I am often accused of being a food snob. I turn up my nose at chains, prepackaged spice mixes, anything with nonfat cheese in it. But I get paid to be a discerning diner, a critical eater. This is also what makes me a horrible lunch companion. Like most people, I want to spend less money on lunch than I do on dinner and be able to fit it into a normal noon-time break. For this lunchtime snob, I desire a meal I can get in an hour, under $10 and worthy of my picky palette.
My first foray was Picnikins (5811 University Heights, (210) 236-5134; 6901 Blanco (210) 616-0954), which quietly opened a few years ago to an array of steady accolades. While the name confuses many diners, the food is definitely understandable.
Picnikins is strictly a soup, salad and sandwich shop at lunch. The prices are higher than you’d spend for, say, fast food, but on par with any other fast casual joint.
A lunch at Picnikins should always start with a cup of the roasted poblano soup. It is decadently creamy and flecked with just a few specks of pepper. It looks like a bisque, but is much thinner in consistency. The cup more than satisfies as a side ($4), and a bowl ($7.50) is a meal unto itself.
Amid Picknickins’ solid, high-quality menu, the sandwiches and burgers particularly stand out. The kitchen doesn’t skimp on fillings, either.
The Ultimate ($9) fairly bursts with bean sprouts and turkey. Some might think it overkill to have bacon, turkey, avocado, mayo and cream cheese on one sandwich–I call it a good value.
A word of caution: If on a business lunch, be picky about your burger or hot sandwich selection. Many are too messy to be eaten in polite company. Meat and sauce spill out of the super-sloppy pulled pork sammie ($8.50), but you won’t mind because it’s so damned good. The sandwich comes with a fennel seed-flecked slaw, giving the whole plate a delightful mix of sweet, tangy and spicy. Similarly, a creamy sauce and crunchy bacon lavishly tops the yummy bleu cheeseburger ($9). To kick it up even further, hot sandwiches come nestled in brioche, the most buttery of breads, and all come with crisp housemade chips. Grab extra napkins and enjoy.
While some of my lunching companions insist that it’s possible for a restaurant to feature all hits and no misses, I disagree. All dining establishments have a misstep here or there. In Picknickins case, I found the chicken tortilla soup to be heavy on the tortilla topping (as though it has something to hide) and the chicken to be too chunky to easily scoop up with a spoon. Another fowl foul was the oddly sweet chicken salad sandwich ($7.50) served with an unwieldy tomato slice.
But, despite a few quibbles, Picnikins excels in satisfying desk jockeys looking for a delicious, inexpensive meal.