Let’s face it: the highlight of going into an office is the 30 to 60 minutes you can break up the monotony of the workday by sneaking away for lunch.

With an ever-growing list of food options near the Columbia business district, there’s certainly something to give you enough energy to stave off the 2 p.m. slump. Here are some of my current favorite spots for when a sad desk lunch just won’t cut it.

Bon Fresco

6945 Oakland Mills Road, Columbia

A chicken picante sandwich from Bon Fresco in Columbia. (Rachel Lipton)

Bon Fresco makes fresh bread the center of their sandwich-making operation. Upon walking in, you’re immediately hit with the smell (and sight) of ciabatta. The picante chicken — served with an excellent sweet and mild pepper sauce — is always a favorite of mine. It comes with pepper jack cheese, grilled veggies, caramelized onions and roasted red peppers, and is served oven-warmed, which is perfect for always-cold business offices. If chicken isn’t your thing, there are four other picante sandwiches for you to try, including vegetarian and pescatarian options, as well as a bevy of other sandwiches, from roasted turkey on walnut whole-wheat to hummus on focaccia. No matter what you choose though, the bread here is the star of the show.

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ZiZa Kabob

7351 Assateague Drive #100, Jessup

The chicken kabob salad from ZiZa Kabob in Jessup. (Rachel Lipton)

If you’re in the mood for a place with plenty of options, look no further than Afghan restaurant ZiZa Kabob’s expansive menu with plenty of specials, appetizers, entrees, salads, desserts and more. The standout here is the cilantro yogurt sauce that comes with just about every dish. Dunking naan, tandoori shrimp, or really anything you can imagine in the herby sauce is a real workday treat.

I’m a huge fan of their chicken kabob: Served with naan, rice, salad and, of course, cilantro yogurt, the dish has incredibly juicy chicken with a nice char.

Nalley Fresh

6455 Dobbin Road #45, Columbia (and multiple locations)

A build-your-own salad from Nalley Fresh in Columbia. (Rachel Lipton)

With over 50 options to choose from when building your salad, wrap or bowl, Nalley Fresh has choices for even the pickiest of eaters. After you choose your base and your protein (including vegan and vegetarian choices), make your way down the line of more than 100 toppings. You can add whatever strikes your fancy, so every meal hits all your cravings, whatever they might be on any given day. And if you’re suffering from decision fatigue, try one of the chef-made options like the Cajun rice bowl or the classic garden salad.

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Eataliano Market & Deli

5325 Phelps Luck Drive, Columbia

Eataliano Market & Deli in Columbia serves a drunken Grandma pie, which consists of vodka sauce, fresh mozzarella and basil oil. (Rachel Lipton)

Italian delis and lunch basically go hand in hand since you can’t go wrong with sandwiches, salads or pizza. Eataliano Market & Deli is a traditional Italian market with dry goods, meats and cheeses, as well as a selection of antipasti and prepared foods. I find their pizzas to be some of the best in the area. They make a few varieties of a Grandma pie, which is similar to Sicilian but a bit thinner and less doughy. This style of pizza can be hard to find outside of Long Island, New York, and it reminds me of my childhood. Their Grandma pies — with choices like tomato pie and broccoli rabe and sausage — only come in a large, so there’s always plenty left over for dinner.

Poke Fresh

6050 Meadowridge Center Drive #204, Elkridge

Build-your-own poke bowls at Poke Fresh in Elkridge. (Rachel Lipton)

Tucked away off Route 100 is my favorite place to grab a poke bowl. Poke Fresh’s menu is very approachable for those trying the dish for the first time, with all the ingredients nicely displayed as you build your bowl. If the thought of building your own concoction overwhelms you, there are a few signature bowl combinations to choose from, like the spicy Hawaiian, which lives up to its name with spicy tuna, spicy salmon, spicy crab salad, spicy mayo sauce and chili flakes (as well as a smattering of other ingredients). If you’re craving something handheld, they also offer sushi burritos following a similar format: build your own or choose from a few pre-designed options.

Rachel Lipton is a Baltimore-based freelancer and the content creator behind @LikeTheTeaEATS, where she highlights food and finds around the Baltimore region.

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