Lunch: the glorious second meal of the day and a chow-down most Americans are forced to fit into an hourlong (in all reality more like 30-minute) break from work. Which means if you're not brown-bagging it from home, there are a few necessities to keep in mind when eating out for lunch.
If you're a worker bee, it needs to be fast. If you're always on the go, it needs to be easy. And if you're a luncher on a budget, it doesn't hurt if the meal doesn't put a dent in your wallet either.
From West Palm Beach to Boca Raton, there are literally dozens of restaurants, delis, and fast-casual spots that make for a good lunch stop. The ones that make this list are the places that offer a little something out of the ordinary while managing to meet all of the luncher's basic needs.
Here are the best places to grab lunch in Palm Beach County.
See Also: Ten Best Lunch Spots in Broward County
Walk into this Boca Raton shop and a display of fresh produce greets you at the door opposite a full-service deli counter with a selection of prepared and made-to-order items. For the healthy luncher, it's a dream come true. Think raw and vegan dishes ready-to-go, everything from tempeh chili and macadamia cheese to vegan lasagna. In addition to fresh foods, you can load up on bulk grains and health-food essentials like chia seeds, wheat germ, and various oils and teas. There are tons of options for the gluten-free crowd as well as for meat eaters. The selection is all thanks to chef Collin Cook, who has been with 4th Generation since its inception in 2009. Originally a pre-med student, Cook's passion is helping others to enjoy raw and vegan foods. Lucky for you, it's easy to enjoy for lunch every day at 4th Generation.
9. Boss! Tacos
Open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday (noon to 5 p.m. or later on Saturday), Boss! Tacos food stand is all about a quick, easy -- and tasty -- lunch. The grassroots-style eatery in Delray Beach prides itself on quality and fresh ingredients. Nothing is bagged, processed, or premade here. Instead, everything from the steak and chicken to the sauces and salsas is prepped fresh daily by the chef-owner. The menu is mainly Tex-Mex, offering tacos, burritos, rice bowls, taco salads, quesadillas, and nachos -- all priced less than $10. A favorite menu item is the house specialty, chicken tortilla soup with a creamy roasted corn purée seasoned with a special blend of Mexican spices, black beans, roasted garlic, and grilled chicken and topped with white corn tortilla chips.
Just over a year ago, owner Judy Hidalgo opened this small wine shop, eatery, and café off Dixie Highway in Lantana. A lunch spot by day and wine bar by night, despite its location off a busy main road, it offers the perfect hideaway for a casual, relaxing meal. The kitchen is run by Hidalgo and her mother, Gilca, both hailing from the Dominican Republic. You'd think the former New Yorkers would have a menu of Spanish-style eats, but that's not the case. Instead, you'll find an array of cheese boards to pair with 20 or so wines available by the glass or bottle, sandwiches, soups, salads, and house-made desserts. However, Hidalgo's signature creation, her rice salad bowls, are the most popular dish. Made with seasoned basmati rice, fresh-squeezed lemon juice, olive oil, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, and garden greens, the salad bowls come in a total of eight varieties topped with different ingredients. Regulars love the "conga" special, a combination of goat cheese and chicken salad made with golden raisins, toasted pine nuts, and green apple. With indoor and outdoor seating on a garden-style patio surrounded by fresh herbs and potted plants, there's no better way to break for lunch -- especially with a $5 glass of wine in hand.
For someone grabbing a quick, to-go lunch, the local sandwich shop is never a bad choice. It's fast, easy, and affordable. While Palm Beach County offers some of the best sandwich shops around, the obvious favorites like V&S or LaSpada's have one downfall: They're packed with hordes of hungry lunchers. If you want that sandwich but don't want to wait in line, try Zinger's Deli in Boca Raton. This Jewish deli owned by Gary Zinger serves up one of the best Reuben sandwiches around, with corned beef made in-house. The "5 boroughs" is a beast of a thing too, made with corned beef, pastrami, salami, turkey, and roast beef on fresh-baked rye bread with coleslaw, Swiss cheese, and a homemade Russian dressing. The best part, however, is the new website that allows you to order online, which means your sandwich, burger, soup -- even homemade knish -- will be ready and waiting for you.
