1122 Morena Boulevard, Linda Vista
While in a grocery store recently, I came across a couple of guys who were ordering vast quantities of salads and meats from the deli counter. They said they were hosting a casual wedding reception that afternoon and were getting ready to feed the guests.
I looked at the large bowls of potato salad, macaroni salad, giant blocks of cheese, and shriveled fried chicken and decided (not for the first time) that eloping is the way to go.
Some poor couples’ forgettable wedding feast aside, I remember thinking that there’s got to be a better alternative to this sad-looking deli counter.
I found one in the Morena District during a visit to Waters Fine Foods & Cafe. The small storefront has a few tables where lunch-goers may sit and eat, but primarily the space is cramped due to what’s usually a long line of hungry customers ordering over a glass counter and taking sandwiches or heat-and-serve meals to go.
In the glass counter I spotted such things as turkey meatloaf alongside pan-seared salmon and pearled couscous salad. Sure, there weren’t as many options as you’d see at a similar counter inside a Vons or Albertsons, but these looked infinitely better. I was encouraged by reading the fine print at the bottom of one of the shop’s chalkboard menus: “We use organic, free range, sustainable, and local products whenever possible.”
Whole Foods makes those promises, but when you get to the prepared counters all bets are off. Besides, when shopping for local and sustainable food, I’d much rather shop from a small, locally owned business. At least here if they overcharge, I know the money’s not padding the pockets of they-used-to-be-hippies fat cats in Texas.
So let’s see how Waters Cafe does. Always a sucker for pesto, I tried a quarter-pound of their gemelli pesto with sun dried tomato and olives. The spiraling pasta itself was toothsome, and while I’d have loved a better ratio of basil in the mix, garlic and pine nut shone through enough to make this a worthy side dish, even for an engagement party.
I thought about grabbing some meatloaf, but the sandwich menu was deep and appealing — even the meatless options such as grilled portobello and grilled eggplant. I’m a carnivore, but I got hung up on the shaved-vegetable sandwich that layered cucumber, carrot, tomato, sprouts, lettuce, and avocado with lemon aioli on multigrain.
I figured that might be a perfect sandwich if it had a little meat on it, so I asked them to add some ham. And it was good. Tomato would have made it better, especially since multigrain makes for a denser, dryer bread.
Were I a vegetarian, this might become my go-to sandwich shop. As it stands, I will keep this in mind when I’m on my way to a picnic or a party. Probably not a wedding, but either way I’ll bypass the supermarket.