You can't get much accomplished when you're hungry. As Orson Welles (allegedly) put it: "Ask not what you can do for your country, ask what's for lunch." Yet, lunch is too often a rushed affair, jammed between a morning of settling into the workday and an afternoon of getting as much done as possible before it's time to go. And like a heart attack, lunch can happen anywhere: on a fast jog back to the office, under an awning in a rainstorm, at a nearby park, at your desk, in the lunchroom, or—here's a crazy idea—even at a restaurant. Until recently, for example, downtown's Union offered an amazing $20 lunchtime prix-fixe menu; while mourning its loss, you can grab great pasta salad at a Mediterranean deli in Pike Place Market, fantastic fish and chips at a shack on Alki Beach, or hot, delicious banh mi sandwiches in the International District for slightly more than what it costs to ride the bus. So now, instead of asking what you can do for lunch, with dozens of our favorites to choose from, ask what lunch can do for you. NEAL SCHINDLER Alki Crab and Fish You can have a dozen of the Northwest's finest oysters on your favorite fine- dining restaurant's finest silver plate, or you can have them on a warped, crushed-ice-covered plastic lunchroom tray and do just as well. When you're just dressing them with fresh lemon or a little Tabasco and tossing them back, it really doesn't matter how they're plated, and this little fish-and-chips shack on the beach proves that without even really trying. Alki Crab and Fish serves the sea's finest (and more) in a frill-free setting; the bathrooms are outside and an outpost in the back sells lures and bait—you can even renew your fishing license if that's what you need to do. But the anti-ambience works. Here, the lobster and crab are without bisque and Louis, and the fish and chips are just that: plain and simple. And very, very good. LAURA CASSIDY ALSO SERVES: dinner. 1660 Harbor Ave. S.W., 206-938-0975. WEST SEATTLE $ Athenian Inn This diner is a wonderful holdover of Old Seattle, though nowadays much of its clientele is the tourist lunch crowd attracted by its heart-of-the-Market location and Sleepless in Seattle fame. But there's more to the Athenian than the view and anachronistic menu items like Scotch eggs. Amid the conventional diner fare of burgers, dips, and all-day breakfasts are some treats. Daily specials include comfort food from the Philippines, like pansit (a kind of Filipino phad thai of noodles mixed with shrimp, chicken, and pork) and pork mechado, a stew of spicy meatball-sized cubes of pig meat over a bed of rice, onion, and green pepper. Although the seafood specials can sometimes be a bit pricey, I recently tried two that were both unexpectedly good and cheap. One was fresh smelt, lightly breaded, drizzled with butter, and served with Canadian bacon and grilled tomatoes. The other was a remarkable discovery: a made-to-order bowl of oyster chowder, a creamy concoction of celery, mushrooms, and obscenely plump and truly fresh oysters. Garnished with the Athenian's million-dollar view, there are few better ways to sample Puget Sound while in the belly of the tourist beast. KNUTE BERGER ALSO SERVES: breakfast and dinner. 1517 Pike Place Market, 206-624-7166. PIKE PLACE MARKET $ Baguette Box While it's a real shame that Baguette Box isn't open until 3 a.m. on the weekends anymore, they now serve thick, hand-cut French fries with truffle oil, so we're willing to call it even-steven. The little sister to Monsoon a few miles up the hill, Eric Banh's sandwich shop is no ordinary sandwich shop. Served on (some say overly) crusty baguettes, specialties include the drunken chicken, first a popular entrée at Monsoon, which puts deep-fried nuggets in a glossy, tangy/sweet sauce and makes chicken lovers want to fire General Tso. Also on offer is an exceptional and fairly traditional tofu banh mi, at the traditional banh mi price of just $2.95 (other sandwiches go for between five and 10 bucks). Don't miss the side dishes—well, at least not if braised pork tongue is your idea of a good time. LAURA CASSIDY ALSO SERVES: dinner. 