Lunch for One: Paradis To-Go

"When I made my way to the soups, things started looking up."

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[Photo: Kathy YL Chan]

The lines coming out the door during lunch hour at Paradis To-Go, just a few blocks from Union Square, get pretty crazy. Yes, their chocolate chip cookies are loved by many, but I find them too soft, squishy and sweet. There's an assortment of pre-packed salads that many people grab to go, but many are pretty by sight but fairly lackluster in flavor, including the Orzo, White Beans and Broccoli Rabe Salad ($5.25) pictured at top. Fresh, but who forgot the salt?

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The Curried Chicken Salad ($5.50), with apples, almonds, and grapes, didn't fare much better. Large, dry chunks of chicken was the killing point, heavy and unappetizing. I would have preferred the Curried Chicken Salad minus the chicken.

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It wasn't until I made my way to the soups that things started looking up at Paradis. Soups change on a daily basis; they served one hot soup and one cold soup on each of my visits. A Roasted Eggplant Soup one afternoon was the right cure for rainy weather, hearty with a tomato base and chunks of eggplant. But for those sweltering humid days to come, the Chilled Asparagus and Sweet Pea Soup ($5.65) was a much better meal. A velvety, balanced puree of both asparagus and sweet peas, with no one dominating the other, dill to finish. I'd be forgetting something if I neglect to mention that, as with the salads, a few pinches of salt would do wonders.

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But if I came back to Paradis, it would be for the sandwiches. There are five sandwich regulars on the menu, and one or two specials on any given day. All sandwiches are available grilled—make sure to take advantage of that option, it makes all the difference, especially with the Grilled Vegetables and Broccoli Rabe Panino ($8). The sandwich alone nearly made up for all the sad salads. Here, crisp ciabatta bread sandwiches a garden of warm, grilled tomatoes, eggplant, bell peppers and zucchini, all piled beneath a layer of broccoli rabe, provolone oozing out of either side. Delicious.

Most of Paradis To-Go's business is, in fact, done to-go, as the name implies; but there are a few tables inside the shop, and no matter how busy this place gets, it's never a long wait, if any, for a seat. Let the cashier know that you are staying to eat, and they'll provide appropriate plates and such to spoon out any pre-packaged dishes.

Paradis To-Go

114 4th Avenue, New York, NY 10003 (map) 646-416-6709
paradistogo.com