Where: Bowl, 607 Richmond, 832-582-7218
What $13 gets you: A fresh, healthy salad or sandwich that makes you never want to bring your lunch again. The cheerful, inviting interior of this unfortunately out-of-the-way lunch spot is like the office canteen you always dreamed of. Close enough to downtown and the Museum District yet far removed with its relaxing, sunny atmosphere, Bowl is ideal for a quick, delicious weekday lunch.
Inside, you'll see people bent intently over white pieces of paper. They're choosing their toppings for either a Solo (10 toppings) or Doppia (15 toppings) salad, which are $7 and $10 respectively. For an additional $3, you can add your choice of proteins such as pistachio chicken and grilled shrimp. Once you choose your toppings from the vast selection -- which includes your choice of greens, cheese and dressing in addition to the many vegetable and fruit toppings available -- you hand your list over the counter and the salad-makers work their magic. Within a few minutes, you have a fresh salad with one of the signature house-made dressings on the side.
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If salad isn't your thing, Bowl has some of the best sandwiches around. Deceptive for a salad place, but its amazing sandwiches range from supremely healthy (a savory vegetable sandwich that's brightened up with hummus and balsamic vinegar for $7.25) to sinfully delectable (El Capitan, a toasty concoction of prosciutto, brie, caramelized onions, basil and a drizzle of honey for $7.50). The smoked salmon is the most expensive of the sandwiches at $8.50, but well worth the price for the sheer amount of luscious salmon heaped upon lemon caper cream cheese and soft rye bread. The sandwiches come with chips, although -- sadly -- not very many.
Bowl has only been open for a little more than a year, and it shares a kitchen with its sister operation, Absinthe (you know, the bar hidden behind those heavy wooden doors that you always wondered about...). In that time, the hours of operation have been expanded to include dinner service (open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays) and a new Saturday breakfast (from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.). Pizza has also recently been added to the menu, including a tomato basil goat cheese and an herb chicken and feta pizza. If they're as good as the pizzas next door at Absinthe, they're sure to be a hit as well.
Recommended? Yes, but we wish there was a bit more substance to the Solo salad. It won't fill you up, although a Doppia will (but for $3 more, it's not exactly a bargain).
Bonus points: Bowl has a fax-in menu that you can use to send in your order ahead of time, good for those on the go. And when it cools off outside, the delightfully sunny side patio will be a big hit on lazy afternoons.