1203 Pine St., 206- 332-0220. CAPITOL HILL $ Beecher's Handmade Cheese You will hear that West Seattle's West 5 makes a great macaroni and cheese. You'll also hear that the one served on Capitol Hill at the Deluxe is quite nice. These things aren't untrue. But if you hear someone say that any macaroni and cheese other than Beecher's is the best in town, you have to tell that person that they are just plain wrong. Beecher's isn't a restaurant per se, as you might infer from the substantial cheese-making operation going on inside the retail space. But you can still order from one of the ridiculously friendly (even to tourists) counter staff, grab a stool, and sit down. Made with a combo of Beecher's handmade jack and their signature Flagship cheese, this mac and cheese is obscene. A small cup of it isn't enough and a large is too much, but there are far worse problems to have. Just bring a friend and share. Bring someone you hate and form a truce. Bring the leftovers home and eat them in front of a dead television in your underwear. Just go to Beecher's and eat their macaroni and cheese. LAURA CASSIDY 1600 Pike Place, 206-956-1964. PIKE PLACE MARKET $ Bon Appétit Cafe at SAM One of my favorite meals during a recent trip to Berlin was taken in the sunny, stark white cafe of the Bauhaus Archiv Design Museum. The soup was nourishing and rich, and I imagine that the small, fastidiously assembled sandwiches would have pleased Mies van der Rohe. It feels fitting and important that great museums should feed people well, and that's why it was such good news to hear that Danielle Custer (of the late, great 727 Pine) was going to take over as general manager at SAM's cafe. With Executive chef Christopher Conville, Custer has created a terrific bistro inside a behemoth—but you don't have to pay to stare at sculptures in order to eat there. The menu changes monthly and always features a dish or two that nods to the current exhibit. Preferential treatment is given to local ingredients; at the time of this writing, an entrée of two mini lamb/beef burgers from Whidbey Island, a Northwest cheese plate, and Washington asparagus in a goat cheese and chorizo frittata are on offer. LAURA CASSIDY ALSO SERVES: dinner. 100 University St., 206-654-3245. DOWNTOWN $–$$ Cafe Paloma

Cafe Paloma's Sedat Uysal and staff offer magic carpets (OK, actually, a meze plate and panini with salad).

(Pete Kuhns) To borrow and tweak a saying that my dad used many times to assuage my teenaged broken heart, walking tours through Pioneer Square are like city buses (and boyfriends); another one comes along every 10 minutes. Sitting in the window or on the outside patio at the Mediterranean-themed Cafe Paloma on a warm afternoon, however, it's easy to transcend the hordes of drearily sensible sneakers and fanny packs marching past you. The salads make swift magic carpets, particularly if you opt for the one titled for its Gorgonzola. Topped with sweet, sticky pomegranate molasses, it's light enough to stave off prohibited post-lunch cubicle napping but still substantial enough to keep you away from the reception desk candy bowl. Panini sandwiches, made on fragrant focaccia bread from La Panzanella, are a cut above others in town, and the meze plates are the specialty of chef/owner Sedat Uysal, so if all it takes is a tangy tabbouleh salad to get you through the day, you're in great hands. LAURA CASSIDY ALSO SERVES: dinner. 93 Yesler Way, 206- 405-1920. PIONEER SQUARE $-$$ Flying Fish

This year, Flying Fish's Chris Keff celebrates 10 years of giant spoons, swiftly moving crews, and wonderful food.

