Jeff Smith noon, March 8
Downtown: Red trolley, green eats
Customers at downtown's newest lunchery are seeing red - trolleys
"Are you indecisive?" says Christina.
"I'm not sure," I say. "Can't decide."
“Touché,” she says. She leaves me to Manny, who's waiting - and waiting - to get my order.
Ok, I have been screwing around hemming and hawing between a huge array of sandwiches, panini, salads, soups, the usual lunchtime array here in deepest lawyerland...
...at Waters Fine Foods (555 West C Street, downtown, 619-696-7555).
I spotted these guys from the trolley, Blue Line, heading along C to its last stop at Plaza America. Was looking to see if Tommy Pastrami's had reopened at this spot, on the corner of C and Columbia. It had closed during trolley track repairs.
Whack...no mo' Tommy Pastrami's. Gawn. Guess the repairs took too long.
Now I see these guys have opened in Tommy's space.
Outside patio is pretty crowded. The symbol above the sign is an artichoke, and somewhere it says "Local, organic, sustainable," so I'm thinking these guys are reaching out to the we-can-afford-to-be-eco-conscious crowd.
So how expensive is it? I hop off at Plaza America, walk back.
Have to say, it's nice and airy inside. Way-big wall menus, stuffed with paninis, wraps, sandwiches, soup, salad, the usual downtown lunch parade.
"Like a taste of anything?” says Manny. "Quinoa's good. So's today’s soup: chicken tortilla."
I take a sample of both. Quinoa's really flavorful in a vinaigrette way...
....but the soup: great. Specially when you bite into the kernels of corn. That releases a taste combo that’s wonderful. Sells it for me.
So I get a small pot of chicken tortilla soup ($3), and then just land on the eggplant. Even a choice here. Eggplant in a panini ($7.50) or in a sandwich ($7.25). The difference?
"I guess it comes down to crispy onions in the sandwich or goat cheese in the panini," says Christina.
“But the focaccia in the panini’s great,” says Manny. “We bake it ourselves.”
Christina the manager and Manny
I go for the panini. And yes, I do love the crisp-but-tender focaccia, and with a touch of salt to tang it up...
Even the salt and pepper are healthy mixtures
...the eggplant/goat cheese/roasted red pepper combo is scrumbo.
What $13.77 buys
Soup’s pretty filling with the chicken, too.
Comes with a crunchy slice of baked bread. I could’ve just gotten the large size ($5) and probably had plenty for lunch.
How green are they here? Turns out all the plates are made from sugar cane, and, uh, leaves? That’s what they say. The soup plate looks like plastic but is cornstarch. Throwaway flatware’s bamboo.
“Even these aren’t plastic,” says Christina. She holds up a see-thru transparent to-go box. “They’re cornstarch.”
She says the owners, Mary and Jim Waters, have been here only two months, but doing this elsewhere since 1990, in Bay Park and Solana Beach. And no, they’re not connected with Alice Waters, the über-famous San Francisco back-to-simplicity chef. Even though they’re probably just as “green,” in everything from shopping local, seasonal, organic, providing gluten-free on demand, dairy-free…you name it.
I can even eat the chicken in my soup conscience-free, because they promise their chickens are never caged, and live a carefree life until that final, unexpected bonk on the head.
So I sit out here in the shade of mighty Canary Island palms...
...chomping to the sound of trolleys rumbling by...
...and in the silence between, the crunch of soda cans a guy’s crunching up and down the street.
Guess that’s the music of the city.
I’ll be back.