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On the Vine: Solo Lunching Downtown

By Anne Mitchell · January 13th, 2010 · Lunchline
I hate to eat in restaurants by myself. Yes, I know it’s ridiculous. I mean, I’ve done it … but I’d rather not.

When I do, I usually fake that I’m reading some Very Important Report, and that all my friends would have come with me if only I hadn’t had this Major Work to do. But since that’s totally a lie, most of the time it’s easier to get carry out, go back to my desk and read The Onion online.

Carry-out means fast food for many of my fellow cubicle dwellers, but I stick to the indies. I have a few tried and trues downtown that I rely on (coincidentally, all on Vine Street).

Total Juice Plus (631 Vine St.; 513-784-1666) is my healthy-lunch go-to. I am a believer in the power of vegetable juice, especially if it tastes good enough that I don’t have to hold my nose to swallow it. TJP’s Total Veggie (12 oz. for $3.65) is so nutritionally correct that I can feel vitamins shoot through me like superpowers in a cartoon. The wheatgrass makes my IQ go up by dozens of points — sadly, only temporarily.

But if I add in a Vegetarian Heaven wrap (small $4.65, regular $5.95), I’ve got the world at my command. Luckily, I use that power only for good.

I can’t stand to be that perfect every day, though, so sometimes I have to choose a lunch that’s meaty. My choice for meaty is a gyro. Years ago, I waited tables at Myra’s Dionysus in Clifton, back when gyros were the main draw there, and they joined my comfort food pantheon. The Supreme ($5.40) at Mythos on the Square (410 Vine St., 513-281-3601) is meatier and spicier than any burger and faster than the fastest McFood. It’s also topped with feta cheese, making it, well, supreme. And a bargain. It’s substantial enough to hold body and soul together through a long afternoon, the trip home and an hour of Pilates at the gym. There’s a big Mythos on Fourth Street, but the little one beside the Westin Hotel’s valet parking area is carry-out heaven, with a very friendly staff and baklava at the register.

Speaking of spicy (and bordering on weird), my exotic carry-out favorite is Korean BiBimBap ($7.49) from Sunny Deli in the Carew Tower (441 Vine St., 513-651-5090). Available on Wednesdays only, “Sunny’s Signature WELL-BEING Food” has a cult following. This Styrofoam container of rice, veggies, fried egg, Bulgogi beef and Gochuchang (red pepper paste that packs a punch) lacks the authentic presentation of the stone-bowl version served at Riverside Korean in Covington, but it’s warm and satisfying nonetheless.

For a deli lunch, Fred and Gari’s (629 Vine St.; 513-784-9000; pictured) is perfect since there’s no chance to stay and eat — the place is so small, you’ve got to grab and go. And their sandwiches rock. The gourmet oven-baked chicken sandwich ($7.50 whole; $6.25 half) is made with big hunks of white meat that obviously came from a real bird. It’s bona-fide, and their accompaniments aren’t afterthoughts, either. Any place that offers a brownie as one of your choices of side dish has reached carry-out enlightenment.




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