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Lunch Break

Whoever said, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” never met lunch, our favorite dining pit stop. Here are dozens of yummy ways to nosh at noon.

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Though often overlooked, on the go, or skipped entirely, we think lunch deserves a lot more love. After all, if breakfast and dinner are the bread, lunch is the meat in the middle of a day's sandwich — the culinary oasis that separates morning from night. Several decades past bologna on white bread, today's lunch is as simple as a salad or as indulgent as a lobster reuben. We sampled dishes across the state in an effort to revive the midday meal, so cancel a meeting, carve out some time, and break out the napkins.



The staple. The touchstone. The double-breaded barometer by which all other lunches are judged. Go ahead and shove your meats, your cheeses and — God forbid — your veggies into a bread blanket. We'll just call it a midday meal.

BanhMi: Roasted pork with pickled vegetables, cilantro and chili peppers on a French baguette  ($3.80)
Pho Paradise, 337 Broad St., Providence, 369-7985.

Grilled Cheese: Mozzarella and manchego with red onion and spinach on multigrain ($10)
Rue de L'Espoir, 99 Hope St., Providence, 751-8890, therue.com.

Shellfish: Half a pound of Maine lobster meat with hot butter on a traditional roll ($33)
Barking Crab, 151 Swinburne Row, Newport, 846-2722, barkingcrab.com.

Fish: Pan-fried white fish, mango salsa, avocado, arugula, sweet pepper aioli ($14)
Boathouse, 227 Schooner Dr., Tiverton, 624-6300, boathousetiverton.com.

PB & J: Freshly ground peanut butter with Nutella, granola and banana ($5.75)
Jolly Roger, 2257 South Main St., Providence, 709-8986.

Pork: Marinated pork, lettuce, viajero cheese, tomato, pickled jalapenos, onions, avocado and refried beans served toasted with ham, chipotle sauce with onions ($5) m
El Rancho Grande, 311 Plainfield St., Providence, 275-0808, elranchogranderestaurant.com.

Power Lunch

The “Mad Men” meal may be over, but the corner office crew still gathers (occasionally) to talk shop without the boss around. Here’s where they go:

The Capital Grille (a.k.a. the Capitalist Grill) is still a hub for head honchos. Nothing says you mean business quite like a barely cooked, bone-in, dry-aged, grass-fed sirloin.
Equally high profile, Capriccio seduces with its subterranean swagger. Dimly lit (just bright enough to glimpse the passing suits — yes, jackets are still recommended) and private enough to cut a big deal, this Downcity institution makes everyone (that's Hermes scarves or gold chains) feel welcome.
Tommy’s Place and Eddie and Sons Diner draw those who want to break bread and talk briefs. Expect huge portions, 1950s prices and rib-sticking comfort food like macaroni and meatballs and baked meatloaf.
On the company bill? Cafe Nuovo’s best red. When court’s in session, Parkside and Hemenway’s are obvious choices. Proximity brings in courthouse catch-alls: brokers, lawyers, bankers. The very real potential of a judge sighting ups the cachet factor significantly. 
Movers-and-shakers in the arts and nonprofit world have their own hangouts. Not a member of the Art Club? No worries, Tazza  has creative cred. Artful food and hip environs are a winning combo.


Gluttony, They Name is Lunch

There's nothing here for the Cracker Eaters — those who graze through the day with some pretzel sticks and a wedge of cheese. In fact, we're sick of lunch being treated like a movable feast. This is a full-on, sit-down, immobilizing meal. Clear the afternoon, ’cause you're gonna need a nap.

What: Tory's Breakfast Burger ($10.99)
Luxe Burger Bar, 5 Memorial Blvd., Providence, 621-5893, luxeburgerbar.com
Why: This protein-rich burger works for brunch as well, and will keep you filled until dinner. Of next week.
The Sin: A Kobe beef patty topped with corned beef hash, a fried egg, bacon, mozzarella and spicy ketchup on a soft bun.
Caloric Punishment: 1,450
Consequences: After downing this sedative on a bun, you'll find yourself sitting in the corner, Jabba the Hutt-style, licking your lips and thinking of eating the contents of your refrigerator at some later date. If only you could get up. 
What: Pork Sandwich ($9)
Farmstead, 186 Wayland Ave., 
Providence, 274-7177, farmsteadinc.com
Why: Leave it to Matt Jennings to remake the Southern pork ’wich into something altogether better (tasting), worse (for your body) and just plain great. 
The Sin: Braised pork cheeks, brie, red cabbage, spicy mustard — all served panini-style. 
Caloric Punishment: 750
Consequences: There are bragging rights that go along with a Farmstead sandwich. Yeah, it's good. But it's also pretty aggressive from a culinary point of view. You're not just stuffing your face; you're doing it with style.
What: Lobster Reuben ($17.95)
Brick Alley Pub, 140 Thames St., Newport, 849-6334, brickalley.com
Why: Some schools claim lobster should only be served with butter or mayo, but they're probably sitting in a shellfish monastery in a scratchy brown robe. 
The Sin: Chilled lobster topped with melted Swiss, sauerkraut, Thousand Island dressing and served on grilled rye. 
Caloric Punishment: 680
Consequences: It’s potentially blasphemous to mix shellfish with a traditional Jewish sandwich, so make sure you get clearance. Sacrilegious, but delicious.
What: Loaded Nachos ($12.49) 
The Abbey, 686 Admiral St., Providence, 351-4346, 92beers.com.
Why: Cheez Whiz is for sissies. 
The Sin: Chili, chicken or pork served with black bean sauce, cheddar jack cheese, shredded lettuce, salsa, diced tomatoes, black olives, jalapenos, sour cream, guacamole and scallions. Oh, and forget the tortillas because you can get this molten pile poured on top of a plate of freshly fried potato chips. 
Caloric Punishment: 1,450
Consequences: Heheheh. Where to begin? With the fact that you downed three beers while eating this Mexican-American hybrid? That you consider guacamole a vegetable? That you actually ate the bits of cheese that fell off the side of the plate? You're shameless.
What: Stuffed Spinach Crepes ($10.99)
Crazy Burger, 144 Boon St., Narragansett, 783-1810, crazyburger.com.
Why: It sounds healthy. Sorta.
The Sin: Grilled crepes stuffed with scrambled eggs, feta, fresh mozzarella, parmesan, pine nuts, sun-dried tomatoes and drizzled with balsamic syrup. On the other side of the plate? Sweet potato fries.
Caloric Punishment: 1,050
Consequences: Go ahead: Try and make the case that vegetarian is the healthier option. The carnivores are going to laugh. And then they're going to eat you. 
What: The Grinder ($9)
Hudson Street Deli, 68 Hudson St., Providence, 228-8555, hudsonstreetdeli.com
Why: Uh, ’cause you live in Rhode Island. Eating a grinder is like pledging allegiance. 
The Sin: Ham, Genoa salami, pepperoni, provolone, romaine, tomato, roasted red pepper, pepperoncini, onion and housemade salsa on a twelve-inch sub. 
Caloric Punishment: 980
Consequences: Does it matter? There's pride involved.
What: Meatball Platter ($30)
Sandwich Hut, 1253 North Main St., Providence, 272-2590, thesandwichhut.com
Why: This is why you have an office: so that you can order food for fifteen and make it your own. 
The Sin: Thirty spheres of ground goodness with gravy. 
Caloric Punishment: 5,800
Consequences: You'll likely be thrown out of the office, stomach first and flailing weakly with your tomato-covered fists. Might be wise to share.
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