*Image above slightly misleading since we rarely have pasta for lunch in these parts, but I did find a picture of my favorite pasta dish served alongside my favorite vegetable, broccoli rabe, and it made my mouth water.
I really love reading Grubstreet’s Food Diaries, in which celebrities and “food people” share what they eat over the course of a week. It’s a surprisingly substantive kind of memoir-writing, in that you learn a lot about people by virtue of the seemingly benign prompt: “What did you eat this week?” I’m always intrigued by the lunch picks. For many years, lunch and breakfast were “throwaway meals” for me. During that time, I usually skipped breakfast and would then eat a salad or sandwich lunch quickly, at my desk. I love salads and sandwiches (still do) but they were usually attained by means of convenience or repetition rather than forethought around what would be satisfying to me. I am still not a big breakfast person, as I never feel hungry in the morning. At most, breakfast means an English muffin, a small bowl of yogurt with granola, or fruit (especially bananas, which feel pleasantly starchy and less acidic than many fruity counterparts). But lunch. Now, lunch! This has been a site of transformation for me. As you might anticipate, Mr. Magpie played a starring role in this evolution. For Mr. Magpie, every meal counts. He genuinely runs his life so that every single thing he eats brings him pleasure. He would rather wait two hours in agonizing hunger for something to be delivered, or for a table at the restaurant he wants, than settle for “whatever’s here and convenient.” I wrote about this at some length recently, but I find this orientation tremendously attractive, albeit occasionally impractical. The way he thinks about food reminds me of that Mary Oliver quote we all love so very much: “what will you do with your one wild and precious life?” As in: carpe diem! Eat on the good china, wear your finest, live it up!
Anyway, lunch has now become a high point of my daily routine. He and I coordinate on lunch in the morning, and sometimes several days in advance. Whereas he cooks nearly everything we eat at night, we often order in or carry out for lunch, and it is a delicious extravagance. We are pretty strategic on that front, though, and will usually order twice a week, with enough food to carry us through two days of lunches apiece, and will then eat dinner leftovers, thaw soup, or — his least favorite — assemble sandwiches on the other days of the week. A few of the meals in our regular lunchtime rotation:
DUMPLINGS AND SPICY BEEF NOODLE SOUP OR DAN DAN NOODLES — WE ORDER FROM FAHRENHEIT (MCLEAN, VA) IN BETHESDA; IN NYC, WE LOVED VANESSA’S AND SUPERTASTE
HAM AND CHEESE BAGUETTE — WE ORDER FROM FRESH BAGUETTE OR PRALINE IN BETHESDA
PHO — WE GET DELIVERY FROM PHO NOM NOM OR EAT AT PHO 75; THIS VIETNAMESE SOUP IS PURE MEMORY AND COMFORT FOR ME, AS MR. MAGPIE TOOK ME ON HUNDREDS OF WEEKEND “PHO FIX” DATES AT PHO75 IN ARLINGTON WHEN WE WERE DATING/ENGAGED/MARRIED; IF YOU LIVE IN CHICAGO, GO TO TANK NOODLE IN UPTOWN AREA!!!
PORK VERMICELLI BUNS — ALSO VIETNAMESE; WE GET FROM RICE PADDIES IN BETHESDA, WHICH IS SOLID BUT WE HATE THAT THEY CUT THEIR NOODLES INTO PIECES, OR PHO NOM NOM, WHICH IS FABULOUS
NEOPOLITAN STYLE PIZZA — WE LIKE ALATRI BROTHERS, PIZZA PARADISO, PUPATELLA (ARLINGTON); IN NYC, MOTORINO; IN CHICAGO, COALFIRE
JAMON SERRANO/QUESO MOLLETES AND/OR GAZPACHO AND/OR PATATAS BRAVAS — FROM SPANISH DINER IN BETHESDA; LOVE THESE DISHES AND THIS SPOT IN GENERAL
RAMEN — WE LIKE JINYA RAMEN HERE; IN NYC, WE LOVED TOTTO AND IPPUDO; IN CHICAGO, WASABI
BURGERS AND FRIES — WE ARE BIG SHAKE SHACK FANS; WE DON’T OFTEN HAVE BURGERS FOR LUNCH BUT WHEN WE DO, IT’S FAST FOOD STYLE…BURGERS FOR DINNER, HOWEVER, ARE A WHOLE DIFFERENT FOOD CATEGORY! THE BEST WE’VE EVER HAD IS THE BURGER AT OWEN AND ENGINE IN CHICAGO, WITH MAYBE RED HOOK TAVERN IN BROOKLYN AS A RUNNER UP, BUT AGAIN, THOSE ARE DINNER BURGERS, NOT LUNCH ONES!
