The Most Underappreciated Lunch Area of the City

Take a stroll into any Hillcrest restaurant (almost) any day of the week and you will find tables packed with locals and a lively atmosphere. There is a reason that Hillcrest is one of the best dining districts in town. However, walk into the same place around noon during the week and you will find a virtual ghost town when it comes to the lunch crowd.
The food is just as good at lunch, and prices are often much more reasonable. The lack of customers though has created an interesting scenario where some of the best dinner places have become more innovative at lunch to attract anyone so they can justify keeping the doors open.
It is an interesting scenario considering you can go from most downtown office buildings to any Hillcrest restaurant in around 10 minutes. Combine ample parking and lack of lines you are looking at about the same time it takes for you to walk down the street and grab lunch downtown. Not to mention how quick it is to leave from any of the major hospitals or government buildings that are just a stone’s throw away from Hillcrest.
To be fair, not every spot in Hillcrest is slow at lunch. Walk into Hillcrest Artisan Meats any day, especially Friday, and you will be greeted with a line out the door. It is the major anomaly in the lunch scene. To a lesser extent the same can be said for Mylo Coffee Co, which tends to feed people who spend the morning in the coffee shop having meetings or working.
So what should you eat in Hillcrest for lunch? Here is our rundown of the best stops for lunch in the area.

Kemuri is often touted as one of the most innovative restaurants in the city, and they really open it up on the lunch menu. You will still find lunch sized portions of some of the favorites like drunken noodles, plus other on-theme items like a ramen bowl and bibimbap. It is the off-theme items though that have always caught our eye. They have a variety of tacos, sliders, and steamed buns that are a fantastic change of pace. They also offer a good variety of bento boxes and lunch combos.
The best part, it is all very affordable. Almost everything is in the $10-13 range and several items are enough to eat on the next day if you are so inclined. Not to mention the sushi chefs get creative sometimes and will send around something special to try.
La Terraza
Forget this being a story on Hillcrest, La Terraza is hands down one of my favorite lunch spots in the entire city. It is strange because half the time our table is the only one full in the entire restaurant at lunch.
The big items here (which you have to look hard for on the menu) are the arepas that are only available at lunch and brunch, and their amazing daily soup. Arepas are a Venezuelan sandwich (completely gluten free, if that matters) filled with different slow cooked meats. The carne mechada is my personal favorite, but all are good. These are served with fried plantains and black beans. Also get whatever the soup of the day is, it is always amazing.

SO Restaurant-Bar
SO has taken lunch in a variety of different directions over the past few years in trying to find the right balance. They admittedly suffered from slow ticket times when they began offering lunch, but have worked hard to correct that and now turn out items as fast as anyone around to help get lunch goers in and out as fast as possible.
The menu itself has tried several different things, currently it is a very simple menu consisting of a couple of soups and salads, and a handful of sandwiches. They are always fresh and good, using a lot of the ingredients from their premium priced dinner menu.
Mylo Coffee Co.
The lunch crowd at Mylo is often deceptive, about half of the crowd is people either working or in the middle of a meeting. Which is unfortunate because they do not know what awesome food awaits just on the other side of the restaurant.
Their daily lunch offerings are small, usually consisting of scotch eggs, soup, and a couple of sandwiches. Mylo’s commitment to using the absolute best ingredients really shines through though on each of the items. Sometime next year they will open up the new expanded space next door with a full menu, given the quality of what they can do currently in the little kitchen, we have very high hopes for the space.
Hillcrest Artisan Meats (H.A.M.)
HAM is the one spot on this list that we probably do not need to detail too much with regards to lunch. It is a crowd favorite and people come from all over the city to eat.
Most days HAM puts out a list of 8-10 sandwiches using their amazing meats. The soups are always very good too, so pay attention there. Friday is a real treat for a few lucky individuals. HAM has a very limited (usually 15-20) amount of fresh ground burgers available, and they are the best in the city. Burgers are sometimes gone by 10:45 though, so get out there early or call it in right away.
Leo’s Greek Castle
Leo’s historic spot always serves up a fantastic lunch that has honestly gotten better with age. Even though this is technically a Greek spot, their burgers are some of the best around. They offer 9 different variations (10 if you throw in the patty melt), or you can get a couple of styles of hamburger steaks using the same meat.
The mediterranean food obviously is worth checking out as well, with the standard gyros and kebabs. I personally love falafels, and they have a couple of good options here.
US Pizza
In all honesty, US Pizza is not my favorite in the world. It is middle of the road pizza in a town that has an overabundance of pizza spots. The salads and sandwiches however are what attract people to US Pizza, and all are very solid options.
The thing that attracts me to US Pizza is the patio. It is simply one of the best in the city. It is a great spot for a late Friday afternoon lunch with some friends.
Bossa Nova
To illustrate the forgotten nature of Hillcrest lunch spots, we initially forgot all about Bossa Nova being open, which is a shame because they have a really solid lunch menu featuring sandwiches, quiches, and a couple of lunch entrees. Like many of the other Hillcrest selections, they are all very reasonably priced for the quality of food you are receiving.
Off-Kavanaugh Spots in Hillcrest
For the purpose of this article, we focused on Kavanaugh spots, as they seem to get the worst of the discrepancy with the lunch crowd. kBird, Jimmy’s Serious Sandwiches, and Big Orange are all technically Hillcrest and offer up some of our favorite meals. They all seem to fare a bit better thanks to either increased visibility or a cult-like following thanks to great food.
Greg Henderson
Author: Greg Henderson

Owner/Publisher - Rock City Eats, Rock City Life, Rock City Times

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