Since long, leisurely lunches followed by a food coma-induced nap aren’t really a thing in this corner of the world, most of us need something that actually boosts our energy, fueling us through the rest of the afternoon. And with New Year’s resolutions just days in the rearview mirror, these lunch spots will check the nutritious (as well as delicious) boxes.
A good bowl of pho is like culinary magic. When done well, the spiced beef bone broth blurs the line between gastronomic pleasure and medicinal powers. And depending on the style, pho packs a lot of punch for a fairly low-calorie tally. Thin slices of tender rare beef (pho tai) blanket a steaming nest of rice noodles submerged in broth fragrant with cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and ginger — though no one ever reveals his exact recipe. Some rise above the rest.
Pho House is a family-run gem near Costco in Kirkland where the portions of beef are generous, and the quality is a cut above other pho restaurants nearby. (Pho Tai, $7.95 small) 12026 N.E. 85th St., Kirkland
PHO 175, located two blocks west of Molbaks (on, wait for it, N.E. 175th Street), may not be the fanciest in terms of décor, but the broth more than makes up for the ambiance. (Pho Tai, $7.50 regular) 13317 N.E. 175th St., Woodinville; pho175.com
Pho Cyclo Café in Bellevue’s City Center Building is a fast-casual counter-service incarnation of the local chain. (Pho Tai, $8.45 small) 500 108th Ave. N.E., Bellevue; phocyclocafe.com
THAI ON THE VEGGIES
The balance of sweet, salty, and sour flavors in Thai cuisine keeps the taste buds so busy, they don’t even miss the meat at these two restaurants.
Araya’s Place is not only vegan, but many of the dishes served during the lunch buffet also are gluten-free, including the Pad Thai noodles. Curry with tofu, Tom Yum soup, stir-fried vegetables, fresh salads, and pickled “kimchi”-style sides pack the buffet line with vibrant colors, making it easy to eat your rainbow of foods for the day. A giant pot of steamed brown rice perfumes the air each time someone opens the lid. 10246 Main St., Bellevue; arayasplace.com;
lunch buffet $11.99
Sukho Thai, located off Bel-Red Road just east of Fred Meyer, offers a vegetarian lunch buffet Tuesday through Saturday in its cozy back room. In addition to favorites like Pad Thai noodles, curry, and Tom Yum soup, the buffet includes fresh and spicy green papaya salad and crunchy spring rolls. Sukho also offers pescetarian options on its regular menu. 15045 Bel-Red Rd., Bellevue;
buffet $10.95 Tuesday-Friday,
CRAZY FOR QUINOA
The quinoa trend is too strong to ignore. This protein-packed South American grain graces menus all over town, and it has been in the nutrition spotlight long enough that even your Aunt Mabel probably knows how to pronounce it by now (but just in case: key-NWAH).
Beardslee Public House may do charcuterie well, but when your diet calls for a break on the pork, try the Quinoa & Cauliflower Salad ($10) — a savory combination including chopped broccoli stems, bell peppers, kale, and sweet golden raisins with a lemon-olive oil dressing. 19116 Beardslee Blvd., Bothell; beardsleeph.com
Little Brother puts a nondairy cashew cream twist on its Quinoa Salad ($14), fortified with romanesco, chickpeas, and apple. Or for a nutrient-dense sandwich alternative, try the winter squash and hummus Seed Loaf Tartine ($14), flavored with feta crumbles, crunchy pepitas, and herbs. 456 Central Way, Kirkland;
Woodblock brings the flavor to Redmond diners with its Baby Kale & Quinoa Salad ($10). It heads in a Southwest direction with roasted corn, red bell pepper, black beans, and jalapeno. Hold the blue cheese to keep it healthier. 16175 Cleveland St., Redmond; woodblockredmond.com
Swiftwater Cellars opened its doors last summer after expanding from its original location at Suncadia Resort in Cle Elum. The Vegan Quinoa Salad ($15) includes kale, cherry tomatoes, roasted peppers, sugar snap peas and the trendiest ingredients — avocado (some trends are especially delicious). 10360 Main St., Bellevue; swiftwatercellarsbellevue.com