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Lunchtime lite

Cafe Karis fills the bill for on-the-go deli fare


I'm a firm believer that not every meal's got to be a transcendental experience. "Splurge" and "luxury" lose their meaning when they become everyday events. I look forward to mealtime a bit too much as it is; if each lunch and dinner were Michelin-starred events, the rest of life would lose a lot of its meaning. Cafe Karis fits those days when you just want something simple to fill your belly.

Groovin' Reuben: Tucked into the first floor of a new apartment complex across the street from the original Jake's Ice Cream, Cafe Karis is part deli/cafe, part convenience store and part marketplace. A small seating area with mod plastic chairs in sherbet colors is a welcoming place to read the paper and nibble on a sandwich. The Reuben ($5.99) is a well-proportioned version of a grilled sandwich that can be remarkable for its greasiness. Deliciously toasty, the old favorite can be made even leaner with turkey breast, although we opted for the classic corned beef. Pungent with crisp sauerkraut and gooey with a slice of Swiss, Karis' Reuben was an agreeable, nearly guiltless lunch.

You better wrap it up: The California wrap ($6.49) is a zesty combination of turkey breast, cheddar, avocado, lettuce, tomato and sun-dried tomato spread rolled up in a spinach tortilla and served with a sweetish yogurt dressing on the side. The wrap is perfectly sized to sate a deep lunchtime hunger without an ounce of excess. You won't feel the need to curl up under your desk after this one. The Mexican wrap ($6.49) was made meatless for a vegetarian friend. Stuffed with avocado, black beans, tomatoes, lettuce, onions and cheddar, the sandwich was more a low-calorie burrito than anything else. Served cold, the flavors and textures seemed a bit odd, but after a bit of nuking, my friend had no problem scarfing it down.

Melt your heart: The chicken salad melt ($5.99) satisfied dual cravings for chicken salad and a pressed sandwich. Made with breast meat, the salad had just enough mayonnaise (Hellmann's, it must be noted) to hold it together. A tiny cup of slaw on the side was surprisingly good. It's rare that you find slaw that isn't a throwaway item of wilted cabbage that's been marinating in runny mayonnaise for far too long. Karis' slaw was astonishingly crisp, the cabbage shredded into curls as thin as angel hair. Instead of mayonnaise, mild wine vinegar dressed the slaw.

Priced around $6 each, the sandwiches won't break the bank, but the addition of a more generous helping of slaw or other sides would create better value. The sandwiches are a lot smaller than the five-pound monsters we've become used to. I like them. They're perfectly sized for eating on the go -- in fact, should I find myself running errands in the area, I'd most certainly stop by for something to nibble on in the car.

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