Our Story

Doing Seafood Better Since 2014

It shouldn’t take a Saturday night reservation or a small fortune to have a delicious seafood meal. But as founder Donna Lee searched for a restaurant offering healthy, quick and affordable seafood in Chicago, she soon realized one simply didn’t exist. So, she built her own. The first Brown Bag Seafood Co. opened at Millennium Park in 2014.

Since then, we’ve stayed committed to that initial vision: providing our guests with quality seafood in an approachable, counter-service format. From our classic Salmon Powerbox to our Crispy Cod Tacos (and everything in between!), we use fresh, sustainably sourced seafood, flown in from around the world every day. Whether you prefer to relax on the patio with a house-made cocktail or grab a healthy meal to go between meetings, you can always count on us. 

And we’re not planning to slow down anytime soon. As long as there are people who - like Donna, six years ago - are lacking a casual seafood joint in their lives, we’ll be looking to introduce ourselves. Always with our amazing food, and always with our blue bandanas and a smile.

Our Mission

Delicious. Friendly. Responsible.

Delicious. Every bite should delight you - and that takes a lot of care and effort. It takes premium ingredients and fresh seafood flown in daily. It takes veggies, soups and sauces made from scratch in every restaurant, every morning. It takes creative, rotating menu items developed by our own passionate crew members. But for all it takes, it gives much more - an unforgettable experience for our guests. 

Friendly. It’s not enough to serve great food. We strive to leave our guests happier than when they came in. We want to know your name and your go-to order, sure, but also your interests and weekend plans. We want you to feel at home in our restaurants, whether you're popping in for a minute to pick up an online order or bringing the whole family for dinner. It's why we've ditched the traditional white tablecloths and black ties of the seafood experience for blue bandanas and brown t-shirts, traded leather-bound menus for DIY menu cards and scrapped scripted wait staff for our genuine, personable crew. If we're doing our jobs right, we're not only making great food, but making great friends as well. 

Responsible. Just as we strive to leave our guests happier than they were when they came in, the same is true of how we aim to treat the environment around us. That’s why we only source seafood approved by the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch, and do our part to prevent species from becoming underpopulated and harmful fishing practices from being employed. It’s also why we rely on wind energy to power our restaurants, create menu items that help achieve near-zero food waste, invest in energy-efficient kitchen equipment and use fully biodegradable packaging products (as minimally as possible). Of course, there’s a cost to being responsible. It’s one we’re more than happy to bear. 

Our Team

  • Donna Lee
    Founder & CEO

    When did you join the Brown Bag team?

    About May 2011 - 3 years before we opened for business!

    What's your favorite meal at Brown Bag?

    Salmon Veggiebox, with a little bit of tartar sauce in the corner.

    What's your favorite part of your job?

    Creating new things and watching them come to life. Optimizing what we already do. Hanging out and collaborating with a bunch of hilarious, quirky and committed people.

    Quick Hits: Hometown? | Guilty Pleasure? | Dinner Party Guests?

    Evanston, IL | Eating in the bath. | My mentor, my bestie, my bro.

  • Zach Flanzman
    President & COO

    When did you join the Brown Bag team?

    January 2017.

    What's your favorite meal at Brown Bag?

    Salmon Greens and Grains with garlic bread.

    What's your favorite part of your job?

    Debating tough questions, thinking about the future, and seeing results in action. With a quick break to work Expo during lunch. 

    Quick Hits: Hometown? | Guilty Pleasure? | Dinner Party Guests?

    Scotch Plains, NJ | Chili's Bottomless Chips & Salsa | Andy Samberg, Alexander Hamilton, Landon Donovan.

  • Chrissie Ingolia
    Director of Operations

    When did you join the Brown Bag team?

    June 2016.

    What's your favorite meal at Brown Bag?

    Curry Fish Cakes Greens & Grains (gotta have the creamy ginger!).

    What's your favorite part of your job?

    Optimizing our guests' experience and participating in the collaboration as I watch other ideas come to life. Watching a crew member learning something new and seeing their pure joy and excitement is pretty cool too!

    Quick Hits: Hometown? | Guilty Pleasure? | Dinner Party Guests?

    Davenport, IA | Pasta, a glass of red wine, and a rom com. | Derek Jeter, Anthony Bourdain, Joanna Gaines.

  • Jess Dietrich
    Director of Talent

    When did you join the Brown Bag team?

    May 2020.

    What's your favorite meal at Brown Bag?

    Salmon Greens & Grains with Lime-Cilantro Slaw.

    What's your favorite part of your job?

    The people and the culture, definitely. It’s incredible to see individuals grow within the organization and how everyone works well together.

    Quick Hits: Hometown? | Guilty Pleasure? | Dinner Party Guests?

    Mount Prospect, IL | Watching 90 Day Fiancé on TLC | Michael Jordan, Freddy Mercury, Ryan Reynolds & Kathleen Zellner.

  • Kath Cole
    Area Manager, Chicago

    When did you join the Brown Bag team?

    March 2019.

    What's your favorite meal at Brown Bag?

