OK. For real this time – April love! This month I decided to highlight a few of my favorite places right near my workplace. Spots I can walk to from my office, grab some lunch or an early dinner or a few drinks after work, and walk back. I am lucky enough to work within walking distance of quite a few really great spots – one of the perks of working on the edge of a huge university campus. These five spots are literally all within view of one another. And there’s more I’m not even going to touch on! I hope some of you are as lucky as I am to have such lovely places to sit and enjoy a relaxed lunch.
First up is one of my faves – El Chilito. It’s the order-at-the-window little sibling of the bigger, fancier El Chile, which I also love and is just down the street. They both have similar styles of Mexican food – fresh and somewhat lighter fare than usual. I’m a sucker for guacamole and I also love thick, freshly made tortilla chips, which, at El Chilito, come in little paper bags stapled together at the top. The grease starts soaking through immediately, but eat those puppies up with some guac and you will not regret it! The salsa is dark and smoky with fire roasted tomatoes. Fish tacos are my favorite dish there, despite the fact that I was horrified by the idea when I first learned about them. If you’re not familiar with the humble fish taco – they sound pretty horrifying! But trust me – it’s like a little seafood party in your mouth. So, so delicious.
Just a few doors down lies the humble Mi Madre’s – also (clearly) a Mexican joint. Mi Madre’s is more traditionally Tex-Mex than El Chilito with some heavier, richer foods. I generally go for breakfast on a weekend and it’s great fun to watch all the hungover hipsters chow down on steamy breakfast tacos. They’ve got a lovely little patio that’s nice to relax on and munch some tortilla chips with salsa. The breakfast tacos are my favorite thing here – everything else looks delicious but also like it might send me into cardiac arrest with the amounts of meat and cheese and yummy, but unhealthy looking, sauces.
If you’re looking for something more upscale and a whole lot healthier, try Eastside Cafe. The restaurant sits on an acre lot – 1/3 of which is a kitchen garden that supplies the Eastside Cafe kitchens with fresh veggies and herbs. Take a stroll through while you wait for a table and check out the lettuces and broccoli. The menu always includes tons of veggies and fresh ingredients and I’ve never had a disappointing meal there. The offerings include sandwiches, salads, appetizers like baked brie with apple chutney, enchiladas and various specials. Best reserved for an after-work dinner or a leisurely lunch.
Though I’ve only actually been once, I always want to stop by Red House Pizzeria after a hard day at work. With half-price pizza from 5-7PM, how can you go wrong? The white pizza is a delicious concoction of cheese, garlic and olive oil and the other choices on the menu looks equally tempting. Plus, the atmosphere is great – you can sit inside in a more traditional restaurant setting, or hang out outdoors under the trees in small groupings of chairs, tables and benches.
Lastly, Clementine Coffee Bar. If you’re looking for a place to read for a bit and grab a light bite to eat and a cup of coffee, this place is right across the street from all the others. (Be aware – the parking lot is minuscule – your best bet is to park on the side street and walk around the corner.) I will admit that so far I’ve only had various coffee drinks, but they do have food…and some of it sounds delicious! Turkey cranberry panini anyone? (Spicy cranberry jelly, Havarti cheese, turkey, red onion, organic spring greens…yum.)
So next time you’re in town and want to meet me for lunch or after work, we’ll have to stop by one of these spots! Happy April everybody!