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The Best Grab-and-Go Lunch Spots

Here’s the deal: Quick, packable, healthy lunch recipes are very much our jam—but we all have those days when pre-planning a week’s worth of meals, much less an emergency trip to the grocery store, just isn’t in the cards. The grab-and-go spots below offer low-maintenance alternatives to a packed lunch and, for the most part, won’t set you back from your clean eating goals (we threw in a few indulgences, just for fun).

A Cut Above Butcher Shop

2453 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica | 310.998.8500

Being that it’s a butcher shop first and foremost, ACA is very serious about their meat-centric menu. The hot sandwiches—BBQ pulled pork, roasted turkey club, lemongrass flank steak banh mi with fried egg, and house-smoked pastrami—can be eaten at one of the few tables on-site or taken to-go. The Italian salumi travels particularly well.

Bay Cities

1517 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica | 310.395.8279

This is one of the main lunch go-tos in Santa Monica, which means there's almost always a line. The Godmother sub is the order of choice for everyone, us included, though we like to swap the pepper salad for pepperoncini for a little extra heat. Also on point: their tuna salad, and the turkey pesto and eggplant parm. While you wait for the deli to call your number, browse the market—it's stocked with authentic, imported Italian goods; the pasta and sauce selections are particularly impressive.

Clementine

9346 Civic Center Dr., Beverly Hills | 310.461.0600

Clementine is a go-to for light, fresh breakfasts, salads, and a solid heat-at-home selection—but their build-your-own grilled cheese is actually one of their best offerings. For the last 15 years, grilled cheese month (April), has been marked by a grilled cheese-specific menu centered on a specific theme, like “Curds Against Humanity” and “Melt the Vote.” Execution? Buttery, goo-ey, salty, and browned to perfection. The first outpost is located in Century City.

Dinette

1606 W. Sunset Blvd., Echo Park

Dinette is a sidewalk eatery by Café Stella owner, Gareth Kantner. There's a walk-up window and tiny interior showcasing Dinette's pastry treats. Also on the (changing) menu: heartier options like smoked salmon toast, Kobe beef burger, ricotta frittata, skirt steak with chimichurri, and an all-day breakfast pizza. And of course, coffee. You can take your food to go, or find a spot at one of the small tables outside the café.

Farmshop

225 26th St., Brentwood | 310.566.2400

Jeff Cerciello (former Thomas Keller culinary director) perfects the bakery-cum-larder-cum-restaurant concept in this sunny space with all-day dining at rustic communal tables including a wonderful family-style dinner with a market-driven menu. Ingredients here are top-notch and Cerciello knows what to do with them, keeping the food exciting and tasty without over-complicating. The Roast Jidori Chicken is a standout, along with any of the fresh seafood or excellent produce-based dishes. There's an attached mini-grocery store with an excellent cheese selection, pastries, and prepared salads and sandwiches.

food + lab

7253 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood | 323.851.7120

At the beginning, this mother and son duo were just making meals for a few friends. Then it turned into a full-fledged catering company. Now, there's also a café and marketplace, which serves delicious breakfast and lunch fare, with a focus on fresh, organic ingredients. The salads are delicious and varied while the sandwiches range from an artisan grilled cheese to the Austrian-inspired chicken wiener schnitzel. The lunch boxes and DIY picnic baskets are pretty brilliant.

Forage

3823 W. Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake | 323.663.6885

Local, sustainable, and fresh ingredients are the focus at this rustic-meets-modern spot, so much so that if you bring your own home-grown produce, they'll exchange it for credit. And the credit is worth it: The roasted salmon bowl is particularly excellent, though there are very few misses on Forage's constantly changing chalkboard menu.

Gjusta

320 Sunset Ave., Venice | 310.314.0320

Sister bakery/deli/café to the much-adored restaurant Gjelina, Gjusta literally does a little bit of everything. They also smoke their own fish, which means the cured and smoked mackerel, salmon, and trout—served open-face on fresh-baked bread or bialy-style—taste amazing. At the other end of the spectrum is the chicken parm—light, cheesy, and addictive. Seating is limited to scattered outdoor furniture (there are rumors of an expansion), so it’s best to take your order to-go.

gta

1427 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice | 310.392.7575

Adjacent to Gjelina on Abbot Kinney, lines snake out the door here for fresh salads, sandwiches, and inventive pizzas—if you don't want to take it to go, there are a handful of standing tables, plus some milk crates on which to perch and eat.

Kye’s

1518 Montana Ave., Santa Monica | 310.395.5937

We're big fans of this genius lunch spot on Montana, which serves self-named KyeRito’s: In lieu of beans and tortillas, though, you’ll find things like wild seared salmon and macro-pressed veggies wrapped in nori, collard greens, or romaine leaves. And to keep the mini burrito from getting soggy, the interior ingredients are packaged in a slip-wrap that you pull out before eating. It's a grab-and-go place, though they have a few tables and benches.