    Salmon Greens & Grains.

    What's your favorite part of your job?

    The incredible teamwork, support from leadership, and all the small, but important details that make it fun! 

    Quick Hits: Hometown? | Guilty Pleasure? | Dinner Party Guests?

    Allegan, MI | Coffee | My amazing dad, John Cole.

  • Ana Mendiola
    Area Manager, Chicago

    When did you join the Brown Bag team?

    July 2021.

    What's your favorite meal at Brown Bag?

    Grilled Shrimp Veggiebox with Lime-Cilantro Slaw.

    What's your favorite part of your job?

    Making meals side by side with my favorite people. 

    Quick Hits: Hometown? | Guilty Pleasure? | Dinner Party Guests?

    Chicago, IL | The Texas Flower from Texas Corral. | Selena Gomez, Michelle Obama, my kiddies (and since my kids will be there, we can add Spiderman!).

  • Jheanelle White
    Area Manager, Atlanta

    When did you join the Brown Bag team?

    August 2019.

    What's your favorite meal at Brown Bag?

    Panko Chicken on a New England roll with LA Tang Slaw and Boss Sauce. Boom!

    What's your favorite part of your job?

    The comfortable work atmosphere; everyone can be themselves while working towards our overall goal as a company. 

    Quick Hits: Hometown? | Guilty Pleasure? | Dinner Party Guests?

    Portmore, Jamaica | Binging TV shows. | Bob Marley, Lauryn Hill, and my aunt (RIP Auntie Kayon).

  • Stephen Troost
    General Manager, Lakeshore East

    When did you join the Brown Bag team?

    June 2021.

    What's your favorite meal at Brown Bag?

    Panko Chicken Sando.

    What's your favorite part of your job?

    Building and cross-training a great team to keep our guests coming! 

    Quick Hits: Hometown? | Guilty Pleasure? | Dinner Party Guests?

    Villa Park, IL | Chocolate Milk. I can drink a gallon a day if I wanted to. | Rivers Cuomo, Warren Zevon, and Dave Grohl.

  • Billi Suttles
    General Manager, Roscoe Village

    When did you join the Brown Bag team?

    March 2020.

    What's your favorite meal at Brown Bag?

    Salmon Veggiebox.

    What's your favorite part of your job?

    Seeing first-timers enjoy their food! 

    Quick Hits: Hometown? | Guilty Pleasure? | Dinner Party Guests?

    St. Louis, MO (Go Cards!) | Food. Always good food. | My son and my twin daughters.

  • Paige Escamilla
    General Manager, River North

    When did you join the Brown Bag team?

    December 2021.

    What's your favorite meal at Brown Bag?

    Salmon Greens & Grains and the Lobster Roll are tied for faves!

    What's your favorite part of your job?

    The camaraderie. On my first day, everyone already felt like family.

    Quick Hits: Hometown? | Guilty Pleasure? | Dinner Party Guests?

    Chicago, IL | True crime documentaries and Swedish Fish. | AOC & JFK.

  • Franklin Piazza
    General Manager, Riverside

    When did you join the Brown Bag team?

    June 2015.

    What's your favorite meal at Brown Bag?

    Crispy Shrimp Tacos.

    What's your favorite part of your job?

    How eager everyone is to teach others and pass on knowledge about cooking and recipes.

    Quick Hits: Hometown? | Guilty Pleasure? | Dinner Party Guests?

    Chicago, IL | Playing video games. | Banksy, Kurt Vonnegut, Anthony Bourdain.

  • Shawanda Alexander
    General Manager, Willis Tower

    When did you join the Brown Bag team?

    April 2018.

    What's your favorite meal at Brown Bag?

    Mahi-Mahi Sandwich.

    What's your favorite part of your job?

    My team. 

    Quick Hits: Hometown? | Guilty Pleasure? | Dinner Party Guests?

    Chicago, IL | Strawberry ice cream | Ellen, The Obamas, P!nk.

  • Niko Ojeda
    General Manager, Lincoln Park

    When did you join the Brown Bag team?

    July 2021.

    What's your favorite meal at Brown Bag?

    Salmon Tacos!

    What's your favorite part of your job?

    I love working with my team and recommending my favorite dish! 

    Quick Hits: Hometown? | Guilty Pleasure? | Dinner Party Guests?

    Chicago, IL | Anything Snickers candy related or Steak Tacos from Zacatacos. | Justin Fields, the late Bernie Mac, Khalil Mack.

  • Donesha Fox
    General Manager

    When did you join the Brown Bag team?

    June 2017.

    What's your favorite meal at Brown Bag?

    Our Seasonal Spicy Shrimp Gumbo from winter 2018!

    What's your favorite part of your job?

    The interactions with the guests and the team! We get to be up close and personal with guests and also build a bond that brings us close as a team. I love it!

    Quick Hits: Hometown? | Guilty Pleasure? | Dinner Party Guests?

    Chicago, IL | Singing my heart out while driving! | Martin Luther King, Bob Marley, Tupac Shakur (3 different ways to master peace!).