(Pete Kuhns) During lunch at Flying Fish's Dungeness crab promotion this past February, I had a couple of portly crab cakes on top of mashed satsuma potatoes, and it very nearly made me crazy. Satsuma potatoes? Who knew of these lightly sweet and vaguely fruity things? Why was I just then catching wind of them? (This is all to say nothing of the crab cakes, mind you, which were luscious and winning.) And herein lies the staying power of this seminal restaurant: Ten years into their game, the chefs at Flying Fish—led by the estimable Chris Keff—continue to seek out exciting ingredients to use with time-tested Northwest favorites. Dedicated to seasonal sea specialties, Flying Fish is calculable enough to keep the crowds swarming in at dinner (hence, our suggestion to make a lunch visit) and capricious enough to keep our interests piqued. LAURA CASSIDY ALSO SERVES: dinner. 2234 First Ave., 206- 728-8595. BELLTOWN $$ Fu Lin Contrary to popular belief, ramen noodles are not restricted to 10-in- a-bundle lots and sold just one aisle over from motor oil in horribly lit national drugstore chains. Ramen noodles are also found at Fu Ling in huge-as-your-head bowls dense with floating salmon, squid, mussels, and bay scallops. This bright, cheery International District noodle shop offers a zillion varieties of noodles—ramen or otherwise, spiked and accented with stuff like miso, soy sauce, swimming slices of green onion, and, if you choose, a spoonful of the black bean and shredded pork "condiment" that sits in a plastic jam dish on each table. Oh, and if the specials board offers crispy lotus cakes, get an order and have them for dessert. The almondy sweet root is pureed and stuffed into little pastry pockets, and the result is very special indeed. LAURA CASSIDY ALSO SERVES: dinner. 512 S. King St., 206-749-0678. CHINATOWN/INTERNATIONAL DISTRICT $ Hing Loon The American Medical Association should give these people some sort of certificate. Their hot pots have the power to plumb nasal passages, eradicate the presence of illness, and send you back into the world with renewed vim and vigor. Next time you're feeling not quite right, skip the Sudafed and order the satay shrimp curry hot pot. And if you're feeling fine? Order off the wall. At Hing Loon, that doesn't mean asking for something outlandish, it means scanning the room's handwritten signs for a special dish (red stars denote spiciness) that, for some reason, didn't make it onto the immense menu. Best of all: excellent tableside manners. The smiling ladies running the cafeterialike dining room are friendly and helpful. Be friendly back and you might get an extra sweet sesame ball when the bill comes. LAURA CASSIDY ALSO SERVES: dinner. 628 S. Weller St., 206-682-2828. CHINATOWN/INTERNATIONAL DISTRICT $-$$ Kosher Delight Is this dairy-free Pike Place deli truly kosher? It depends whom you ask. Though Kosher Delight isn't under the supervision of the Va'ad HaRabanim of Greater Seattle, the rabbinic organization that maintains the kosher standard locally, Moroccan-born owner Michel Chriqui insists that he runs a kosher outfit. Recently, he bought a neon sign that says "kosher" in English and Hebrew to hammer home the point. If you're Orthodox, you probably don't frequent the place; if you're not, it's well worth a lunchtime visit. The egg salad, which Chriqui makes to order, is simple but sublime; a sandwich of first-rate lox and nondairy cream cheese with capers and red onions on a bagel feels like salvation in a downtown otherwise devoid of Jewish fare. Beef salami, pastrami, corned beef, tuna salad, and falafel round out the sandwich menu, and there's always matzo-ball soup and Chriqui behind the counter, greeting regulars and bustling around the tiny kitchen. NEAL SCHINDLER 1509 First Ave., 206-682-8140. PIKE PLACE MARKET $ Kwanjai Thai Every neighborhood in Seattle's got a distinct culinary vibe; in Fremont, it's all about Thai. Spend a lot of time there and you'll learn to appreciate a superior spot when you taste its offerings. For lunch, Kwanjai Thai's got the edge. The menu is simple: three curries, a handful of phad dishes, and classics like swimming rama or sweet-and-sour meat and veggies. But the flavors are far from average. Everything's a bit sharper than the typical Thai fare; spice preferences are respected and tangible, if that's what you desire. It's vegetarian-friendly, too. Outdoor seating during sunnier months is ideal for pretty-people watching. In the meantime, the kitschy, bustling atmosphere within provides a welcome breather from the increasingly posh neighborhood. EMILY PAGE ALSO SERVES: dinner. 469 N. 36th St. 206-632-3656. FREMONT $ Market Grill With the Athenian Inn of Sleepless in Seattle fame—a popular tourist destination—right across the way, you'd think this little lunch counter would be struggling just to survive. The reason it's thriving is twofold: The Grill, too, has tasted fame (a chalkboard lists its multiple NPR and New York Times mentions), and the food actually merits such recognition. The menu is simple: You can get halibut, salmon, or prawns, all from City Fish, in a sandwich with grilled onions and rosemary mayo or on a platter with rice or salad. (Chicken is also available, but c'mon.) If you're especially hungry, start your meal with a cup of dilly clam chowder, somehow both creamy and light, with just the right amounts of potato and salt. This is a great place to have lunch when you're having an off day at work. Good food in frill- (and relatively tourist-) free surroundings: a guaranteed pick-me-up. NEAL SCHINDLER 1509 Pike Place, No. 3, 206-682-2654. PIKE PLACE MARKET $ Matt's in the Market

It really doesn't get any better than this: Matt Janke and the gang at his Market cafe.