FANCY SANDWICHES — WE LOVE TATTE BAKERY AND BREAD FURST HERE; IN NYC, DAILY PROVISIONS AND I REALLY LIKED BOTH BREADS BAKERY AND ORWASHERS, THOUGH MR. MAGPIE WAS NOT AS BIG OF A FAN OF THOSE TWO
KABOBS — RAVI KABOB IN ARLINGTON (WOW)
FALAFEL — WE HAVEN’T FOUND A GREAT SPOT IN DC AREA YET, BUT ATE AT MAMOUN’S IN NYC LIKE ONCE A WEEK; HERE IN BETHESDA, WE SOMETIMES ORDER FROM MOBY DICK FOR THIS CUISINE BUT I DON’T THINK IT’S ON THE SAME PAR AS OTHER SPOTS
TACOS — MR. MAGPIE WILL TALK ALL DAY AND NIGHT ABOUT EL CHARRITO CAMINANTE IN ARLINGTON
PERUVIAN CHICKEN — POLLO RICO IN ARLINGTON; THE UNRELENTING BEST IN THIS CATEGORY; HAVE NEVER TASTED ANYTHING REMOTELY SIMILAR IN ANY OTHER CITY I’VE LIVED IN
FRIED RICE — CHIKO IN BETHESDA; HAN DYNASTY IN NYC
ITALIAN SUBS — ITALIAN STORE IN ARLINGTON OR VACE IN BETHESDA
GREEK SALAD — THE BIG GREEK CAFE IN BETHESDA; BREADS BAKERY IN NYC — I REALLY LOVE A GREEK SALAD, BUT MR. MAGPIE USUALLY ORDERS SOMETHING ELSE OFF THESE MENUS WHEN I HAVE A HANKERING
KOREAN FRIED CHICKEN — CHICK CHICK IN NYC; HAVEN’T FOUND ANYTHING COMPARABLE IN THESE PARTS
BAGELS — OH I MISS NYC BAGELS…WE LOVED THE ONES FROM BARNEY GREENGRASS AND I ALSO APPRECIATED ORWASHER’S
PASTRAMI — THIS DOES NOT EXIST AS THE SAME THING OUTSIDE NYC…PASTRAMI QUEEN IS MAGIC AND WE SPENT A SMALL FORTUNE ON THEIR $26 PASTRAMIS ON RYE
I know I’m missing many great spots on this list and I can absolutely guarantee you that I will be running retractions/edits once Mr. Magpie reviews (ha!) but these are some tried-and-true, heavy-rotation cuisines, dishes, and restaurants we love at the lunch hour. Please share your own additions to this list, whether local or not, because it might inspire some additions for us!
+BBQ shrimp recipe you must try.
+A simple weeknight meal.
+Thoughts on organizing a fantastic date night at home.
+My favorite potato salad recipe.
+Great food storage gear.
+Unrelated, but is love a hunch?
+Also unrelated, but musings on becoming different people as we age…
+Oo! Another great gingham top here.
+And one last gingham PSA: these popular $15 bolster pillows were just restocked in the blue! So perfect for a boy’s room.
+Fun rattan hoops.
+Just the chicest mirror.
+Cute Easter placemats, especially for little ones.
+I love these spring napkins!
+This cashmere pullover looks like a dream.
+How great are these star-print pajamas for a little? (At time of writing, $15!)
+And just a reminder that there are still a handful of my favorite super-cold-weather boot on sale here.
+LOVE this sport hot pink one-piece — very throwback!
+These ruffle cord overalls are too cute.
+So into these Gucci loafers. Such a great color pattern!
+A great quilted coat on sale.
+More punchy, affordable finds!
+My current favorite things.