  • Irma Rubio
    General Manager, Hayden

    When did you join the Brown Bag team?

    August 2014.

    What's your favorite meal at Brown Bag?

    Crispy Fish Tacos & Clam Chowdah.

    What's your favorite part of your job?

    Creating new menu items and perfecting recipes.

    Quick Hits: Hometown? | Spirit Animal? | Dinner Party Guests?

    Chicago, IL | Husky | Logic, Tim Burton, and God himself.

     

  • Tori Artis
    General Manager, Colony Square

    When did you join the Brown Bag team?

    November 2020.

    What's your favorite meal at Brown Bag?

    Curry Fish Cakes Greens & Grains.

    What's your favorite part of your job?

    My staff and connecting with guests!. 

    Quick Hits: Hometown? | Spirit Animal? | Dinner Party Guests?

    Denver, CO | Horse | Prince, Maya Angelou, Martha Stewart and Laura Spelman Rockefeller.

  • Imesha Wells
    General Manager, Colony Square

    When did you join the Brown Bag team?

    December 2021.

    What's your favorite meal at Brown Bag?

    I have two faves: Grilled Chicken Sando and the Spicy Vietnamese Power Plate.

    What's your favorite part of your job?

    Seeing people smile and thanking my team for their service.

    Quick Hits: Hometown? | Guilty Pleasure? | Dinner Party Guests?

    Tifton, GA | Eating an abundance of tacos, no matter what kind as long as they're good. | Bozoma Saint John, Abraham Hicks, Alexis Ohanian, Serena Williams and Brene Brown.

  • Johnny Ramirez
    #2, Randolph

    When did you join the Brown Bag team?

    July 2021.

    What's your favorite meal at Brown Bag?

    Lake Superior Whitefish Greens & Grains with a little extra lemon vinaigrette and a side of Spicy Cauliflower!

    What's your favorite part of your job?

    Lots to choose from. Having a good and supportive team and having fun while we put smiles on our guests' faces by the time they walk out of the restaurant!

    Quick Hits: Hometown? | Spirit Animal? | Dinner Party Guests?

    Warsaw, IN | A bird, any bird! | Jennifer Lopez, Tiffany Haddish, Alyssa Edwards and my best friends!

  • Jose Sanchez
    #2, Roscoe Village

    When did you join the Brown Bag team?

    October 2021.

    What's your favorite meal at Brown Bag?

    Grilled Chicken Veggiebox.

    What's your favorite part of your job?

    The staff and the enviroment!

    Quick Hits: Hometown? | Spirit Animal? | Dinner Party Guests?

    Providence, RI | Panther | My son.

  • Alexis Atterberry
    #2, River North

    When did you join the Brown Bag team?

    August 2019.

    What's your favorite meal at Brown Bag?

    Grilled Shrimp Salad.

    What's your favorite part of your job?

    Creating a strong bond with my team so our time in the restaurant is nothing but smooth sailing!

    Quick Hits: Hometown? | Guilty Pleasure? | Dinner Party Guests?

    Genoa, IL | Needing sauce for everything I eat! | Alicia Keys, Angela Davis, Aristotle.

  • Adriana Wright
    #2, Lincoln Park

    When did you join the Brown Bag team?

    January 2020.

    What's your favorite meal at Brown Bag?

    Grilled Chicken Veggiebox.

    What's your favorite part of your job?

    Finding out new things and continuing to grow with the company!

    Quick Hits: Hometown? | Spirit Animal? | Dinner Party Guests?

    Chicago, IL | Turtle | Me and the food on the table.

  • Dion Webb
    #2, Colony Square

    When did you join the Brown Bag team?

    September 2019.

    What's your favorite meal at Brown Bag?

    Because I'm a little extra...a Grilled Chicken sando using the lobster roll bun with sauteed pickled red onions and chipotle-tartar.

    What's your favorite part of your job?

    Interacting with our guests! We have so many interesting people come through our doors and I love hearing how much they love our food...not to mention I can get a quick dance move out! 

    Quick Hits: Hometown? | Spirit Animal? | Dinner Party Guests?

    Chicago, IL | Koala | Lil Uzi Vert, Seth Rogen, Monkey D. Luffy.

  • Rose Norberg
    #2, Colony Square

    When did you join the Brown Bag team?

    September 2020.

    What's your favorite meal at Brown Bag?

    Lobster Roll.

    What's your favorite part of your job?

    Howe we all work together to get things done! 

    Quick Hits: Hometown? | Spirit Animal? | Dinner Party Guests?

    Elkhart, IN | Lion | My daughter.

  • Alana Gooden
    #2, Westside Provisions

    When did you join the Brown Bag team?

    January 2022.

    What's your favorite meal at Brown Bag?

    Grilled Shrimp Tacos.

    What's your favorite part of your job?

    The peak period. I love to see the team pull together to provide top notch service while serving our guests top tier product. Everything flows like a well oiled machine!

    Quick Hits: Hometown? | Guilty Pleasure? | Dinner Party Guests?

    Philadelphia, PA | I still watch cartoons from time to time. | The people I'm closest to.