(Pete Kuhns) It's difficult—no, impossible—to imagine a time when Matt's won't be a favorite. With just a handful of tables, some seats at the counter, two burners, and one busy broiler oven, Matt Janke and his ever-friendly crew produce the most dependably delicious dishes in town—sourced mainly from the Market below them. The "honkin' hot" albacore tuna sandwich, crusted with wasabi and slathered with sharp, tangy mustard pickle relish, is a perpetual favorite, but recently a tremendous eggplant grinder (co-starring Beecher's Flagship cheese) showed up on the always- slightly-tweaked menu and usurped it. That's how it is at Matt's; just when you think it couldn't get any better, it does. There are very few places that I want to bother with a reservation for lunchtime, but then there are very few places like Matt's. LAURA CASSIDY ALSO SERVES: dinner. 94 Pike St., 22, 206- 467-7909. PIKE PLACE MARKET $–$$ Mccormick & Schmick's I spend most lunch hours at McCormick & Schmick's, which, beyond being a short hop from Seattle Weekly world HQ, has many virtues. I recently dined there with a columnist for a competing newspaper who bellowed that he loved the chophouse atmosphere because he could talk loudly and still not be overheard. Perhaps that's one reason the place also seems to be a regular stop for local media types and politicos. (Is that Slade Gorton in that booth? Joel Connelly? Phil Talmadge?) Another virtue is the food. The menu offers a veneer of daily change (bargain blue-plate specials, fresh fish) over a structure of solid standards (chowder, a tasty Parmesan-crusted filet of sole smothered in butter and capers, the Tillamook cheeseburger, a seafood Cobb). Eating at the same place nearly every day, you get to know something about consistency, and McCormick & Schmick's is consistently good, day in, day out. And that keeps me coming back. Mossbacks, after all, don't much like change. KNUTE BERGER ALSO SERVES: dinner. 1103 First Ave., 206- 623-5500. DOWNTOWN $–$$ Michou One of my favorite things to do in Seattle on early summer afternoons: pick up some pasta salad from Michou in the Market and stroll down to Victor Steinbrueck Park, where I put my sweater down as a blanket and have myself a picnic. This humble Italian takeout shop, its deli case packed with deep-dish pizzas, lively salads, marinated vegetables, and hearty ciabatta sandwiches, is temptingly close to the tiny park that overlooks the ferry traffic on the bay. (When you look back, the buildings rise up behind you like an army of giants.) The pasta salads are killer; my favorite is orecchiette con piselli, a tangy concoction of ear-shaped pasta, sweet peas, red onions, cheese, and red bell peppers. Just add sea breeze, sun, and a magazine, and you're good to go. NEAL SCHINDLER ALSO SERVES: breakfast. 1904 Pike Place., 206-448-1047. PIKE PLACE MARKET $ PASEO This cramped little Caribbean eatery located north of Fremont's core is known for serving up astounding pork sandwiches dripping with sautéed onions and zesty seasoned mayonnaise and cilantro. The room may not be spacious (there are just a few small tables barely squeezed in and a smaller counter to belly up to), but the die-hard lunch crowd that frequents the place is willing to risk illegal parking and claustrophobia for the tangy Caribbean flavor that infiltrates every morsel of rice that's dished up. Take your marinated jerked chicken, prawn, or pork sandwich on the go if the counter feels too packed, and don't forget to partake in the sides. Juicy, seasoned corn on the cob or freshly made rice and beans give that additional kick to a lunch that stands out in a world of shrink-wrapped sandwiches. HEATHER LOGUE ALSO SERVES: dinner. 4225 Fremont Ave. N., 206-545-7440. FREMONT $ PIG IRON BAR-B-Q When a pair of ex–Austin, Texas, residents of your acquaintance recommend a barbecue joint, you go without question— particularly when the recommenders used to work at a great barbecue place in a city renowned for its open-fire grills. So it'd be hard to disagree about this fabulous Georgetown joint on the bona fides alone, and any minor doubts are laid flat by the food itself. Shunning the dinner crowd, Pig Iron Bar-B-Q is a lunch place exclusively, with a menu heavy on sandwiches (the beef brisket is everything you want it to be, in a bun that's soft enough to absorb everything and thick enough not to break), as well as platters (the combo with turkey, ribs, and sausage is the way to go here) that split the difference between lunchtime prudence and traditional