I love lunch. I especially love lunch on the north side during the week, because there’s no one around and you have most places to yourself. Herewith, my lunchtime odyssey from the last week.

Thursday: La Amistad is one of those places that I can’t go without. Let too much time pass and the old hankering gets so strong that I find myself making excuses to head up to my old neighborhood. There’s nothing fancy here, but it’s friendly, it’s comfortable, it’s inexpensive, and the food is thoroughly decent in a pot roast and mashed potatoes for Sunday dinner kind of way. I ate guacamole and enchiladas and beans and rice and I left feeling as if my spirit had been revived.

Friday: I love the Salt & Pepper diner best midweek and an hour or so after noon, when you can sit in one of the big booths and spread your paper out. The food is standard, but the service is always friendly, and there’s no better place to catch up on neighborhood gossip. I had a BLT and a bowl of soup. 

Saturday: A surprise. I was famished, as in about to faint, when I walked by Panino’s, a pizzeria/cafe I’d never seen before. I walked in, sat down, and was immediately presented with a basket of foccacia and French bread, which I devoured dipped in Parmesan and olive oil. I ordered a bowl of minestrone and a chicken salad with walnuts; the soup ($3) was enormous and utterly delicious. The composition was the usual minestrone stuff with one oddity, green cabbage. I realize that anything can go in minestrone, but I’d never had it with cabbage before. The salad was also enormous, with tons of walnuts and grilled chicken, and tastier that I could have possibly expected. There’s pizza here, too, but I have no idea if it’s any good. I don’t even know if their dinner entrees are any good, but I do know this: For around $11, Panino’s soup and salad are hard to beat.

Sunday: TAC Quick, my new fetish. Plenty of people have raved about this place, so I don’t need to expound on this Thai restaurant’s considerable virtues. I had seaweed soup and beef noodles. Ineffably fucking delicious. This is another place where you can spend a leisurely hour and a half over lunch and not feel rushed. Very nice people and a beautiful space.

Monday: Potbelly. I don’t care what anyone says, their meatball sandwiches rock. And for $3.75 they don’t really have to, which makes it even better. I hate, however, the Vitner’s potato chips. They always have a charred, slightly stale aroma. Must be me, though, since most people dig them.

Tuesday: Samuel’s Deli. Doing some work with a friend in the neighborhood, I’ve had the opportunity to go here a couple of times and it’s not bad. The problem is that you always end up comparing any deli to Manny’s and, well, that sucks for the deli. I had a corned beef sandwich on marble rye and a bowl of matzo ball soup. Soup was unspectacular, but then I sometimes think that’s the point of mazo ball soup. Corned beef was good, but a little on the stingy side, especially for the price. They also sell day-old bagels for 35 cents a pop.

Wednesday: A frozen burrito from the 7-11 and a V-8. I’ll spare you the horrid aftermath.

Thursday: In close competition with La Amistad for my eternal and unstinting affection is tiny Taste of Lebanon in Andersonville. God, I love this place. A lovely beef shawirma wrap dripping with tangy yogurt sauce is just a bit over $3, which means you can also afford to get the fresh, vibrant, lemony grape leaves without going broke. I think I could eat lunch here every day.