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).
Breken Kitchen1800 NW 16th Ave., Northwest Portland | 503.841.6359
Breken Kitchen occupies a stand-alone space with train tracks on one side and highway overpasses on the other—it sounds loud, but it's actually quite cool. Coffee flows freely here, they offer salads and sandwiches, and the brick-lined interior is always filled with light. There are also varied seating options, from couches to café tables, to long community tables.
Garden Bar2045 S.E. Division St., S.E. Division, Portland | 503.719.5924
Think of Garden Bar as the Sweetgreen of Portland. Mix-your-own salads (or choose from a few well-executed menu items) that are mixed and tossed for you on site. The advantage of going local for a quick salad joint? Most of the organic vegetables on order are sourced from Oregon farmers. There are also locations in the Pearl District, Old Town, and Park Square.
Kenny and Zuke’s1038 SW Stark St., Downtown Portland | 503.222.3354
Kenny and Zuke’s almost seems out of place in the Pacific Northwest, since they easily meet New York standards for Jewish deli food—if it wasn’t for the hand tie-dyed t-shirts on the staff, you might think you were on the Upper West Side. These guys first became famous for the pastrami, which they make in-house, but they do all of the classics really well, from pickles to bagels to rye bread.
Kure Kitchen408 S.W. 12th Ave., West End | 855.777.5873
Like so many good casual spots, Kure started out as a food cart—when the lines got out of control, the owners knew it was time to expand into brick-and-mortar. The menu is full of fresh-tasting acai bowls and smoothies, along with a healthy selection of cold-pressed juices and other healthy eats, like oatmeal and matcha (the West End location actually has some heartier lunch options, too, like salads and quinoa bowls). Astonishingly (and awesomely), 90% of the ingredients used in their products are grown or made in Portland. The other locations only have juice, smoothies and açai bowls, but they're in almost every neighborhood: SE Division, Downtown, Hawthorne, and Moda Center.
Lardo1212 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd., Hawthorne, Portland | 503.234.7786
This restaurant is named for a salumi made from backfat, which is an appropriate name, as the entire menu is really an ode to pork from the meatball banh mi to the pastrami cheeseburger to the french fries (which are made with pork fat). Part of the charm of the place, too, is that it’s such a Portland story: started as a food cart, check, adventurous foodie menu, check, enormous craft beer list, check. There are locations on both sides of the river, in Northeast Portland and Downtown.
Pike Place Market1st Ave. and Pike St., Downtown
Pike Place Market is probably most famous as a fish market—and it has to be acknowledged as a teemingly popular tourist destination—but with more than 80 restaurants and food stands, it’s also the best place in town for lunch to-go. Everyone has their own favorite spot, but the Bavarian Meat Deli (ruebens), Country Dough (Chinese stuffed flatbread), and Oriental Mart (Philipino food) are all great. For a healthier option, Ellenos yogurt offers some of the best Greek-style yogurt we’ve tried. Beecher's handmade cheese, which also has a location in New York, is the city's greatest cheesemonger, too—their tastings and classes make excellent gifts.
Portage Bay Cafe900 N.E. 65th St., Roosevelt, Seattle | 206.529.3252
Today, it’s not unusual for a restaurant to list the farmers and other local purveyors it sources ingredients from on the menu—though that wasn’t the case fifteen years ago, when Portage Bay Cafe started doing it. Four locations strong, we come here for easy lunches and all of the brunch staples, which they make with eggs from nearby Stirs farms (which, amazingly, includes plenty of actual images of their henhouses on their website). While it’s not technically grab-and-go, you can order takeout ahead and pick it up upon arrival. There are also locations in University, South Lake Union, and Ballard.
Volunteer Park Cafe1501 17th Ave. E., Capitol Hill, Seattle | 206.328.3155
Volunteer Park Cafe (so-named because of its location in Capital Hill, just blocks from Volunteer Park) is the definition of a neighborhood joint. Long communal tables, fresh pastries every day, and best of all, chickens in the backyard (don’t worry, they’re just for eggs). There’s a counter at the front for to-go orders and coffee and pastry pickups.
Alder St. Food CartsAlder St., between 9th & 10th Ave., Downtown Portland
Portland’s Alder Street food carts, which occupy an entire city block of space downtown, are emblematic of the city to the point that they’re one of downtown’s major tourist attractions. Don’t let that deter you, though—plenty of locals like to hang out here, too, and come lunchtime the entire parking lot is buzzing with vendors and customers. The lines themselves are usually the best indicator of where to find the best-tasting dishes, but we recommend Whole Bowl for veggie-centric rice bowls and Nong’s Khao Man Gai, which, as the name suggests, only serves khao man gai.