dependably good. You will never get back to your office and find that your falafel is missing its, well, falafel.

Maybe things at Field’s Marketplace will improve when it’s (ahem) Macy’s Marketplace. I dunno. What I do know is that whenever I walk out of Field’s, I walk into Oasis. And whenever I walk out of Oasis, I walk out happier. And whenever I say to Devyn, “let’s get food from Oasis”, his eyes light up–and he lives closer than I do.

Someday, I’ll learn.

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