I’m lazy about packing a lunch for work, so tend to eat out for lunch most days of the week. Over the seven years I’ve been working between Downtown and Midtwon (16th Avenue between A and C Streets) a rotating cast of favorite spots for a quick lunch for one has developed. The following list includes the eight nine restaurants that I most commonly lunch at.
In no particular order:
I eat lunch at City Market far more than any other place in town, mostly because it’s the perfect walking distance from my office. Enough to get the blood flowing and the mind wandering, yet close enough to easily make it there and back in my lunch hour. They have a variety of sandwiches and deli food, but I almost always make the same order from the Asian deli: a rice bowl with steamed rice and the chicken curry. A massive portion for only $6, this is a deal.
Commonly cited as the best Chinese food in Anchorage, Charlie’s is also very close to my office. I love their steamed buns (with delicious pork inside) but usually don’t order them if I’m also getting a meal, because they tend to get confused and forget the buns. I’ll typically go for chicken chow mein or beef with sheet rice noodles, but a great veggie-heavy option would be to get the eggplant and bok choy side dishes, both delicious. An Anchorage Press review that I read talked up their beef noodle soup, so I tried that out one time: I thought it was okay, but not nearly as good as any number of pho bowls available in this town. I’ve only gone for it one time, but they also have a special dim sum menu on Saturday mornings.
I almost always go in here alone, sit at the lunch counter and read the Press. They offer great service and good sandwiches. I usually go for the one with lox, cream cheese, capers, and red onions, the salmon is excellent. On the rare occasions where I stop for breakfast on my way to work, this is where I always go.
There are so many sit-down places in this town where you can pay too much for boring, mediocre Mexican food and bad margaritas. I like Taco King not necessarily because the food is any better (though it may be) but because it has no pretentions. Walk up to the register, order off of the back-lit menu boards, grab some salsa from the salsa bar, and watch them whip up your plate with inexpensive, tasty, hot food. I often order the carne adovada plate.
I’ve written about Pho Lena before, it is a personal favorite. Lena serves up all types of Southeast Asian food (including Vietnamese and Thai), but since she’s Lao herself, I recommend you seek out her Laotian specialties. One of my favorites is the Luang Prabang-style sausage. The service can be a bit brusque but who cares? It’s quick and the food is consistently good. Get the sticky rice for a more authentic experience.
They do an Indian food lunch buffet here that’s a good deal (about $12, I think, for all you can eat). The food is good, though I wish they rotated the buffet components a bit more. I load up a big plate with naan, pakoras, palak, daal, and korma and stuff myself silly. A word of warning, I just did a Google search for this restaurant and this slightly troubling article popped up. I might wait to hear better news before I return to this old favorite.
Pho Vietnam is included here because it remains my favorite place in town for a bowl of pho. If that’s all I’m craving, this is where I go. And I feel justified in my assessment due to the large proportion of the clientele that appears to be Vietnamese.
This bakery is always a buzz of activity and the quality of their products is very high. My sweetie loves them for their cookies and other pastries (they are spectacular, if pricey; try the peanut butter sandwich cookie, or a chocolate cake). Fire Island is another place easily walkable from my work, so I stop there regularly for a sandwich (they are excellent but sometimes run out) and a savory scone. These (for example, with Dubliner cheese and ham) are virtually the only scones anywhere I’ve ever been impressed by. Also it’s easy to pick up a loaf of bread to bring home.
A last minute addition, I’ve only eaten at Naruto twice so far but it’s very likely to feature heavily in my lunch rotation. I’m familiar with the concept of true ramen (as opposed to Top Ramen) from Issue 1 of Lucky Peach. Since Naruto is the first place that I ever had an authentic bowl of ramen, I don’t have anything to compare it to. But I do know they serve up yummy bowls of soup. The noodles are chewy and substantial in a way that instant ramen could never replicate. I was pretty impressed with the spicy kimchi ramen, and recommend you try it out.