We were told there were delicious sandwiches to be had in the basement of the U.S. Steel Tower. All we had to do was find them.
Two colleagues and I stepped out on a perfect spring day and into the cavernous, utilitarian lobby of the tower, looking for signs. Nothing. We asked the security guard how to get downstairs, and he pointed to escalators sunk into the floor, hidden from plain view.
We went down one floor to discover a gym and little else. We then descended deeper into the bowels of the tower, getting hungrier and hungrier and no closer to the sandwiches. We rode an elevator back up to the concourse level, where it occurred to us to go through the doors to the "Triangle Concourse."
Before us was a wide gray hallway and an Au Bon Pain. We were starving, but we had to press on. Finally, we reached our destination: Craftwork Kitchen.
As we slowly approached the counter, a man wearing a sweatband around his head greeted us: "Are you first-timers?"
We affirmed. He joyfully honked a large horn.
Try getting that kind of welcome at Au Bon Pain.
The short menu of sandwiches and salads changes often, but menu updates are posted on Craftwork's Facebook page. We each opted for a sandwich, which for an extra $2 comes with a fountain drink and a side.
As if the horn wasn't enough evidence of the fun that happens at this place, the soda fountain label for iced tea is a photo of the rapper Ice-T, and the ice label was replaced by a photo of rapper Ice Cube.
I opted for the shrimp po' boy ($8.50), and although it's no longer soup weather, I couldn't resist the avgolemono soup -- a Greek soup with lemon, chicken and rice. My companions went for the Steak & Fry sandwich ($8.75) with french fries and the Porko-Rican -- spicy roast pork -- with a side salad ($8.50).
Our orders were up fast, but while we were waiting, the staff encouraged us to solve a hangman puzzle sketched on a chalkboard on the right wall of the small space. With help and encouragement from the folks at Craftwork, we figured out the phrase: "Mondays are for jerks."
Mondays are for jerks, but our Monday was improved drastically by this merry band of sandwich slingers in the basement of an office tower.
We gathered our food and headed back outside -- Craftwork's small kitchen and counter seemed to be the only cheery place in the basement of the U.S. Steel Tower, so we figured we'd be better off if we found outdoor seating.
We settled on a ledge and pulled out our sandwiches. The steak was solid, but my po' boy was perfect -- spicy, crispy shrimp with pickles and tomatoes were drizzled with remoulade and tucked between two pieces of fresh bread. I loved my lunch, but the Porko-Rican stole the show -- the fiery, flavorful roasted pork is everything you ever imagined a sandwich filling could be.
Oh, and the avgolemono? I brought it back to the office and forgot about it. When I opened it up an hour later, it was room temperature but still just perfect -- lemony and creamy, almost dessert-like. If you're going to eat soup in the spring, this is the one.
In addition to its outpost in the U.S. Steel Tower, Craftwork operates a catering business based in the South Side, and owners Justin Janosko and Justin Rothman are planning to launch a street food-esque operation outside the U.S. Steel Tower later this spring.
Craftwork Kitchen is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays in the concourse level of the U.S. Steel Tower, 600 Grant St., Downtown; www.craftworkcatering.com.
Annie Siebert: email@example.com or 412-263-1613. Twitter: @AnnieSiebert.