Ten New Casual-Cool Lunch Spots to Try

Lunch is more than just a mid-day meal, it’s a sacred time to break away from a mundane day. In need of a time-out from the imminent dull-head? Head to an al fresco lunch. Looking for some inspiration? You might find it in a sandwich. Dying to refuel before heading back to the office? Eat, explore, and eat some more.

The good thing about living in a city as large as ours is that there’s always a new spot popping up somewhere, at some time. We’ve got options, which means we can keep our eyes ogling at the latest menu or just a convenient place with plates made to devour. Lunch doesn’t have to be extravagant, either. When quick and easy is key, look to some of the small gems around town for the right bite.

From tortas to tacos, burgers and kebabs, discover ten new lunch spots.

Bolillo Tortas: A torta is a Mexican way of satiating an appetite in a flavorful sandwich style. Through the combination of traditional and modern culinary stylings, this new casual downtown spot was made to embrace the unique character that is Mexico. Inside, guests are welcomed to a warm culture, with trendy seating arrangements and a menu that challenges any redundant notion of cheap Mexican grub. The selection includes Huevo con Tocino with Egg and Bacon, a Torta Cubana, the signature Bolillo Torta, or the Sandwich de Pavo Organic (Organic Turkey Sandwich). For sides or smaller bites, try the signature Sopa de Frijol, the Ensalada Organica, or Stuffed Jalapenos. Desserts include a Cranberry Orange Cheescake and a Hazelnut & Chocolate Cake. Find Bolillo Tortas on 417 4th Avenue. For more information, visit bolillotortas.com.

Carnita’s Snack Shop: Carnita’s Snack Shop has officially opened their doors, serving North Park with easy, meaty dishes that hit the spot. With braised pork and sizzling sauces, the daily menu features the perfect fix to a mid-day hunger pain. While the menu changes slightly on the daily, some celebrated options include a Pork Belly App made with a sweet-spicy glaze, frisee with radish, apple and lemon vinaigrette; a Shack Burger with butter lettuce, tomato, bacon jam, white cheddar, and the shack ailoli; Carnitas in Tacos, with torta-salad, and plenty more to munch on. Pork deliciousness is always available at the Snack Shop, while daily vegetarian dishes and vegan dishes are made to order, as well. Opened by Chef Hanis Cavin and Sara Stroud, this joint venture is proud to serve flavorful slow cooked snacks with the company of locally-sourced craft beers. Carnita’s Snack Shop is located at 2632 University Ave. For more information, visit carnitassnackshack.com.

The Kebab Shop: A mid-day Middle Eastern hankering is best served at The Kebab Shop, home to some signature dishes that give those on the run reason to eat flavorfully. Located in East Village, Encinitas and Mira Mesa, The Kebab Shop will soon be expanding to Little Italy, as well. Fans love the Doner Kebabs, wrapped in flatbread with a choice of spiced lamb, marinated chicken or falafel, a mix of fresh veggies and the creamy yogurt sauce. Other popular dishes include the Lamb Shwarma, Chicken or Falafal made between fluffy, crusty bread with a mix of fresh veggies and garlic yogurt sauce. Shish Kebab Plates are grilled fresh and hot to order, and include one hot side and one fresh salad. Or, take a pick from the Salmon Filet Kebab, Grilled Vegetable Kebab, Beef Kofte Kebab, Moroccan Kebab or the Chicken Kebab. Rotisserie Plates are also offered, with straight lamb, chicken, or falafel, plus one hot side and one fresh salad. The Kebab Shop is located downtown at 630 9th Ave., Encinitas at 127 N. El Camino Real, Mira Mesa at 9450 Mira Mesa Blvd., and soon to Little Italy. For more information, visit thekebabshop.com.

Urban Plates: Urban Plates embodies the farm to table movement, but in a fresh and easy lunch form we can get in a jiffy. The affordably priced and well-portioned plates make food so accessible, your taste buds won’t know what hit them. The veggie-full menu features a Mix Up section of hand-tossed salads featuring the Desert BBQ Chicken Salad and the Mediterranean Mix Up Salad; a Carve Up section, featuring handmade plates such as Grilled Free-Range Chicken and Girlled Steak; Pile Up section with hand carved sandwiches; and Load Up, a full selection of take-away family meals. Urban Plates has something for everyone, with a special Kids section, Soups & Sides, Bakery currently featuring Organic Whole Pumpkin and Apple Pie, and local craft beers and wines. Urban Plates is located in Del Mar Highlands, at 12857 El Camino Real. For more information, visit urbanplates.com. (main image)

