The Piper Pub and Grill 

Shhhh. Don't tell the I.T. Guy, but I cheated on my diet. He and I just started Weight Watchers, and as with most diets, pub food is right out. But I've been good (mostly) this week and wanted something more substantial than baby carrots, celery and fat-free saltines. So I said, "To hell with the diet today!" and went to Piper Pub for lunch.

When I arrived, I headed to one of the small, comfortable booths toward the back. Before I could even squeeze my blossoming backside into the seat, I had not one—but two—friendly servers ask for my drink order. Eschewing rabbit food is one thing, but I figured I should make a couple of low-cal concessions, so I had ice water instead of soda or beer.

Even though I decided to eat whatever the hell I felt like eating, there were a number of menu choices that would have fit right in to my low-cal diet: appetizers like bruschetta, or The Greek (which offers hummus, feta, cucumbers, tomatoes, Kalamata olives and roasted red pepper coulis), salads with prawns, raspberry chicken or blackened salmon, and dishes like seared halibut, trout tacos and tenderloin. Even sandwiches and burgers, like a salmon BLT or a vegetarian portabella, sounded like tasty and healthy options. I vacillated between the fish tacos (I'm a big fan of a good fish taco) and the ham and brie stack (I'm an even bigger fan of melted cheese), a sandwich with sun-dried tomato mayonnaise on ciabatta bread. When my friendly server came back, I ordered the sandwich, with a small house salad and dressing on the side.

I ordered, went to wash my hands and though I couldn't have been gone more than a few minutes, the prettiest sandwich and salad I ever saw were waiting for me at the table like a couple of new best friends. The salad had an nice selection of lettuce varieties, chunks of fresh tomato and what looked—and tasted—like homemade croutons. The sandwich was big, but not overwhelming so, and warm, but not molten hot. The brie was gooey, but stayed on the bread, and the ham looked like it had been cut right off a giant spiral ham. I would have loved more of the sun-dried tomato mayo on the sandwich, not because there wasn't enough, but because it was delicious.

My friendly server was attentive without being over-solicitous and I thoroughly enjoyed my meal. With tip, lunch was around 10 bucks and I was in and out of there in about a half-hour.

Whether you're carb-loading, carb-avoiding or can eat whatever you want, Piper has great pub food, a great selection of beer and friendly service. And for me, it was worth every cheese-soaked calorie (I'll just have to spend an extra 20 minutes on the stair-stepper).

—Amy Atkins does not accept oranges from strangers.

The Piper Pub and Grill, 150 N. 8th St., 343-2444, Mon.-Thu.: 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Fri.-Sat.: 11 a.m.-2 a.m.; Sun.: 8 a.m.-8 p.m.

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