David first introduced me to the plant based Beyond Burger four years ago. Having been a vegetarian for twenty years, I had gone burger-free for all that time. Extremely difficult to drive by Burger King.
Imagine my pleasure at discovering a delicious version of the Beyond Burger at The Market Place on Fifth eight blocks from my home.
Since my first mouthful of that “absolutely tastes the same as beef” concoction, I have eaten one at least once a week since. My order—Beyond Burger, sub cheddar.
I think it’s an ugly building on the outside where I get my burger. Non-descript beige with a mansard roof the color of split pea soup, The Market Place on the corner of Fifth and Maple is the not-ugly hub of activity for as diverse a population as I encounter in my daily life. Nestled in the shadow of the upscale Mr. A’s restaurant since the 1970s, the small and spirited spot is surrounded by high-end high-rise condominiums. However, it is not uncommon for street people to venture in and out of its doors.
At any time, construction workers, Pilates teachers, dog walkers with dogs, policemen and women, nannies with babies, hikers with backpacks, healthcare workers—an assortment of gender, class, age, and ethnicity—gather to order up.
You’ll see everything at this deli/liquor store/market in my neighborhood. Tattoos, bandanas, flip flops, business suits, tank tops, security uniforms, cycling shorts, ankle bracelets, and trophies for the sports teams sponsored over the years. Bare feet not allowed.
A large two-part sign over the order counter displays the menu of sandwiches, pizzas, salads and nearby a standing blackboard features handwritten daily specials like Acai Bowl, crab melt, avocado toast, and gluten free bread. Fifty cents extra.
The sign for the Beyond Burger stands individually under the counter and lists its ingredients—lettuce, tomato, onion, Swiss cheese, and messy sauce.
I resist ordering extra sauce which was my habit long ago at Burger King.
My order never changes—Beyond Burger sub cheddar. Substitute the unholy cheddar for the holy Swiss please. “Pickle?” I am asked each time. Sometimes I say yes to the crisp dill pickle slice, sometimes no. The smiling woman behind the counter writes my order and my name on a brown paper bag which she passes to the food preparers.
My accompanying order for chips proves more difficult—so many choices. Doritos, Tostitos, Fritos, Cheetos, or Funyuns—with endless flavor choices. Parmesan Garlic, Backyard Barbeque, Habanero Lime, Sea Salt, Salt and Vinegar, or Nacho Cheese. Mind boggling.
Today, I opted for the Salt and Vinegar and the dill pickle.
Not only did I have to wait in line to pay for my Beyond Burger meal, I also had to wait in line to park since I drove from a doctor’s appointment. The Market Place’s scrunched parking lot has nine spaces, plus one ADA; it is not unusual for cars to line up five or six deep on Fifth waiting.
At the head of the line, a guy in an orange t-shirt leans over to pay. Behind him, a man in a bike helmet followed by a young Hispanic girl in shorts with black hair to her waist, a young mom with a little girl eating a cookie, two others, and just in front of me the cell phone peeks out of the pocket of the jean shorts of a curly headed woman.
Behind me, a portly Asian man in a work uniform, a muscular black guy with a beard and gold chain, an athletic sort with should length blond surfer waves under a red baseball hat, and a frail but determined elderly man in a walker wearing khaki shorts, black knee-high socks, and black sneakers, are in line before me. Thirteen of us in all.
As I waited, Beyond Burger in brown paper bag in hand, to pay, I took time to survey this special place. Under a bright red sign for Champagne, a two-bank cigar dispenser back lit with neon offers Avos, Romeo y Julietas, Macanudo lined up like toy soldiers. Near the front door, a postage stamp machine and the Union Tribune stand. In the aisles, hundreds of varieties of wine, canned goods, cereal, and rows and rows of candy—Hot Tamales, Skittles, Milky Way, Mild Duds and Twizzlers. The Market Place is the only store I’ve found Chick-o-flick, a favorite from the 50s made primarily from Peanut Butter and dusted with ground coconut which Gail introduced to me. Worth the trip!
Each time I enter the Market Place on Fifth I am hit with an exploding sensory overload.
I walk into a Bankers Hill version of a John Sloan painting—bright lights, vibrant colors, and reflections; shapes, textures, and humans that combine to create a visual food and drink neighborhood playground on the corner.
I smell bacon, chorizo, and fajitas on the grill, pizzas baking in the oven, fresh chopped onions and cilantro.
I hear 80s disco music in the background, chatter among happy customers, and non-stop banter back and forth between the team in black t-shirt uniforms emblazoned with the logo and a huge torpedo sandwich across the back –order takers, sandwich makers, fry cooks the pizza chef with his baseball hat on backwards, and quite often the owner.
At home I take my lunch from the brown paper bag and savor; the taste is yummy.
Beyond Burger sub cheddar.
What's your lunchtime preference?