Like smoking, eating a franchise burger and fries for lunch has become a habit best done in secret. As everyone is nibbling on organic this or vegan that, the crinkling sound of unwrapping that burger can warrant as many embarrassed-for-you stares as burping in the middle of a meeting. Not so with a mid-afternoon meal from Jenny's Lunch Line.
Because Jenny's started as a catering company, it wouldn't be out of the wheelhouse to expect that all of the day's menu options would be available the whole time the little restaurant is open: 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Monday-Friday. If anyone knows how much food to make for any given situation, it's a caterer. But if you don't arrive at Jenny's early enough, the not-unlimited menu is limited. Supply and demand maybe?
Lunch changes daily and always includes a sandwich of some kind, salads, soups and usually a random offering or two. At the deli-style counter in the basement of the Pioneer Building, my hankering for Asian spring rolls and a chicken skewer at 2 p.m. was thwarted by my late arrival. So I convinced my gut to get a cup of Thai chicken soup ($2.75), half of a tarragon chicken wrap ($4), a green side salad ($2.75) and a side of local arugula pesto pasta salad ($2.75). Not quite the same, but satisfyingly acceptable substitutions.
Saffron-colored soup, filled with chicken, carrots, spinach and noodles, had the coconut smell of summer tanning lotion and the spicy piquant kick of curry. A sun-dried tomato tortilla wrap held a crisp leaf of lettuce and a thick swath of tarragon-infused chicken salad, filled with green apple chunks. The pasta in the delicious pesto salad was a shade of kelly green, and sunshine yellow niblets of corn and deep red chunks of tomato made the tiny side look like a child's gradeschool color primer.
The side salad, made with a mix of leafy greens and topped with big bites of feta, happy orange carrot slices and a healthy portion of sunflower seeds, was the kicker and worth returning for. The tangy feta fell through the soft leaves of lettuce, and the olive-oil and shallot dressing with a slight bite dripped down to join it, leaving a succulent little puddle at the bottom of the box.
On a second visit I indulged in half a roast beef sandwich ($4), a bowl of tomato basil and goat cheese soup ($2.75) and a chocolate chip cookie ($1).
The roast beef was the cerise shade good rare roast beef should be and was tender enough to tear away and not get dragged from its bed of multi-grain bread. The tomato soup didn't push any winners out of my Top Five Soups list (no joke, I have a list), but with some more goat cheese sprinkled in, it might make it to at least No. 7.
Jenny's Lunch Line does wrap its sandwiches in crinkling paper, but those wrappers open up to bright, fresh ingredients--nary a drop of special sauce--tumbling out of them.
--Amy Atkins has mastered the cover-up cough.
Boise Weekly sends two reviewers to every restaurant we review. Read what our other reviewer had to say about Jenny's Lunch Line.