Lunchtime With Tillie: Anima

Anima. Wow.

The end.

Just kidding, neighborhood of ours! It’s Van – and Tillie, of course – with another edition of Lunchtime with Tillie. For this dining excursion, we went to Italian restaurant Anima on Myrtle between Washington and Waverly.

Anima actually brings on some special memories in our little household. Tillie’s mom and I had our first date there, when the restaurant was in its previous incarnation. It was then she realized that she met the man of her dreams! (And I met the woman of my dreams, too!) It’s also the first restaurant we brought Tillie to, back when she was just a little drop and not the wizened 9-month-old she is today! I remember Tillie’s mom had her strapped into the Baby Bjorn and I was toting our little Bumbo seat, which we placed promptly on the table. The staff there was completely accommodating to us -- rookie parents that we were -- and we managed to get out of there without too much fuss being made.

Over the past few months as I’ve been home, Tillie and I have gone there for lunch a few times or I’ve gotten takeout from there, but not in a little while. For whatever reason, it just hadn’t really worked out, but now it’s definitely back on my radar. So gather around and let me tell you the story of “Anima Magnetism.”

It was one of the nice-outside days we had this week and I thought of going somewhere we could actually get a little solar exposure. I thought “Why not Anima? I hadn’t been there in a minute. It’s close by and we can sit in the dining room area, by one of the tables facing the sidewalk.” I pitched the idea to T and she was all for it. (Not really, she’s just a baby!)

Anyway, I packed up her provisions, strapped her into her stroller, put on her little hat (which she hates) and off we went. We got there and I noticed on the chalkboard outside that it said “Patio Open.” I decided then that patio it is! When we got out there, I was totally blown away. It had to be one of the most beautiful outdoor dining spaces I’ve come across in the neighborhood. I’ve never been to Italy, or any part of Europe, for that matter, but the space had the feel of what I’d imagine eating al fresco to be out there. And shock of shocks, we had the whole patio to ourselves! I mean, if others knew about this, why weren’t they there?


I took a little table and requested a high chair for Tillie. The bartender, who was also serving us, brought the menu along, but I took the briefest of glances at it: I just wanted to make sure my favorite lunch selection at Anima was still on the menu. And yep, it was: the steak panini (or “panino” as they say it in Italy and Anima).

Now, here’s the deal: You’ve seen me rave about certain dishes at some of our neighborhood establishments. Well, you can definitely add this to the list. It’s hanger steak, spinach and mushrooms, with a hint of lemon, pressed on a ciabatta roll. Yeah, it’s as good as it sounds! It’s served with a salad and handcut fries, which I’m quite thankful for because surprisingly, you don’t really get fries served with many lunchtime sandwiches.


The order was placed, and Tillie and I took the time to soak in our surroundings. It was so nice and peaceful back there, I didn’t feel like leaving. But I figured it would lose its charm for Tillie at some point, so I snapped back to reality. Some bread arrived for us, and I gave her a few little pieces, then broke out with her toy stacking cups for her to bang together and on the table. After all, we had the whole spot to ourselves, so I figured she could have at it!

After a little while, my food arrived, and it was as amazing as I remembered. The steak was seasoned to perfection and that little lemon zest just sets off the whole sandwich. While I was caught up in the rapture of my meal, I heard some squeaking beside me, and remembered, “Oh yeah, Tillie!” Just kidding, I could never forget T-Bear! I didn’t have anything to share with her from my plate, but the formula did her good, along with some cereal.

I couldn’t linger back there forever, so after finishing my meal and scooping up the excess Cheerios that Tillie dropped, I asked for the check and we were on our way. My bill was around $10, but combined with the surroundings we dined in, was easily worth twice that. I would recommend any and all to go there for lunch: great food, plenty of beautiful space in the back (especially for a fold-up stroller!) and an incredibly nice staff that gives babies plenty of attention. What more could you ask for?

And that’s really the end!