cheap eats

Ponce de Leon yields two new haunts

Summer is upon us (how about that for an insight into the obvious) and with the law students off doing whatever it is that they do when we do not have classes, Dean Hunter has directed that I be unchained from my desk and allowed to go out for lunch. Trying to get back in the swing of things, I wandered up Ponce thinking about familiar haunts like Tortillas and Eats. Much to my surprise and pleasure, I discovered that there are two new constabularies that meet and exceed all of our traditional criteria--close, under five bucks and good food!

Best pizza in town! My first discovery is Cameli's in Ford Factory Square (699 Ponce de Leon). A couple of weeks ago I saw a review of "Cameli's Gourmet Pizza Joint" in Knife and Fork and used this information to avoid cooking dinner at home. What a treat! Owned and operated by three siblings--sister and brothers--the Cameli kids make their own dough from scratch (and as we all know--the secret of great pizza is in the crust) and offer combinations that show their respect for Italian tradition and the creativity of their generation.

I am a thin crust kind of guy, and for my first outing I ordered a couple of Monster Slices ($2.10 per slice) to test the basic, while my bride (of 19 years) ordered one of the specialty combinations. The kids tried to dissuade me from ordering two slices, saying it was too much for one person. I pointed to my ever-expanding paunch and insisted I could handle it. They were right! And it was good. I returned yesterday for lunch with two colleagues (who have insisted on anonymity) and went for the garlic sauce in lieu of the traditional tomato, while one of my partners ordered up the basil pesto sauce. These kids know their sauces and they are not timid (i.e., you better like garlic if you follow my lead), and the three of us ate our fill for $12 total--including a generous tip. Like The Blue Lantern (see below), Cameli's is very casual and already has a following of college age folks who appreciate non-franchise quality and low prices.

Last week Ali Crown and I went off for a working lunch, and at her urging we went next door to Tortilla's to test their latest effort to feed the Virginia-Highland and Poncey-Highland crowds. As loyal readers of this column know, Tortillas and its sister eatery EATS are among my most favorite cheap places to dine--so it should come as no surprise that I flipped over The Blue Lantern (760 Ponce de Leon). It offers salads and pasta dishes for $2.50 and eight grilled sandwiches (served on muffaleta) for $3.75 each. Ali and I went for the sandwiches (Clark Howard would have saved $1.25 and ordered a pasta). No surprise: like the burritos served next door, they were generous in size and tasty as can be. Since I was with Ali, I was able to enjoy my entire sandwich (pesto chicken) and scarf down nearly half of hers (baked eggplant).

I learned a lot on my return to Ponce: 1) Now I have four favorite cheap places within minutes of campus; 2) My students will be forever grateful when I send them off to Cameli's Gourmet Pizza Joint and The Blue Lantern next fall; and 3) To satisfy my voracious appetite, always take Ali with me so that I can have all of mine and the half that she can't finish!

Nat Gozansky is professor and associate dean in the law school.

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