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Best Lunch Over $5

Presidio Grill
3352 E. Speedway

READERS' PICK: Lunch is a perfect opportunity to escape a hectic office, forgetting the tension of your workload if only for an hour. Instead of dashing to a drive-through burger mill or worse, having lunch delivered to your workplace, treat yourself to noontime at the Presidio Grill. It's easy to forget the pressures of the daily grind once inside Presidio's relaxed, pillared atmosphere. The lunch menu has something for all tastes, from light pasta dishes to hearty burgers and innovative vegetarian dishes like the open-faced sweet potato selection (that's right, a yam sandwich). Start off with the calamari appetizer or the roasted whole garlic with brie, mixed peppers and crostini. Both are meals unto themselves and slide in under $10. Entrees run from fried oyster sandwiches (served on French bread with guacamole) to baby back ribs. Senses dulled by blissful post-prandial hypoglycemia, going back to work won't be nearly as traumatic.

READERS POLL RUNNER-UP: If the sight of another cheesesteak has you forswearing the City of Brotherly Love and all its works, if you can't bring yourself to rescue another drowning enchilada from its wading pool of red sauce and you find that the juiciest burger is turning to dust in your mouth, it's time to take yourself to Café Poca Cosa, 88 E. Broadway, and give lunch some meaning again. It certainly isn't Mexican food as you've always known it: Here the cocina comes from the heart of Mexico, and the more familiar border style so heavy on the fryer oil gives way to the gentler art of simmering in fragrant marinades. Pescado, pollo, and the various carnes are all well-represented in ravishingly edible dishes from an ever-changing menu that is never committed to paper.

STAFF PICK: Magritte's, The Café, 254 E. Congress St. We go there all the time. There's just something about the bow-tie and pesto pastas that sends our senses reeling. But beyond that, Magritte's is a friendly place, where Camille Bonzani presides over all like a hip and kindly Mother Lunch. The Bowler Room--the bar, for the uninitiated--is a great place to hang out during those tedious summer afternoons when your dour, workaholic editor (who'll probably die of a heart attack before he's 40) is trying to find you; and should the pointless putz decide to pop in to see if you're there, you can always duck into one of the restaurant's breathtakingly clean and cleverly decorated restrooms. Now if Camille would only consent to putting our personal lives in such gentle yet stylish order, we could die happy.

Case History

1998 Winner: Café Poca Cosa
1997 Winner: The Cottonwood Café
1995 Winner: Presidio Grill

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