Like its sister establishment in Islamorada, the Boca Raton M.E.A.T. Eatery & Taproom is a restaurant best-known for smoking, grinding, and making its own meats in-house -- everything from house-cured bacon to the sausage and chorizo. Even the condiments -- including a mango chipotle ketchup and caraway and beer mustard -- are made fresh and from scratch. The work of co-owner and executive chef George Patti, the Boca Raton restaurant is his casual approach to gourmet "fast food." Order duck and pickled blueberry sausage, a pulled-pork sandwich, or a chorizo patty burger. Need something a bit less meaty? Healthy options include several salads, including a golden and red quinoa with mango, as well as homemade hummus, tapenade, and a creamy eggplant caviar with veggies. Located at the back of the new Cendyn Spaces office building off Federal Highway just south of Glades Road, it's small, pub-like space that offers fast service that's ready-to-go or eat-in. Despite its size, the space can pack in up to 30 at a bar that features 12 rotating taps of craft brew and a second lunch counter that can accommodate another 20 patrons.
Owner Timothy McLarney has a hidden gem with Granger's Grille, a spot on the northbound side of Federal Highway in Delray Beach. It started in 1995 with just one goal: serve the best comfort food, in a fun and inviting atmosphere, with great service and affordable prices. And Granger's does just that thanks to a wide array of specialty dishes that will please most any palate. Start with fried green tomatoes served with homemade honey mustard, or shrimp-stuffed jalapeños with a pineapple pepper jam for dipping. A four-cheese bourbon French onion soup gives the crowd-pleaser a unique twist, while a grilled salmon fillet does the same for the restaurant's version of a Reuben sandwich, served on multigrain bread with Muenster cheese and topped with homemade coleslaw. And forget that expensive lobster roll when you can order a shrimp roll, fried to a golden brown crisp on a toasted hoagie roll with onions, tomatoes, and tarter sauce. We could go on and on, but you get the idea.
Admit it: A fast-food burger has been your quick-stop lunch more times than you care to remember. But with so many new burger joints all over the place, it's easy to find something more tasty than the golden arches. One of the many most recent local South Florida burger joints to open, the Boca Burger House in Boca Raton has everything you need to transform your everyday lunch stop into something tastier. Owners William and Alex Fernandes are looking to create the best burger you've ever had with nine specialty options that include a veggie version and one that features a black cod fillet. Six months ago, they took over the space once home to El Taco Loco off Spanish River Boulevard and created a restaurant that serves lunch and dinner and takes on a late-night vibe as a craft beer and wine bar by night. But it's not just burgers here. The menu features a good selection of flatbreads and wraps as well as soups, salads, and wings. If you care to imbibe midday, the menu has more than 50 craft beers and a list of organic wines.
Field of Greens (or FOG, for short) is Palm Beach County's healthy lunch option: a salad and sandwich shop offering nutritious, made-to-order dishes. Since a first location opened in 2003, the family-run restaurant has offered several locations, the newest of which is off Clematis Street in downtown West Palm Beach. The menu is made for the health-conscious luncher, with homemade eats that include a variety of vegan and vegetarian dishes. FOG is best-known for a customizable experience, which allows patrons to choose from a list of salads and sandwiches, all mix-and-match. Want that salad on a wrap? Go for it. Think a sandwich would be perfect without the bread and just a platter? It can be done. Guests can select from more than 100 meal combinations that incorporate sandwiches, wraps, soups, and salads. The West Palm location also has an organic juice bar, so you can even drink your lunch, if that's what you're into.
2. C.R. Chicks
Founders Rick Davis and Chris Sallen both worked for Charley's Crab before deciding to open their own establishment named for their combined first initials. The duo opened their first C.R. Chick's store in Palm Beach Gardens more than 20 years ago and have added six stores across Palm Beach County since, including the latest, which opened in Boca Raton in 2010. Their success is thanks to their amazing rotisserie-style chicken, which can be eaten as a platter with a choice of sides or to create the best chicken sandwiches you'll probably ever have. While everything from the cookies and pie to salad dressing and bread (that amazing, addictive bread you'll want to eat by the loaf) is made in-house and from scratch, it's not the type of place that makes you wait like it is. You're out the door in less than five minutes, and if you're counting calories, most of the dishes are low fat (or can be prepared to have less fat).
1. Crazy Buffet
Buffets are the very definition of fast, easy, cheap. They aren't usually all that good either. But not so at Grand Asia Crazy Buffet in West Palm Beach. The upscale Asian fusion restaurant features all-you-can-eat sushi, hibachi grill, and Asian dishes. Signature dinner entrées include Peking duck and filet mignon every evening and lobster every weekend evening, and every month offers a different theme. It even has all-you-can-eat snow crab legs, for crying out loud. No doubt, this place is a glutton's dream and even has a full liquor bar. If you're looking to fill up for pennies, there's no better way to lunch in Palm Beach County.
Follow Nicole Danna on Twitter, @SoFloNicole.