Ten Best Lunch Spots in Broward County

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Breakfast is supposedly the most important meal of the day.

Dinner -- and the accompanying wine -- is for relieving workplace agitation.

Lunch, on the other hand, is pretty much forgotten.

With most of us inhaling who-knows-what garbage without even leaving our desks, it's like the redheaded stepchild of most Americans' meal plan.

In much of the world, our habits are considered a tragedy. Lunch is not just a form of cheap fuel; it's an experience, something to be savored and enjoyed while taking a break from the craziness.

As appealing as a long, drawn-out siesta may sound, for most of us, that's not an option. But that's still no excuse for not taking an opportunity to relax and eat something other than instant ramen. Even a quick trip to a takeout joint can help to ease the workday stress.

Whether you're into meat-filled indulgences, exotic dishes, or something just light and fresh, we've compiled a list of the ten best workday-appropriate lunches in Broward County.

See Also: Ten Best Suburban Restaurants in Broward

10. Woodlands Vegetarian Indian Restaurant

We love the DIY nature of an all-you-can-eat buffet; however, we don't care for the meat sweats that take over after leaving the place -- not good for business. At Woodlands, you'll find all the options, all the ease, and none of the meat. But what this vegetarian spot lacks in animal fat, it gains in pungency. It specializes in South Indian delicacies that are not easy to find. There's vada, fried lentil doughnuts dipped in sambar or rasam; bonda dumplings made of lentil or potato; uthappam pancakes topped with chilies and potatoes; and massive dosai -- rolled-up crepes larger than your forearm and stuffed with all sorts of delicious veggies. And don't forget the curries. After a lunch here, you'll be convinced you'll never need to eat flesh again -- maybe.

9. Blue Willy's Barbecue Market

Then again, maybe you don't mind the meat sweats. Hailed as one of the best barbecue joints in all of South Florida, this butcher-shop place gets crazy at midday. Hordes of meat freaks are looking to dig in to owner Will Bank's slow-roasted goodies. (Hint: Arrive early.) You'll see doctors in scrubs noshing Texas-style brisket -- we're assuming no cardiologists-- attorneys in power suits grubbing on Carolina-styled pulled pork, and construction workers inhaling spare ribs. All of which sit elbow to elbow at communal tables, absolutely silent. You know you've found something spectacular to garner such a wide-ranging crowd. It's called smoked meat.

8. Fresh First

It's hard enough finding a place that can get you in and out on a lunch break -- much less one that is safe for food allergies. Not an issue at this breakfast and lunch place. It's the first eatery in Fort Lauderdale to earn the recognition of "Great Kitchen" by the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA), and it caters to dietary ailments and restrictions of all kinds; peanuts, corn, and GMOs are also prohibited from entering the premises. Vegans, vegetarians, and flexitarians (those who still eat some animal proteins) are all welcome. The organic fare is healthy and extremely tasty. From raw, vegan zucchini puttanesca ($13.95) to a grilled-chicken sandwich ($13.95) to quinoa cupcakes with seasonal fruit jam and goat cheese frosting ($5.25), this gluten-free place is sure to satiate your cravings while keeping you safe.

7. Eten Food Co.

Although most of us aren't lucky enough to call Las Olas our office homebase, if you happen to find yourself on the eastern end of the street (near the Floridian and Rocco's) Monday through Friday between 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., you need to check out this place. The small storefront offers a small but well-priced selection of gourmet treats -- and wine, obviously. Options include salads (such as chicken curry and red beet) as well as lunchbag-type meals featuring a soup (like carrot ginger, beef, and lobster bisque), half sammie (such as Italian or chicken and pesto on ciabatta), and a sweet treat (including lemon bars as well as walnut carrot cake). And you can even grab dinner for the evening. Easy.