Larchmont Village Wine & Cheese

223 N. Larchmont Blvd., Hancock Park | 323.856.8699

While it’s billed as a wine and cheese shop—and they do in fact put together an excellent cheese board—it’s the sandwich counter that’s the real draw. At only seven items long, and with the option to order by the half, you can easily sample the entire menu in a few visits—and if you need a good place to start, we always go for #1 (the freshest mozzarella, basil, and tomato situation) or the #3 (Italian salami and manchego cheese smothered in sundried tomato sauce) on fresh-baked baguette, though the ciabatta has a loyal following as well.

Thyme Café & Market

1630 Ocean Park Blvd., Santa Monica | 310.399.8800

While many grab a seat at one of the tables to linger over eggs and cappucinos, we like this place best for its takeout. Fridges and freezers—loaded with pre-made soups and crowd-pleasing lasagnas—line the shop, and they also do take-out catering with minimal on-site prep. If you want a real sit-down affair, try their new spot, Local Kitchen + Wine Bar.

Huckleberry

1014 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica | 310.451.2311

With lines out the door by 10am, this is one of those spots where parents with early risers win: We go for the quinoa, veggie, and egg bowls, while our kiddos are bigger fans of the homemade donuts and Cheesy Eggs & Toast. You can eat in (the tables turn over quickly), or always take your turkey meatballs to go.

ink Sack

8360 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood | 323.655.7225

Top Chef winner Michael Voltaggio opened this tiny sandwich shop just steps from his famed molecular gastronomy restaurant, ink. It’s a sandwich shop in the truest sense—other than a few drink options and some exceptionally good crab chips (Voltaggio is originally from Maryland), sandwiches are the only menu items here. Each one is made to order and served on the same four-inch loaf, which is a thankfully manageable size that's filling but not overwhelming. It’s impossible to pick favorites at a place like this, but Voltaggio definitely excels at carnivorous options: Try the cold fried chicken, the Spanish godfather, the Cuban, or one of their egg sandwiches. If you’re a vegetarian or cutting back on meat, the veggie banh mi with bbq tofu is pretty unbeatable. Don’t leave without a chocolate chip oreo cookie, which is every bit as good as it sounds.

Jackson Market

4065 Jackson Ave., Culver City | 310.425.8426

Housed on a residential street in Culver City, Jackson Market has a grocery section (lots of gourmet candy, drinks, and snacks) in addition to a lengthy lunch menu. While the Jamaican Jerk sandwich had a nice kick to it and the Rueben has the perfect brisket-to-sauerkraut ratio (best enjoyed right away as the dressing makes the bread soggy), the classic Italian sub is a definite fan favorite, particularly when you take the build-your-own option and opt for a turkey-and-pesto sandwich.

Joan’s on Third

12059 Ventura Pl., Studio City | 818.201.3900

A coffee bar with pastries, a counter for prepared salads and sandwiches to go (or linger over), and a mini-grocery's worth of delicious cheeses, wines, snacks, and frozen treats. Though there are a million tables, they're generally always full; and parking in the area is scarce. That said, it's great for a mid-week breakfast or lunch. (The original Joan's is in West Hollywood.)

Kitchen Mouse

5904 N. Figueroa St., Highland Park | 323.259.9555

It can be hard to get really excited about vegetarian food (that can easily go vegan), but Kitchen Mouse makes it wildly appealing—both in the form of their cafe and catering (they do a brisk business in both). They're also nut- and soy-free. Must orders: Crispy Gomasio Rice Cakes and the breakfast sandwich.

Picnic

9900 Culver Blvd., Culver City | 310.838.3388

Culver City’s food scene is exploding right now, and one of the best additions is understandably Picnic LA. The menu is divided into entrees (meatballs, chicken leg tangine, salmon, etc.) and sides (green salads, potato salad, and all kinds of other vegetables) that can be mixed and matched into a full meal. Everything’s pre-made, so getting in and out quickly is surprisingly fast, and it all packs up easily if you actually want to have a picnic. If that’s the case, don’t miss their desserts, like key lime pie squares or dark chocolate pot de crème.

Grand Central Market

317 S. Broadway, Downtown | 213.624.2378

Built in 1917, restored in the '90s, and then revamped in the past few years, this downtown market—which has operated continually for the past century—still maintains its original façade in the Homer Laughlin Building. Nowadays, you'll find specialty shops like Belcampo Meat Co., Valerie Confections, Eggslut, and DTLA Cheese, along with small food joints serving up Mexican, Chinese, and Japanese food, ideal for the downtown office crowd and tourists alike.