Budget Beat

P.croissant: Lunch $10 and Under

Pleaissant Croissants, better known as simply P.croissant, shrugs off the pretense of most patisseries that sell the quintessential French pastry, and is hidden away in Fiesta Plaza off Elliot and Rural in Tempe. The Eiffel Tower in the middle of the bakery's logo is a nod to the croissant's origin without beating it over your head.

Stop in for lunch on an early weekday afternoon, and you might be surprised at how quiet it is. Most of P.croissant's patrons swing by at the crack of dawn to pick up a dozen or more of the tasty, flaky, flavored croissants the bakery is known for. Seriously, if you come after 11, they might already be out.

Don't be deterred by the lack of customers or the lack of flavored treats, though. Breakfast is not the only thing on the menu. Salads and sandwiches chocked full of tasty fresh veggies and Boar's Head meats offer a more substantial meal for the noontime crowd - with nothing costing more than $8.

Opt for the sandwiches, served on a fresh plain croissant that is anything but ordinary. The flaky, buttery goodness envelops and multiplies the flavor of whatever filling you choose.

Croissant sandwiches with scrambled eggs and your choice of meat, veggies and cheese are available all day for $5.45 each. The veggie egg sandwich is served piping hot with melted cheese oozing all over just-crisp-enough green peppers, onions and mushrooms atop real eggs. Delicious. And perfect for those days you just want to eat breakfast twice (or didn't get to eat breakfast before running out the door that morning...).

Heartier options, with French-inspired names, are $6.25 each. Feeling promiscuous? Try the Fraklin's French Mistress with turkey, provolone. Adventurous? The Cousteau with albacore tuna salad o. Guilty? The Guillotine ham and swiss. All come with lettuce and tomato.

The Eiffel Tower, stacking three different meats, cheese and toppings, is the highest priced item on the menu at about $8.

All of the sandwiches are also available on oat bran or whole wheat bread -- but why on earth you would go opt out of the namesake croissant is beyond us. Just one won't kill you or your diet... although they are rather addictive. Skip the single-serving chips instead.

Top it all off with a seasonal peach lemonade ($2.50) or an iced latte made with fresh brewed espresso, ice cold milk and your choice of flavored syrup ($3.75) that holds its own against those too-milky-sweet chain excuses for lattes.

The impeccably clean café, with free wifi, open tables and soft background music make it a great place to hold a conversation, have a quick business meeting or just knock out some work over the lunch hour. Or day, grab a bistro table on the shaded patio for a little more ambiance... although the parking lot scenery and view of Elliot Road might not be all that romantic.

At $2.50, a flavored croissant and small coffee is definitely the best bargain on the menu, and one we'll be hitting up until we try all the flavors from almond to white chocolate.

PCroissant is open 6 am to 2 pm Monday through Friday and 7am to 2 pm Saturday and Sunday.

7520 S Rural Road (accessible from Elliot Road)