Whether you have a short break during your office workday or a brief pause between classes, sometimes a fast lunch is all you have time for. Thankfully "fast food" doesn't have to mean drive-thru grease bombs. Consider the following speedy options for tasty, cheap lunches.
Lunch Buffet, $9.99
China Pearl Buffet, 21 E. Lincoln Rd., 468-9988
There's no faster way to do lunch than to walk in, be seated and promptly told, "go ahead, serve yourself." At China Pearl Buffet, that means perusing an insane array of cuisine, most of it Asian-inspired, but there are variations (garlic bread, apple pie, banana pudding). You'll gorge on freshly prepared sushi mere seconds after arrival if the timing's right. Standard-issue Chinese fare like pepper chicken, broccoli beef and potstickers are fine, but go hard at the Delicious Chicken, it's the best of a seriously huge selection. No time to sit? Fill a carry-out container for just $4.99.
Pizza slice, $4.75-$5.25, with a small Caesar salad, $5
Veraci Pizza, 1333 W. Summit Pkwy., 389-0029
I hope we can all agree that pizza is pretty much the perfect food no matter what your choice in toppings. You have to do something dramatically wrong to screw up pizza. And while there are many quality establishments in the Inland Northwest, the thin, crispy-crusted slices at Veraci are among the best. I prefer pepperoni, and at lunch you can pair a slice the size of a Frisbee with a fresh Caesar salad for less than $10. It will be on your table or ready to go in no time.
Teriyaki Chicken Bowl, $6.09
Aloha Island Grill, 1724 N. Monroe, 443-1632; 1220 W. Francis, 413-2029
Enter Aloha Island Grill's Monroe location at lunchtime and you'll be jockeying for position with fellow fans jammed into the diminutive space. But the Aloha team moves fast enough that you're in almost-constant motion before exiting with hearty dishes like the teriyaki chicken bowl, a compact and tasty blend of sweetly sauced protein and sticky rice. It's just one option among bowls; beef, vegetables, Spam and several other flavors of chicken are also available, all of them presented quickly and costing less than $7.
Club Nooner, $9.39
High Nooner, 237 W. Riverside, 838-5288 (also locations in Spokane Valley, inside the Spokane County Courthouse and North Spokane)
Sandwich-making is an art, and different tastes will draw you different places for your preferred sandy. I like to keep it simple and delicious, hence the appeal of Spokane favorite The High Nooner and its Club Nooner sandwich. Soft French bread filled with turkey breast, bacon, lettuce, red onion, tomato and mayo — all of them in perfect proportion — makes for an ideal midday meal (tryptophan be damned) and they get it to you in a hurry. These folks don't have to dawdle to hit all the right details.
Southwest Chicken Sandwich, $8.99
Huckleberry's Ninth Street Bistro, 926 S. Monroe, 624-1349
Anyone who's been to Huckleberry's' bistro on the South Hill knows it's easy to find something delicious for lunch for under $10, whether some roasted chicken, the wrap-and-soup special or selections from the deli case. I like to order something hot off the grill, and the Southwest Chicken Sandwich is the bomb, thanks to the big roasted Anaheim chiles adorning the chicken breast, joined by a slice of gruyere and some honey-habanero cream cheese slathered on the ciabatta bun. It comes with either a green salad or some kettle chips, too.
Spicy Tonkotsu Ramen, $9.50
King of Ramen, 1601 N. Division Ste. D, 321-7050
The chefs at King of Ramen make their broths for hours so you can just drop in and be served up a bowl of incredible flavor mere minutes after sitting down. You can't go wrong with any of their ramens — and they all come in under $10 — but I'm partial to the spicy Tonkotsu ramen that focuses on its pork bone broth and spicy miso mix. The noodles? Eminently slurpable. The pork? Tender as hell. The hard-boiled eggs and veggies? Perfect accompaniments. But the broth is the thing, and worth every penny.
Alaska Cod Fish and Chips, $9.95
Fisherman's Market & Grill, 215 W. Kathleen, Coeur d'Alene, 208-664-4800
If fish is your thing, it's hard to think of a better lunch spot than Fisherman's Market and Grill. From fish sandwiches to crab cakes to sushi, there's something for everyone. I prefer the traditional fish and chips combination, because the cod is always great, and you get to delve into the shop's eight styles of tartar sauce, including Cajun (spicy), Bombay (yellow curry and roasted peppers) and Sicilian (roasted garlic, black olives, sundried tomatoes). Again, something for everyone, and always fast.
The Dubliner, $6.59
Garland Sandwich Shoppe, 3903 N. Madison, 326-2405
The Garland Sandwich Shoppe is a small operation, but that doesn't seem to slow them down one bit. On a recent visit, I barely had time to sit at a table to wait for a take-out order before they were calling my name with a bag ready to go. Inside was The Dubliner, a delectable alternative to a traditional Reuben featuring pastrami, sweet and spicy mustard, dill pickle and cheese on marble rye. It, along with the majority of the menu, will cost you less than $7. ♦