Living in downtown Chicago means relying heavily on your good friend, the CTA, to get you everywhere in a somewhat timely manner. While the views can be incredible, taking public transport multiple times a day also introduces you to the #PeopleOfTheCTA and unfortunately, the use of the train car as a dining car. The smell of the L is real, everyone.

To prepare you for this probable event, we’ve compiled a list of five foods you WILL encounter on the L during your time in Chicago.

1. A Breakfast Sandwich from Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonalds, or 7-11


Photo by Emma Nosseir

While this isn’t the absolute option to come across, eventually the smell of cheap sausage patty that slightly smells like a jock-strap and the plastic-y perfume of “cheese” coats everything in its vicinity. As you watch the business man with a bald patch on his head scarf one or two of these down and only get minimal egg bits on his blazer, you’re entirely grossed out, yet somehow feeling hunger pangs at the same time. Got to give a hand to Dunkin Donuts for making those egg and bagel sandwiches look so darn tempting.

2. Pad Thai or Some Other Really Spicy Asian Noodle

GIF courtesy of

That acidic, lime-infused smell of traditional Asian cuisine is hard to miss when you’re in a packed train car that often delays on the tracks for multiple minutes at a time. Whoever thinks it’s ok to bring an entire plastic container of last night’s leftovers – or better yet, a fresh, steaming carton – is seriously deranged. The skater dude is there though, sitting in one of the single seats with his legs wide open and Eminem blasting from his headphones, scarfing down forkfuls of noodles dripping in hot sauce and chicken. Put your shirt over your nose, breathe shallowly, you’ll be ok.

3. A Brown Carton Full of Something from the Whole Foods Hot Bar


Photo courtesy of That Other Paper on Flickr

The Whole Foods that replaced Dominick’s on Fullerton Ave (RIP Dominick’s, we miss you) is in the heart of DePaul’s campus and is also right under the L, making it a blessing and a curse at the same time. While it’s a fantastic place to get a salad after hitting the Ray or stealing granola from the create-your-own-mix bar, it’s also the hot-spot (literally) for students to create strange mixes of food from the hot bar that ranges from mashed potatoes and pork to Indian curry dishes.

Leave it to a freshman to get on the L with a full brown box (we all know the one) packed with rice, half a chicken, and an odd array of veggies coated in a buttery dressing to make your hair still smell like Thanksgiving even after being off the train for fifteen minutes. Kudos to them for trying to be healthy.

4. A Fitness Smoothie or Green Juice Drinker


Photo by Christin Urso

Whole Foods isn’t the only stop for healthy food and drink- with Protein Bar, Peeled Juice Bar, and others like it right off Lincoln Park and Lakeview L stops there will always be a fitness chick holding one of these blended meals haphazardly while checking Twitter or gossiping on the phone. The smoothie is always an odd green color with visible hunks of leafy green pressed on the sides, or is so full of protein powder that you wonder “How is any getting through the straw?”

The smoothie/juice owner is usually clad in Lululemon leggings, a windbreaker, has giant sunglasses on, and is leaning against the glass partition because they’re too fit to sit down. The entire ride you will wonder when she’s going to drop it, spill it, or throw it back up.

5. Chipotle or Blaze Pizza


Photo by Jennifer Cao

Two staple foods if you live in Chicago: Chipotle (forget the health scare, everyone still eats it) and Blaze Pizza. “The” Chipotle is located between two of DePaul’s buildings in the loop, and it is never empty, as even the ghosts of students past linger in there long after closing. After the day is over there’s always a rush to secure a burrito bowl and chips and guac because one deserves that after three marketing classes, and therefore any Brown or Red line heading back north houses multiple brown bags from Chipotle at all times.

A fun game to play on the L is “guess who ordered what based on their demeanor,” and should you have forgotten to get your afternoon burrito snack, Blaze Pizza is right off the Belmont stop. There is also always the person trying to surf the L while holding the flat orange and brown Blaze box, making the L smell like the inside of an oven and causing immediate hunger. These type of people are usually the most normal.


Photo by Molly Krohe