barbecue heft. MICHAELANGELO MATOS 5602 First Ave. S., 206-768-1009. GEORGETOWN $ Ray's Boathouse On a warm spring or summer day, there are few things better than having lunch on the deck at Ray's. On chilly fall or early winter days? Just ask for a blanket. Thai mussels are a great starter on those colder days, and Ray's house-smoked alder salmon is wonderful year-round. Sandwiches and salads are always generous and well prepared, but the soups and larger entrées are where it's at. Cioppino is excellent, the clam chowder might be the best in town, and the Chatham Strait sable, cooked in sake, is almost too special to have at lunch. Almost. There's certainly nothing wrong with dining downstairs at dinner, but the cafe is great for lingering at lunch, as is the food and the fresh salty air. LAURA CASSIDY ALSO SERVES: dinner. 6049 Seaview Ave. N.W., 206-782-0094. BALLARD $–$$ Rover's Just inside the door at Rover's, the absolute stillness announces that you are to take the experience quite seriously. When the poker-faced waiters arrive at your table, you'll be glad that the ambience predicted their mood (where do these guys moonlight? Buckingham Palace?), and by the time the first plate is set before you, you'll be properly acclimated and ready to do the contemplative work you came here to do. Friday lunch at Rover's—the only day the midday meal is served—is an opportunity to slow down and appreciate the fine things on offer here, and the bill doesn't get away from you the way it can at dinner. One warning, however: After the $35 three-course lunch (concluding with chocolate hazelnut opera cake), you probably won't feel like going back to the office. LAURA CASSIDY ALSO SERVES: dinner. 2808 E. Madison Ave., 206-325-7442. MADISON PARK $$-$$$ Roxy's Deli There's no lack of people in Seattle who say you can't get good New York deli food in Seattle. A good place to meet these people is on line at Roxy's, waiting for their delectable lox bagel, pastrami on rye, or oozing, dripping, mooshing Reuben. I, personally, have never much favored corned-beef sandwiches so thick you have to nail 'em together with a skewer and eat 'em with a knife and fork; Roxy's version suits me to a T, as does the modest chunk of kosher dill accompanying it. Most traditional deli delights are to be had here, to eat in or, more often, take out. The place could be more cozily accommodating, but the staff do the best they can with the space they have. ROGER DOWNEY Also serves: breakfast and dinner. 462 N. 36th St., 206-632-3963. FREMONT $ Saigon Gourmet How does this place stay in business? You couldn't make these luscious sandwiches at home for $2, yet that's all they charge for them at this treasured Chinatown/International District banh mi shop. Though the Vietnamese menu includes shrimp salad rolls, assorted dumplings, lemongrass chicken, and many other dishes, the two-buck sandwiches are the way to go. You'd be here every day for lunch if you lived in the neighborhood. First-timers: Bypass the shredded chicken, barbecued pork, and steamed beef with ham pâté. Proceed directly to the combo of nourishing tofu, fried egg still hot from the pan, and tangy marinated cucumbers and carrots stuffed into a baguette reddened with chili-based sriracha sauce. Amazing: a satisfying, delicious, balanced meal for a third of what you'd pay at any fast-track downtown spot. NEAL SCHINDLER 502 S. King St., 206-624-2611. CHINATOWN/ INTERNATIONAL DISTRICT $ Salumi When Salumi's salamis started showing up on menus all over town, I thought for a minute that lunch at the tiny East Coast–esque home base would never be the same. Nonsense. Sure, you can have Armandino Batali's charcuterie on just about any antipasti plate in Belltown, and for a while it was even available on Pagliacci's pizzas, but there's just nothing like the real thing, baby. Thankfully, people are still showing up in droves and forming a line out the door, all for the pleasure of crowding in around the communal table and trading elbow room for artisan meatball sandwiches and lovely, old-world Italian soups and side dishes. I don't know that everyone necessarily loves the density of that lunchroom, but I do; I love that reserved Seattleites are forced to get cozy with their neighbors for at least half an hour or so, and I love that it's handmade, craftsman fare that makes them do it. LAURA CASSIDY ALSO SERVES: dinner. 