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Best Lunch Under $5

La Salsa Fresh Mexican Grill
4862 E. Grant Road
7090 N. Oracle Road

READERS' PICK: With all the superficial characteristics of a take-out, this restaurant surprises by having all the culinary qualities of a superior Mexican restaurant. The simple, behind-the-counter grill manages to whomp up some of the freshest and most impeccably prepared eats anywhere, and does so with fast-food efficiency. It's cool, comfortable, and pleasant enough for a sit-down lunch--or just grab a couple of black bean tacos to go. The menu is pretty 50/50 with vegetarian and meaty offerings (though mind--this is the lean stuff!), so you and your carnivorous friends can chow down together. And they have six different salsas, all of them with a bright, fresh flavor. Mmm. Qué sabroso!

READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: Vegetarian restaurants tend to be hit-or-miss affairs. There's a delicate balance between healthy, tasty vegetarian and vegan dishes, and what some might call "nuts and twigs" or "rabbit food." The Sundance Café & Juice Bar, 621 N. Fourth Ave., knows that you didn't give up your taste buds when you gave up the hot-dog. While Sundance takes healthy living seriously (all the way down to the filtered drinking water), they have stealthily guarded the taste. Their food is flavorful, fresh and nearly everything on the menu is or can be prepared vegan. Their prices are very reasonable, and their waitstaff is divine. In addition to their many food choices, Sundance has a well-stocked juice bar with all the ingredients you could possibly want to replenish and rejuvenate your bod!

Case History

1997 Winner: Taco Bell
1996 Winner: Eegee's
1995 Winner: Tie: Maya Quetzal + Baggin's + Taco Bell

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