You could say there are two different MRKTs – one that’s open during the afternoon, and the other that’s open from 5 p.m. onwards. While the full-dinner-service menu at MRKT is nothing to ignore, the casual, cafeteria-style lunch earned top billing on our Best Restaurants list this year. The downtown restaurant features three soup choices – one veggie, one fish and one meat – on top of a selection of sandwiches and salads. Its dinner menu is much more extensive, but its lunch is what customers love: Fast, affordable, diverse and tasty. A lot of restaurants tout comfort food, but few dishes actually remind me of home. MRKT’s braised beef sandwich is one of them. The shredded beef is covered in a Spanish tomato sauce and sour cream mixture, then served with smoked gouda and caramelized onions on a fresh, chewy ciabatta bun. It looks and smells like a traditional pulled pork sandwich, but the distinct beef flavour is prominent. Any of MRKT’s lunch options can be enjoyed alone, but it’s always better to pair them with one of the soup creations. -Eric Silver
10542 Jasper Ave., 780-757-6758,
Runner-Up: TAVERN 1903
Right across from the Shaw Conference Centre on Jasper Avenue, Tavern 1903 is in the prime spot to attract the downtown office crowd looking to escape for lunch. Tavern has been able to blend a variety of influences, from the sweet-and-spicy Korean sauce in the fried cauliflower, to the Mexican tortilla soup. It’s like being able to tour the globe on a tabletop. The blue crab cakes are flaky and moist, and will take you to New England. The prawn tacos mix Asian and Mexican influences in a way that might even make Roy Choi proud. –Steven Sandor
9802 Jasper Ave., 780-424-0152,
Honourable Mention: MANOR CASUAL BISTRO
Executive chef and owner Cyrilles Koppert regularly rotates the lunch menu at the Manor Casual Bistro. But some of the favourites over the year have been the schnitzel sandwich with a very strong mustard, and the sweetbread po’boy, a sandwich lined with fried bits of offal. The Manor has re-established itself as a go-to lunch spot with inventive takes on traditional lunch fare, from pasta to soups to sandwiches. And the vibe, spurred by sleek black modern furnishings in a classic old house, makes it a great spot to talk about business deals. -S.S.