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The crunchy chicken sandwich with chips may not be your healthiest option at Local Foods, but it's probably the tastiest.

Fast casual: perfect when time for lunch is short, but fast food isn’t an attractive option. Or pre-workout, when that athleisure wear is already on and yoga starts in 30 minutes. Counter service, relatively low wait times and a comfortable setting can really save the day. Here are some of Houston’s best spots to eat that don’t sacrifice quality ingredients or your time.

Local Foods

This Houston-based micro-chain specializes in a range of elevated but casual sandwiches, salads and prepared meals that showcase its emphasis on local ingredients and producers. With four locations around the city, each neighborhood spot offers its own sense of style and customized options, like pizza from a wood burning oven in Tanglewood. But no matter which place you visit, you’ll find reliable picks like the crunchy chicken sandwich (served on a Slow Dough pretzel bun with Provolone, pickles, and housemade potato chips above) guaranteed to hit the spot.

Rice Box

Billed as “modern Chinese takeout,” the Heights brick-and-mortar restaurant originated as a well-loved food truck before opening a second physical location (a sequel to the counter in Greenway Plaza) earlier this year. Accustomed to serving customers on-the-go, the eatery continues to dish out quality favorites efficiently, but from permanent digs that channel the movie Blade Runner. Case in point: guests can enjoy their kung pao chicken over rice with nitro tea on tap.

Urban Eats

Featuring both a gourmet market and an upstairs bistro, the Washington Avenue spot offers options for Houstonians on a quick lunch run or looking to share a beer over a more relaxed meal. While the market offers grab-and-go salads and sandwiches, the dine-in menu features twists on classic comfort food like the Green Eggs and Ham slider, made with a toasted pretzel roll, truffled basil egg salad, jalapeño-bacon jam and baby field greens. Lucky Summer Friday recipients can take advantage of the happy hour specials from 3 to 6 p.m.

Tacos A Go-Go

There are lots of great taco places in Houston, but Tacos a Go-Go captures the spirit of casual, original and funky in a way that makes it a city standout. The festive atmosphere is made better by the variety of taco options—all-day breakfast taco lovers rejoice—and ample seating. Added bonus: it’s a great place to celebrate Meatless Monday with your vegetarian friends.

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It's tough to choose at Revival Market.

Image: Carla Gomez

Revival Market

When you’re thinking quick, quality bites, it may seem odd to head for a butcher shop. But this craft shop in the Heights has coffee, pastries, and a café in addition to their signature prime cuts and housemade charcuterie. The breakfast and lunch crowd with a little time to linger can sit and enjoy full service at a table, while those on the run can pick up a variety of savory or sweet bites with coffee. Either way, it’s good to know that the bacon on your BLT was cut from a whole, heritage animal and cured in-house.

Niko Niko’s

This family-owned casual Greek restaurant is a Houston institution. The menu features lots of Greek classics, but stalwart lunch fans swear by the signature gyro and fries. Efficiency, even during the busiest hours, means long lines move quickly, whether you order takeout or sit down on the patio enjoying the sun. Recent expansion from the original Montrose spot means souvlaki fans can get their fix at four locations around the city.

Hubbell and Hudson Kitchen 

Workers north of the city don’t need to resort to fast food fare. Healthy and filling options abound at this kitchen and market space, a casual offshoot of the original upscale restaurant of the same name. Inside, guests on the go will find market-style selections for sandwiches, burgers and soups, in addition to a 65-item salad bar. A full coffee bar, pastries and dessert satisfy caffeine and sweet cravings, and those that want to take advantage of an extensive wine and beer selection can sip in the market or purchase bottles to go to unwind after a long day.

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