Rubicon Deli: While the original San Diego Rubicon Deli sits in Mission Beach, the new location is set to bring casual deli-fresh sandwiches to Mission Hills. Fresh baked breads, specialty sandwiches, soups, salads, coffee, tea and more are just the starting grounds for this local hot-spot. But delve deeper into the Rubicon dining experience and you’ll find a favorite Spicy Tuna Sandwich; the T.A.B.L.E, made with tomato, avocado, bacon, lettuce, and egg salad; the Moe Meatballs Sandwich; and the Rubicon Special made with turkey, smoked gouda, roasted red peppers, pesto mayo, lettuce on your choice of bread. The appetizing menu continues on with an Acai Bowl, Chinese Chicken Salad, and breakfast options featuring a Southwest Wrap Breakfast and Late Riser made with Bread, Egg Whites, Bacon, Pepper Jack, Tomato, Avocado, and Tapitio Remulad. Expected to open in January of 2012, the new spot for sandwich lovers will be located at 3715 India St. Mission Hills. For more information, visit therubicondeli.com.

Tender Greens: While Tender Greens already feeds the masses at its Point Loma location, the restaurant is opening new doors with the $180 million upgrade renovation of the Westfield UTC mall. As one of the main highlights in the group of new restaurants to open in the La Jolla mall, Tender Green’s policy of organic produce and al fresco dining will persist. Although the projected goal for completion of the project will be the end of 2012, fingers are crossed for an earlier debut of Tender Greens. This healthy stop features some fresh and tasty treats such as the Chinese Chicken Salad, a Tuna Nicoise, Grilled Veggies, Grilled Flank Steak Sandwich, Roasted Roma Tomato Bread Soup, and daily-made desserts. Tender Greens is currently located at Liberty Station on 2400 Historic Decatur Road. For more information, visit tendergreensfood.com.

Bite M.E: With a variety of cultural options available in the Gaslamp, Mediterranean food is always a must-have. Bite M.E focuses on high-quality food with American attitude. Between the six categories of eats, greens, nibbles, dips, sips, and sweets, guests can choose from small bites or larger plates. If opting for a “bite”, they’ll find a wrap in grilled flatbread with romaine lettuce, diced tomato, finely chopped onion, parsley, hummus, and Bite M.E secret sauce. Plates on the other hand, are accompanied by basmati rice and a choice of shirazi or tabbouleh side salad. For a fresh way to wash down the foods, the celebrated Mint Lemonade gives a refreshing spin on a classic drink, while a full list of local beers gives customers something to raise a glass about. Bite M.E is located on 423 F Street. For more information, visit bitemesd.com.

Brobertos: This new casual-cool shop giving us a quick Mex-fix downtown puts the “bro” in their burritos. Wedged between F6ix and Double Deuce, Brobertos is the new California-inspired spot to pick up a burrito, open until 3am Thursday-Saturday. Take a bite out of a Steak, Chicken or Veggie Borrito, or a Wake n’Steak, made with steak, scrambled eggs, tots, and cheese. Or try one of the simple and delish Case-a-dillas, available in Steak and Chicken. This to-the-point menu keeps it easy to dine and dash off back to dancing, the office, or wherever your downtown deviance takes you. Brobertos is located at 540 F. Street. For more information, visit brobertos.com.

Chipotle: Even burrito-snobs have to admit, Chipotle rolls up a mouth-watering burrito, every time. The newest location gives the Gaslamp Quarter something to get feisty about, sitting spicy at 101 West Broadway. Opened on December 14th, the new location on Broadway and 1st allows for the hectic foot traffic of downtown’s finest to cruise in and dine with a simple menu of burritos, tacos, salads, and the signature lime chips. Featuring naturally-raised meats and organic produce whenever possible, Chipotle is a cut above most “fast-food” chains, promoting a “food with integrity” policy in everything they cook up. For more information, visit chipotle.com.

San Diego Burger Mania

Habit Burger, Burger Lounge & Smashburger: Burgers, burgers, burgers all around. The patty trend is alive and well in San Diego, filling up our diners for a meat-lover’s paradise. Habit Burger recently opened its second location in San Diego in North County, on 12003 Carmel Mountain Rd. Their celebrated Charburger keeps mouths watering as its unique chargrilling process on an open flame adds to the 100% fresh ground beef. Diners can take their pick from the Double Charburger, Teriyaki Charburger, and the BBQ Bacon Charburger. Burger Lounge’s span is also spreading with their juicy American patties, with locations in Gaslamp, Hillcrest, Little Italy, Coronado, Kensington and La Jolla. Meanwhile, Smashburger has been continuing to open new spots in Oceaside, Del Mar, Pacific Bach, Kearny Mesa, Rancho Penasquitos, East Village and more. Their Mushroom Swiss and BBQ, Bacon & Cheddar Burgers are what keep fans coming back for more. Stay informed on the latest openings in our restaurant blog.

Insider Tip: An oldie but a goodie, we still love Searsucker's fast fine dining for lunch

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