6. La Spada's Original Hoagies

When it comes to handheld meals in BroCo, one local chain of shops sits on top of the food chain. LaSpada's Original Hoagies, a Broward institution that has been flinging lunch meat since 1973, should be praised for taking subology in South Florida to a whole new level. It's like the Henry Ford of sandwich shops. Order a sub at LaSpada's and the hoagie wizards therein will first fill a chewy roll with a layer of sliced-fresh meat. Then, in go the toppings -- lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, and their own blend of marinated sweet peppers -- in such generous quantity as to be spilling out all over the counter. Although the result itself is impressive in terms of taste, the speed at which these folks work is just pure genius. Here, you can order and eat a meal large enough to feed a village in less than 30 minutes -- just enough time to grab that obligatory coffee to keep you awake.

5. Kuluck Persian Restaurant & Lounge

Right smack dab across the street from the sprawling Motorola campus, this little Persian place gets packed with those donning their office casual best. Even with the hordes of people, there's no need to worry about the wait: The lunchtime buffet allows guests to eat at their own pace. For just $11.95 per person, the endless selection of unique Iranian fare is sure to satisfy even the worst hunger pangs. Although choices change frequently, the spot serves chicken and beef kebabs, veggies, two types of rice, Persian stews, hummus, yogurt, salads filled with items like parsley, and multiple desserts. Here, you can stuff your face and expediently get going along your merry way.

4. Mustard Seed Bistro

Set in a nondescript shopping center, flanked by office parks and the Broward Mall, this mom-and-pop shop knows how to attract a crowd. During lunch, it's one of the busiest spots that can be found: Office workers flock through its doors for a refreshing respite from the cubicle. It offers a wide selection of light salads (think grilled chicken Cobb, barbecue salmon, strawberry fields, and the likes), sandwiches (ranging from chicken Waldorf and grilled chicken and Brie to short rib and bahn mi), and upscale apps (including bistro mussels and crab cakes) in a calm and relaxing environment -- devoid of headache-inducing fluorescent lights. Here, you can kick back and then quickly get on your way.

3. Sasaya Japanese Market

When it comes to lunch, two aspects reign supreme: cost and time. Most of us prefer not to break the bank or get stuck sneaking back to the desk after an extended break. Here, you'll never have to worry about either of those things. Within minutes of ordering, you'll be noshing on huge portions of spicy tuna rolls for a meager five bucks. A massive volcano roll with scallop, crab, masago, tamago, scallions, and Japanese mayo on top of a California roll goes for $8.50. No, this counter-order market isn't fancy, but it's damned good and ready in a jiffy.

2. Bravo! Gourmet Sandwich

Everyone likes a good sandwich for lunch: It's tasty, cheap, and easy to eat. And every nationality has its own incarnation of handheld midday meal. And if you're looking for the best example of what the fine folks from Peru like to stick between two slices of bread, you better come here. Owner Vanessa Fedak is the daughter of a well-known chef, and at her Wilton Manors shop, she creates sammies that could rival some of the best fork and knife dishes you've ever had -- but for a fraction of the cost. The lomo saltado sandwich is easy on your wallet but fancy in your mouth, and the fish sandwich is so good you won't even mind that you don't like fish sandwiches. It's gourmet on a shoestring -- in a hurry.

1. Myapapaya Juicery + Kitchen

Some people try to claim that healthy fare tastes like cardboard. Although we've all experienced a paper-like veggie burger or two, when you come to this place, that notion couldn't be further from the truth. This mom-and-pop counter-order shop is owned and operated by Adam, Michelle, and namesake toddler Mya Kanner. Adam, a former private chef, envisioned creating a community of health-conscious eaters. With the first cold-pressed juicery in Broward County, it seems he's accomplished his goals -- those juices can be seen all over the place. Though the juice is their claim to fame, the food is just as exciting -- if not better. From the light-yet-filling kale and romaine salad ($10) to vegan coconut-scented whole grain bowl ($10) to hearty bison burger ($12) to daily specials ranging from chicken avocado sandwiches to fresh fish plates, this plate has something delicious for everyone. And there's no reason to feel guilty over what you ate.

Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.

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