November 16, 2014

Four Ideas for a Quick Center City Lunch (and One Bonus Donut)

Desperate to get out of the office some days or anxious to start holiday shopping over the weekend? Here are a few ideas for lunch in Center City to fill you up with something quick.

Sushi Burritos

When Hai Street Kitchen opened this past spring, Philly was hard core buzzing about the crazy new "sushi burrito" place. I thought, ummm isn't that an awful lot of raw fish at once? I'm here to clear up that Hai Street a) does not exactly serve gigantic sushi rolls but that is what they look like, b) isn't the same at High Street on Market - can't tell you how many people have confused them - and c) is a good little spot to swing in for lunch.

Make your own nori (seaweed) wrap, rice bowl or salad bowl, or choose a signature item. Among the fresh, all-natural ingredients are yellowfin tuna and tataki salmon, but you can also opt for shrimp tempura, chicken, steak or pork and then add in all sorts of Japanese sauces, veggies and crunchy stuff like roasted peanuts or fried shallots. We tried the three Signature wraps seen below. Didn't quite live up to all the initial hype but  the Hai Street Chicken and The Crunch were good enough that I'd order them again. Each is $8-10, similar in price to your average Center City sandwich. Worth a stop in to try something new and a lot lighter on the stomach than a traditional burrito.

Signature wraps: The Crunch (shrimp tempura, spicy mayo, romaine, cucumber, mango and asparagus); Slammin' Salmon (tataki salmon, spicy gochujang sauce, romaine, cucumber, mango, red onion); and Chicken Katsu (lightly fried chicken, black pepper teriyaki sauce, red onion, red cabbage, green papaya salad)

Boneless Ribs and Tacos at RTM

If you're closer to Reading Terminal Market, two spots we tried lately are The Rib Stand and the newly refurbished 12th Street Cantina.

Run by the Pennsylvania Dutch, The Rib Stand is all the way in the northwest corner at RTM and only open Wednesday-Saturday. Grab a rack of ribs or the boneless rib sandwich you see here with a side of macaroni n' cheese. For a simple, well-stuffed and juicy bite you can't go wrong with the Rib Stand sandwich. Skip adding cheese when they ask, you don't need it.

For those in the mood for Mexican, you can make just about any taco, burrito, enchilada or tostada you want at 12th Street Cantina. But I wouldn't say it's the spot for for taco purists. While delicious, fresh and enormous, my steak and shredded beef tacos were more like the Americanized version. I guess that also depends on what I choose to put on top... also grab plenty of napkins because they can get messy!

Left: boneless rib sandwich and macaroni & cheese from the Rib Stand. Above: Giant steak and ground beef tacos from 12th Street Cantina. Both are in Reading Terminal Market.

Falafel Pita

A mere $7 gets you one of the best falafel sandwiches in Philadelphia from Mama's Vegetarian on 20th Street between Market and Chestnut.

The Middle Eastern shop stuffs their pitas with creamy hummus, tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbage and five soft falafel balls. Ask for the spicy sauce and call it day. Those looking for a lighter lunch can order the small version for $4, one of the better deals around.

Last but not least, don't forget to pick up a perfect pumpkin spiced latte doughnut from Federal Donuts on your way back to the office or home while they're still on the fall menu. They are just as fantastic as you'd expect. Fruit not included. 

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