When the clock strikes noon, there’s a mass exodus that happens inside every South Lake Union office building. The interns, executives, and even French bulldogs wearing onesies, all head towards the exit like someone made a bad Jumanji roll. So many lunch spots are completely overrun by loud people who talk about leadership principles, and the simple act of grabbing some soup or a salad can turn into a Black Friday kind of experience.
Your time and sanity are important, so you’re probably in the market for a fast and calm lunch. This guide has you covered, from some of the best sandwich shops in the city to spots with great bowls of soup. If you have less than an hour to eat something before returning to type up some six-page docs, try these spots.
There’s a building in SLU that has both a glassblowing studio and also one of the best falafel sandwiches in town. That spot is Eggs And Plants, a vegetarian Middle Eastern place that stuffs their pita with amazing crunchy chickpea fritters, Israeli salad, hummus, cabbage, pickles, tahini, and french fries. Sit with one of those, a frozen mint lemonade, and contemplate how expensive vases are really just the result of people puffing air into molten sand.
Market House Meats not only has the best sandwiches in the neighborhood, but it’s also the quietest place to get one. They specialize in cured meats like pastrami, corned beef, and brisket, and every sandwich here is phenomenal. You get a scoop of tangy potato salad and a knockoff store brand Oreo with every sandwich, so it makes for a filling lunch. While the entire Amazon population is around the corner waiting in lines to slurp broth at Pho Bac, come here for the best reuben in the city.
The last time you had pasta as a quick workday lunch, your microwaved leftovers made the entire fourth floor smell like crab lasagna. Don’t do that again - go to G.H. Pasta Co. instead. This is the fast-casual operation from the same team behind some of our favorite Italian restaurants in Seattle, like Vendemmia and Le Messe. Any of these big bowls of pasta - like fresh gemelli with braised pork and a mountain of parmesan or rigatoni with tomato and burrata - are just $10 each. It’s never insanely busy, and there are plenty of counter seats that get a ton of light from their huge windows. Don’t forget to order some garlic bread, too.
If you want to grab an espresso drink flavored with cardamom or Bournvita (malted chocolate powder), Lassi & Spice is the coffee shop for you. But they also serve a small lunch menu with things like chana masala topped with yogurt and mini samosas. The best dish, however, is the vada pav sliders, which are potato fritters with mint chutney, peanut sauce, and a sweet and salty glaze on Hawaiian rolls that we’d happily bring to a Huskies tailgate. Everything here is less than $10, including the made-to-order pistachio lassi.
Retro is technically Downtown, but it’s less than a ten-minute walk from the neighborhood. This dog-friendly spot is very chill in the afternoon, and its proximity to SLU means there’s almost no chance that you’d run into one of your coworkers here. You should order the excellent burger, which you can top with anything from cheddar to teriyaki sauce, and comes with really crispy, tasty fries.
Sometimes there’s a bit of a line at Urban Gyro, but the operation behind the counter is so efficient that you’ll be handed a lamb pita covered in tzatziki in no time. They have a menu full of things like shawarma, falafel, hummus, and Greek salads (as well as chocolate baklava for dessert). While the space is just a small room with a few tables and a counter, so many people grab food to go here that you’ll always find a place to sit.
There isn’t a lot of seating inside Vinason, but if you’re at one of the window seats, it’s a great place to people-watch during your lunch break. The menu has a ton of options to choose from, like banh mi, pho, vermicelli bowls, fried rice, and spring rolls, and pretty much everything is under $10.
Everyone knows that Tacos Chukis makes some of the best tacos in town, and their SLU location is no different. They have a lot of options, but our favorites are the ones filled with adobada pork, cheese, salsa, guacamole, and grilled pineapple. Also, each taco is less than $3, so even after a huge pile of them, you’ll still have enough money left over to buy the things that really matter - like a happy lamp for your dog.
Meat & Bread is located at the bottom of the busy 400 Fairview building, which makes it a perfect lunch spot if you work upstairs and need something quick. These sandwiches are excellent - two of our favorites are the melty Beecher’s cheesesteak and the porchetta with salsa verde and cracklins on toasted ciabatta. After ordering, there’s a quiet alcove next to the counter where you can eat your messy sandwich away from your desk.
Grabbing a slice of pizza is always perfect for a quick, quiet lunch. But the only place in the neighborhood with worthwhile pies is Princi, an Italian bakery chain whose only American location is in South Lake Union. The excellent pizza here comes on a square focaccia-like crust with toppings that range from traditional margherita to speck and potato, and we also recommend getting a ganache tart for dessert. If you come here for lunch, we guarantee you’ll momentarily feel like you’re in a European cafe.
Homegrown is a quick operation that whips up sandwiches like cherry pecan chicken salad or steak, blue cheese, and caramelized onions. Each sandwich gets a toaster-conveyor-belt ride, so you only have to wait a few seconds for your order to come out. If bread’s your personal demon, the grain bowls and salads are terrific, too.
Mala & Satay has the best banh mi sandwiches in the neighborhood. It’s a very quick counter situation where you can also order things like spicy Szechuan peppercorn pho or vermicelli bowls topped with chicken satays and vegetables. The space is pretty laid-back even at peak lunch hours, so there’s plenty of room to spread out with your warm sandwich or soup.
The SLU Jack’s is way better than their SoDo location. And despite being surrounded by a bunch of other lunch spots, it’s never too crowded in here to grab a table in this space that looks a little like a honky-tonk bar. The perfect meal at Jack’s is a pulled chicken sandwich topped with barbecue sauce and slaw, and a cup of queso mac and cheese on the side.
Sometimes, the only thing that will make you feel better after a long morning is to sit alone, stare into an empty void, and eat a waffle cone full of matcha soft serve topped with an entire slice of cake. Nana’s Green Tea is the bakery that’s there for you if lunch needs to be an ice cream parfait.