Smoked chicken and pesto on sourdough
Back when I lived in Golden Hill, the nearest shop was this little corner convenience store at the corner of 26th and Broadway called San Diego Market. I’d buy lottery tickets there, pick up beer, maybe grab a Cliff bar or a bag of chips if I were that desperate and hungry.
I would never — and I can’t stress this enough — ever visit the rotating progression of food counters that set up in the back of the store offering cheap pizza, tacos, and whatever else.
Just a little corner liquor chop with a smoked-meats counter in the back
I’m sure the rest of the neighborhood was with me on this. Until four months ago, when the back of the liquor store venue was taken over by 26th Kitchen and Carry. It’s still a tiny shop inside a tiny shop, except now the guys back there are serious about making tasty food.
The tiny domain of 26th Kitchen & Carry
Serious enough to set up a smoker out on the sidewalk, where they smoke meats daily. On my first visit I figured I would try the day’s smoked beef sandwich special — tri tip on a hoagie roll — except the good firefighters of station 11 had ordered lunch a few minutes prior and cleaned the place out.
I “settled” for a meatball sub on a pretzel roll. While pretzels always sound like a good idea, in application they’re usually too dry to complement sandwich toppings. For this meatball, it worked great. It was able to hold shape despite a healthy lathering of Calabrese sauce (kind of like marinara but with a little spice). The meatball themselves were tender and heavily spiced, with loads of oregano and plenty of melted provolone to keep the sandwich sloppy and rich.
A nice-and-sloppy Calabrese meatball sub with provolone on a pretzel roll
But I couldn’t go long without checking some smoked meat, so I went back and tried a pesto chicken on provolone. Smokey as advertised, the chicken breasts had great flavor, though for the sandwich I might have liked them better pulled or chopped.
But I can afford to nitpick with these eight and nine-dollar sandwiches (including a side of chips or brussels sprout slaw). Or the heat-and-serve soup, homemade hummus, or flatbread pizzas.
Truth is, I still live close enough that the ease of dropping by for lunch or quick dinner will prove too tempting to ignore (there is limited seating, but this is primarily a takeout spot). It’s not very refined food, but its flavor-rich and immensely satisfying, and when I spot that smoker out there as I drive by, I’ll test my luck with a few scratchers and hope for a glimpse of tri-tip.