So imagine our glee at the opening of Walker's, a shrine to handmade soft pretzels. Don't be confused; Walker's is an entire cafe, with a full, impressive menu of soups, salads, sandwiches, pizza, etc. But its specialty, and rightly so, is the perfect pretzel. They're steamy hot, cloaked with coarse salt and pulled in pliant, chewy mouthfuls. We can get them plain or salted. We can get a side of cheese dip (Velveeta, it has to be). And we can get a superb pretzel dog -- the frank juicy with beef liquor, wrapped in a golden bundle of dough.
Walker's even has a dessert pretzel, lavishly sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. What a delicious deal.
Sweet, tart blackberry cobbler with buttery fluted crust. Fresh baked biscuits from scratch. Light-as-air strawberry shortcake. Creamy cheesecake. Oh, my. We're getting ahead of ourselves in our lust for dessert. First, we should start with dinner, tucking in to center cut pork chops, meat loaf swimming in gravy, or a Reuben. These are full meals, partnered with soup, salad or coleslaw, vegetables, biscuits and potatoes.
We're feeling awfully warm and cuddly.
Which is why, several times a week, you'll find us taking our noon repast at Focaccia Fiorentina. The cute Italian cafe keeps us coming back for its remarkably fresh sandwiches, salads, pastas and desserts (imported meats, cheese and vegetables are delivered fresh each morning; tiramisu and cheesecake are homemade). Nothing costs more than $7.50, with a half-dozen gorgeous pasta plates brimming with gutsy flavor for just $6.25.
This is tasty Tuscan fare, like the valtellina, a hearty hot sandwich of bresaola (air-dried beef), fresh basil, mozzarella, lettuce, lemon and extra-virgin olive oil on focaccia. We adore the classic rigatoni al ragu, loaded with lean ground beef, zesty marinara, fresh parsley, a touch of cream and Parmesan. The caesar is the real thing, too.
We may be just office peons, but we're very well-fed office peons.
Food is as delicious as the decor, with carefully selected staples like wild Copper River king salmon from Alaska; handmade, small-batch Maytag blue cheese from Iowa; fresh tropical Pacific game fish from Honolulu; and flavorful, juicy beef from Omaha's best stockyards. It's difficult to think about returning to work after such a feast as rock salt roasted prime rib with seasonal vegetables, red jacket mashed potatoes, natural jus and fresh Oregon horseradish. So sometimes we go a little lighter, with seared Northwest Dungeness crab cake atop sweet-and-sour and beurre blanc sauces, Asian slaw, sushi jasmine rice and pickled red ginger. We always hope our lunch companion, though, orders the center-cut top sirloin steak with martini butter and juniper seasoning so we can pick bites off his plate.
Desserts bring the final decadent blow: superb renditions of crème brûlée, Key lime pie, chocolate cake and apple tart. Meeting adjourned.
Yet then, once we arrive, the laughter fades. They call their cuisine "Western ranch cooking," but unless tequila is considered a major food group, we're not leaving here walking straight. Consider the Tombstone Businessman's Special, promising heartburn on a plate, bringing a combo of spicy beef jerky, a jalapeo-pickled egg, a seven-ounce beer and a shot of tequila. Sandwiches from the grill come with a choice of sides: steak fries, potato salad, or a shot of tequila. For dessert there's, imagine this, a shot of tequila Sauza Hornitos served with an orange wedge and cinnamon.
All this before noon. If this keeps up, we won't make it to happy hour.
We've experimented with our own fair share of sandwich recipes (hint: chocolate frosting on toast doesn't work). Yet leave it to the master at Miracle Mile to send out real winners. Specialties include the Straw (hot pastrami, melted Swiss, hot sauerkraut), the New Yorker (hot pastrami, coleslaw, Miracle Mile dressing) and the Triple Decker (two layers of hot pastrami on rye, imported Swiss, lettuce and Miracle Mile dressing).
Sandwiches this good truly are a miracle.
We'd be surprised if the Desert Grind had too many complaints about the tuna it crafts. Rather than one sandwich, this casual place offers four, each just different enough to satisfy individual cravings. The first is, of course, the classic, whole white albacore mixed with celery, jicama, dill and mayo with tomato, red onion, lettuce and more mayo on wheat. Then there's the Amy's Favorite, with salad, red onion, bean sprouts and honey Dijon on wheat bread. Not enough? Maybe the Mom's version will get you -- salad, dill pickle relish, tomatoes, lettuce and mayo on wheat. Yet there's still one more, the tuna melt, topped with provolone, marinated tomatoes, red onion and Dijon on toasted wheat.
If there's a Greater Tuna, we haven't found it yet.