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, four 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, deliver food via bicycle, 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? | Spirit Animal? | Dinner Party Guests?

    Evanston, IL | Squirrel | My mentor, my bestie, my bro.

  • Zach Flanzman
    Chief Strategy Officer

    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 at the cash register during lunch. 

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

    Scotch Plains, NJ | Dolphin | Andy Samberg, Alexander Hamilton, Landon Donovan.

  • Chrissie Artioli
    Area Manager

    When did you join the Brown Bag team?

    June 2016.

    What's your favorite meal at Brown Bag?

    Daily Catch Veggiebox.

    What's your favorite part of your job?

    Getting to travel to all of our locations and work with all team members. Each location is different and fun - best day is when I make it to all four!

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

    Davenport, IA | Panther | Derek Jeter, Anthony Bourdain, Joanna Gaines.

  • Melissa Powell
    Catering Sales Coordinator

    When did you join the Brown Bag team?

    July 2018.

    What's your favorite meal at Brown Bag?

    Salmon Salad with garlic bread.

    What's your favorite part of your job?

    Honestly, talking about Brown Bag! It surprises me when I meet someone who hasn't come by one of our locations! Our food is absolutely delicious, sustainable and delightfully tasty!

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

    Port Jarvis, NY | Butterfly | My sisters and my dad.

  • Kath Cole
    General Manager, Randolph

    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? | Spirit Animal? | Dinner Party Guests?

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

  • Fresh Coates
    General Manager, Revival

    When did you join the Brown Bag team?

    February 2015.

    What's your favorite meal at Brown Bag?

    Chowder Tots, Buffalo Shrimp Roll, and a few of my own inventions (like the Fried Potato Halibut Sandwich!)

    What's your favorite part of your job?

    Opportunity. When you have an opinion and voice it, it is listened to and action is taken!

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

    Detroit, MI | Turtle | Steve Jobs, Biggie Smalls, Tony Goldman, Michelangelo, Franklin Piazza.

  • Sarah Victor
    General Manager, Roscoe

    When did you join the Brown Bag team?

    October 2017.

    What's your favorite meal at Brown Bag?

    Crispy Cod Tacos

    What's your favorite part of your job?

    The staff!

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

    Lansing, IL | Sea Otter | Mom, Dad, Brother.

  • Shawanda Alexander
    General Manager, River North

    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? | Spirit Animal? | Dinner Party Guests?

    Chicago, IL | Wolf | Ellen, The Obamas, P!nk.

  • Dan Traynor
    General Manager, Riverside

    When did you join the Brown Bag team?

    January 2019.

    What's your favorite meal at Brown Bag?

    Salmon Tacos with ginger aioli.

    What's your favorite part of your job?

    Working with great people. 

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

    Chicago, IL | Elephant | Julia Childs, Michael Pollan, Jon Stewart.

  • Franklin Piazza
    #2, Roscoe

    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? | Spirit Animal? | Dinner Party Guests?

    Chicago, IL | Octopus | Banksy, Kurt Vonnegut, Anthony Bourdain.

  • Donesha Fox
    #2, Riverside

    When did you join the Brown Bag team?

    June 2017.

    What's your favorite meal at Brown Bag?

    Our Seasonal Spicy Shrimp Gumbo.

    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? | Spirit Animal? | Dinner Party Guests?

    Chicago, IL | Swan (sweet and delicate, but overprotective) | Martin Luther King, Bob Marley, Tupac Shakur (3 different ways to master peace!).