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AFTERNOON DELIGHT 


Lunch spots downtown are as numerous as they are anonymous – not to say that there aren't a few excellent places for lunching lawyers to eat and a handful of interesting menus present along the Orange Avenue corridor. With the recent opening of the awfully named Crunch Time Cafe (don't you just picture a menu of rocks and shredded wheat?), the odds are thankfully tilting in favor of those who prefer to be thrilled by lunch, rather than just filled.

Tucked into a space that, by night, functions as the outdoor portion of downtown "ultralounge" Rhythm & Flow, Crunch Time is nearly invisible to lunch crowds wandering down Orange Avenue, with only a sandwich board (heh, heh) letting people know that a restaurant is actually in business there. Using the same cool furniture as Rhythm & Flow, Crunch Time is diner-style simple, with a walk-up order window and a call-your-name pickup window. The menu is where the astonishing difference comes in. Though "only" a salad/sandwich joint, the concoctions the tiny kitchen whips up are impressive. Crunch Time seems hell-bent on using fresh ingredients in dinner-style creations – their Greek salad ($6.95) is overflowing with romaine, olives and pepperoncini, while a sesame-seared ahi tuna sandwich ($7.25) piles fried onions, fresh greens and a fiery wasabi-garlic sauce into an onion roll. (Go for the homemade chips or sweet potato salad for your side dish; the "Szechwan confetti slaw" was messy and largely tasteless.)

Be warned, their lunches may leave you with questionable breath; Crunch Time is absolutely unafraid to pile spices, onions and garlic onto your meal. This is a good thing, as it also means they're absolutely unafraid to serve you a lunch brimming with flavor.

Occasional specials are worth watching for; a reasonably priced ceviche ($3.50) was more tomato than seafood, but was so tangy and tasty that it didn't matter. Crunch Time also offers breakfast – bagels, pastries and, of all things, a BLT.

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