309 Third Ave. S., 206-621-8772. PIONEER SQUARE $ Smarty Pants Not too long ago, it was really hard to find a good sandwich in this town. I bet Tim Ptak came up with the idea for this Georgetown hangout then, during the sandwich drought of the late '90s. I don't know, though. That's just a guess. I do know that his primary mission was to serve food—good food—past 8 p.m.; doing that in the artiest, least populated, and most alienated hood in town only makes his mission more noble. While I'm willing to give Ptak his propers for following through on that late-night mission, I'm old-fashioned in some ways, and I like Smarty Pants at lunchtime. The Lil' Brat, Ptak's Reuben, is fantastic—and even less of a guilty pleasure when made with vegetarian Field Roast, another G'town specialty. The Gringa (pulled pork that's been infused with lime) is another favorite and the house-made salsa is wonderful. LAURA CASSIDY ALSO SERVES: dinner. 6017 Airport Way, 206-762-4777. GEORGETOWN $ Spanish Table As a kid, I was never big on candy stores. Luckily, this Spanish food shop and deli lets me make up for lost time. What's the salad today? (Saffron rice with caperberries and red bell peppers is a favorite of mine.) Is there gazpacho yet? (It's seasonal.) How about now? Will the bocadillo de tortilla (potato-omelet sandwich) taste as good as it did five years ago at a little corner cafe in Madrid? Besides otherworldly soups, sandwiches, and salads, the Spanish Table sells membrillo (quince paste), saffron, queso manchego (Spain's signature hard cheese), and other staples of the Iberian kitchen, so beware: Lunch trips can often result in a pound of cheese accompanying you back to the office. NEAL SCHINDLER 1427 Western Ave., 206-682-2827. DOWNTOWN $ Sunlight Cafe Because we're celebrating such wonderful things here, I won't go into the sad circumstances that first brought my family and me to the Sunlight Cafe in Roosevelt, but suffice it to say that the good will and great food cheered us up when it seemed like nothing could. The waitstaff and cooks aren't just working here, they seem to be working toward something, and I'd say it's community—in the Berkeley food revolution sense of the word. The vegetarian menu means mindfulness is a top priority, and you feel like every last pair of hands in the place is taking its responsibilities seriously. It feels good to be here, and with a steaming bowl of curried split pea soup and a hearty nut burger in front of you, it feels good to eat here, too. LAURA CASSIDY ALSO SERVES: breakfast and dinner. 6403 Roosevelt Way N.E., 206-522-9060. ROOSEVELT $ Vios Cafe and Marketplace I knew this Greek restaurant–cum– European market would be a hit when it opened a year ago. You walk in and the space, arrayed with long communal tables and a children's play area, simply teems with good cooking and the smells that go with it—garlic, olive oil, grilling meats. At lunch, there are pulled pork sandwiches with green apple and apricot chutney, an amazing lamb burger, and luscious, fatty seared tuna belly on a crusty baguette. The salads at Vios are blessed with terrifically fresh ingredients and loads of vinegar and fruity olive oil. But really the thing that makes Vios such a hit is that owner Thomas Soukakos lavishes so much attention on customers— and especially their children—that you feel like you just walked into your own home, except the food is better. Vios also has an excellent deli and a great selection of Mediterranean grocery items, charcuterie, and wine. And then there's dinner, but that's for another time. PHILIP DAWDY ALSO SERVES: breakfast and dinner. 903 19th Ave. E., 206-329-3236. CAPITOL HILL $ Zagi's Pizza Ristorante It really should be easier to get your hands on good by-the-slice pizza around here, and while the immense size of Zagi's super slices doesn't necessarily make it altogether easy (unless your hands are immense, too), you have to love them for selling pizza one slice at a time way up north. Those on foot—and especially former New Yorkers—will appreciate the way these slices can be folded in half and consumed while multitasking. It's no surprise that co-owners Ryon Weber and Steven Stehlik know a thing or two about mobility; their whole operation used to be ambulatory. Ballardites must love that they've settled Sliceland up there. Oh sure, you can get whole pies—and subs, calzones, pastas, salads, and soups, too, but since Seattle is relatively short on on-the-go options, you'll want to make a mental note of this relatively new and really excellent outlier. LAURA CASSIDY ALSO SERVES: dinner. 2408 N.W. 80th St., 206-706-0750. BALLARD $

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