The Cheat Sheet: Where to Get a Quick, Healthy Lunch in Philly

Katie scours the Philly lunch-hour scene to find the best salads, sandwiches, soups and more to grab when you’re in a hurry.

The ingredient options at Sweetgreen are endless. // Photo via Facebook

Imagine this: You’re crazed at work, famished at 2 p.m. (which is the first time you’ve had a chance to even think about eating since breakfast) and although a sausage sandwich from the food cart on the corner is easy, you know you’ll pay for that later.  Sound familiar?

Yeah, we’ve all been there. Luck for you, Philly’s practically bursting with healthy grab-and-go options that offer satisfying meals to give you the energy you need to tackle the rest of the day. Here are my picks for quick lunches around town because let’s face it—a salad with balsamic dressing everyday isn’t going to cut it.

Honeygrow
1601 Sansom Street, Center City, 215-279-7724.

Head here for fill-you-up eats made from local ingredients. You can build your own salad or stir-fy and pile on the colorful veggies, or opt for one of the house creations. My picks:

  • Indonesian BBQ stir-fry: cilantro, broccoli, free-range chicken, shiitake mushrooms, bok choy, onions, scallions, egg noodles, Indonesian barbecue sauce. Tip: Swap the egg noodles for brown rice.
  • Vegan salad: arugula, spinach, red apple, edamame, red pepper, red onion, roasted garlic-tahini dressing.

Le Pain Quotidien
801 Walnut Street, Center City East, 215-253-3114, and 1425 Walnut Street, Center City, 215-751-0570.

This bakery and café uses high-quality organic ingredients. Don’t miss the seasonal specials—the frittata is a personal favorite. My other picks include:

  • Organic French lentil salad: lentils with avocado, garden vegetables, chickpeas and flaxseeds.
  • Seared quinoa cake: quinoa cake with corn, zucchini, carrots, tomato, hummus and avocado.

Hip City Veg
127 S. 18th Street, Center City, 215-278-7605.

With a 100-percent plant-based menu and a killer green lemonade (kale juice, lemon juice and agave), Hip City Veg offers vegan fare that even a meat-eater can enjoy. The arugula taco salad (my fave) was given a Best of Philly 2012 award for best salad—and for good reason.

  • Arugula taco salad: black beans, grilled corn, pico de gallo, tortillas, avocado and cilantro dressing.
  • Curry tofu wrap: spinach, tomato, cilantro-white bean purée & cucumber raita.

Freshii
1414 South Penn Square, Center City, 215-977-7123.

Founder Matthew Corrin created Freshii to provide busy New Yorkers with a healthy lunch option. “Eat. Energize.”—that’s the motto here, and a menu packed with a variety of fresh, high-quality items like salads, burittos and soups will definitely do the trick. My picks:

  • Bliss bowl: brown rice, roasted red peppers, mushrooms, double avocado, diced tomatoes, goat cheese, EVOO and aged balsamic vinegar.
  • Seven-vegetable soup: vegetable broth, rice noodles, spinach, grilled tofu, sweet corn, edamame, carrots, celery.

Sweetgreen
68 Coulter Avenue, Ardmore, 610-642-9400, and 3925 Walnut Street, 215-386-1365.

With locations in Ardmore and West Philly, the Sweetgreen salad sensation is slowly (finally!) sweeping our area. (It’s already a huge hit in D.C., where the salad and fro-yo chain got its start). Make sure to try the seasonal creations or build your own bountiful salad. The offering are endless, and I promise you will never get bored. My off-the-menu picks:

  • Spicy sabzi: baby spinach with spicy quinoa, broccoli, carrots, raw beets, basil, sprouts and tofu, topped with a carrot-chili vinaigrette and a squeeze of Sriracha.
  • Curry gold: baby spinach with roasted chicken, cucumbers, beets, dried cranberries and toasted almonds, topped with a curry-pineapple yogurt dressing.

Giwa
1608 Sansom Street, Center City, 215-557-9830.

With the weather getting cooler, you might be jonesing for something warm and comforting. For me, a warm bowl of rice and veggies does the trick. Giwa offers Korean food fast with a price tag that won’t burn a hole in your wallet. Stick with lean proteins like tofu, chicken or shrimp. Here are my picks:

  • Giwa Signature Bibimbop: rice bowl with a variety of vegetables, such as mixed greens, radish, bean sprouts and carrots, and julienned egg topped with spicy red-pepper paste (available served hot or cold).
  • Soon Du Bu: spicy soft tofu stew with vegetables.

Pure Fare
119 South 21st Street, Center City, 267-318-7441, and 1609 South Street, Rittenhouse Square, 267-687-2292.

It’s nearly impossible to talk about healthy lunch options in Philly without including Pure Fare. With unique offerings like zucchini noodles, quinoa and sweet-potato-based baked goods, GF breads and detoxifying juices and smoothies, it’s hard to find something that isn’t good for you at this eatery. For the sake of variety, here are two picks you won’t find anywhere else:

  • Cauliflower rice: shredded cauliflower cooked in garlic, curry paste, Fresh cilantro and organic coconut milk, topped with sautéed bell peppers, snap peas and baked chicken.
  • Carrot miso: Pure Fare’s carrot-miso spread (made with fresh carrots, cilantro, miso paste, tahini, scallions), plus sprouts, daikon, tomato, avocado and baby bok choy on gluten-free bread.

>> Where do you go for a quick, healthy lunch in Philly? Share in the comments!

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Restaurant menus are reviewed by Phillies dietitian and owner of Healthy Bites Katie Cavuto Boyle. In most cases, the individual restaurants were contacted for specific ingredient and recipe information. Note: Many restaurants have seasonal menus and some items may not be available.

>> See Cheat Sheets for other Philly restaurants here. And for Katie’s healthy dining-out tips, go here.

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  • Julia

    You completely forgot about Fuel on 12th and Walnut. (On walnut) This is definitely my favorite “healthy cafe”; I prefer it to both freshii and Hip City Veg. They have pressed juices, fantastic salads, wraps, paninis and gluten free options. They also share calorie info. My favorite is an appetizer: Shrimp crudites. It’s a thick slice of cucumber with a dollop of hummus, ricotta and a cold steamed shrimp on each with a basil leaf. I promise you will not be dissapointed!