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Oak Park special

A good sandwich from a good place

The Oak Park Special: roast beef, avocado, and cheddar, plus veggies
The Oak Park Special: roast beef, avocado, and cheddar, plus veggies

I was just looking for a quick lunch on Labor Day, and found myself standing in a neighborhood market in Oak Park, the mostly residential neighborhood off highway 94 next to Chollas Creek.

Place

Louie's Marketplace

5409 Redwood Street, San Diego

In the back of the shop, past the requisite selections of snack chips, sugary cereals, fortified wines, and Arizona iced teas, there sit a fresh produce stand, a meat counter stocked with beef cuts and poultry, and a deli counter with enough enticing sandwiches on the menu I was struggling to decide.

Along with the deli counter, the meat and produce at Louie's Marketplace prevent Oak Park from being a food desert.

“You can’t go wrong!” a regular customer assured me, while ordering a club sandwich for himself, “I usually get the cheesesteak, but they’re all so good!” He meant it so much, he told me twice. Another regular passing through echoed the sentiment.

Louie’s Marketplace offers cold sandwiches such as pastrami or Italian sub, and hot sandwiches including a meatball sub and one topped by curried beef stew — though that one may take a little longer to prepare, as it’s made from scratch.

Or so explains the friendly owner of the shop, working alongside one of his sons on this national day off. This isn’t Louie, who apparently sold the market years back, but a man named Latif Georges. I finally order the Oak Park special — roast beef with avocado and cheddar — and he earnestly got to work making what does turn out to be a terrific sandwich; slicing the beef, heating a fresh roll, and coming out from behind the counter to pick out a tomato, avocado, onion, and bell pepper from that produce stand, quickly slicing them up for my sub.

As I would later discover, Mr. Georges received a bit of local news coverage a few years back for installing these items, part of a local effort among small markets to bring the option of fresh produce and meats to a neighborhood previously designated a food desert. I learned it’s not the only holiday he comes to work: the past couple Thanksgivings, he’s organized a service event to feed as many as 200 people a holiday meal in front of his shop.

As he meticulously wrapped my sandwich in plastic to keep it clean and fresh for my ride home, I remember thinking this is a guy who takes pride in his business, and making sure those who enter his shop feel welcome and leave satisfied. Turns out, he takes pride in this neighborhood, and doing wonderful things for it.

It’s more inspiration than I’d expected; after all, I’d just come looking for a sandwich. And for $6.99 I got a good one with plenty of crunch, thanks to the vegetable toppings, warmth from the toasty roll, standard deli meat and cheese. Thanks to an ordering mechanism on the Louie’s Marketplace web site, it’s easy to order ahead and pick up on the fly. But I might do better to hang out a minute and learn from example how to be a positive influence.

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The Oak Park Special: roast beef, avocado, and cheddar, plus veggies
The Oak Park Special: roast beef, avocado, and cheddar, plus veggies

I was just looking for a quick lunch on Labor Day, and found myself standing in a neighborhood market in Oak Park, the mostly residential neighborhood off highway 94 next to Chollas Creek.

Place

Louie's Marketplace

5409 Redwood Street, San Diego

In the back of the shop, past the requisite selections of snack chips, sugary cereals, fortified wines, and Arizona iced teas, there sit a fresh produce stand, a meat counter stocked with beef cuts and poultry, and a deli counter with enough enticing sandwiches on the menu I was struggling to decide.

Along with the deli counter, the meat and produce at Louie's Marketplace prevent Oak Park from being a food desert.

“You can’t go wrong!” a regular customer assured me, while ordering a club sandwich for himself, “I usually get the cheesesteak, but they’re all so good!” He meant it so much, he told me twice. Another regular passing through echoed the sentiment.

Louie’s Marketplace offers cold sandwiches such as pastrami or Italian sub, and hot sandwiches including a meatball sub and one topped by curried beef stew — though that one may take a little longer to prepare, as it’s made from scratch.

Or so explains the friendly owner of the shop, working alongside one of his sons on this national day off. This isn’t Louie, who apparently sold the market years back, but a man named Latif Georges. I finally order the Oak Park special — roast beef with avocado and cheddar — and he earnestly got to work making what does turn out to be a terrific sandwich; slicing the beef, heating a fresh roll, and coming out from behind the counter to pick out a tomato, avocado, onion, and bell pepper from that produce stand, quickly slicing them up for my sub.

As I would later discover, Mr. Georges received a bit of local news coverage a few years back for installing these items, part of a local effort among small markets to bring the option of fresh produce and meats to a neighborhood previously designated a food desert. I learned it’s not the only holiday he comes to work: the past couple Thanksgivings, he’s organized a service event to feed as many as 200 people a holiday meal in front of his shop.

As he meticulously wrapped my sandwich in plastic to keep it clean and fresh for my ride home, I remember thinking this is a guy who takes pride in his business, and making sure those who enter his shop feel welcome and leave satisfied. Turns out, he takes pride in this neighborhood, and doing wonderful things for it.

It’s more inspiration than I’d expected; after all, I’d just come looking for a sandwich. And for $6.99 I got a good one with plenty of crunch, thanks to the vegetable toppings, warmth from the toasty roll, standard deli meat and cheese. Thanks to an ordering mechanism on the Louie’s Marketplace web site, it’s easy to order ahead and pick up on the fly. But I might do better to hang out a minute and learn from example how to be a positive influence.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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