Pinegrove Market & Deli
Recommended by a friend who lives nearby. Supposedly great soups, deli sandwiches, and a little meat market (the kind with actual raw meat...) So I go, at the lunch rush. Not much of a rush, there are just 4 parking spaces and a dude in a bloody butchers apron dragging on a cigarette out front. Inside a table of regulars are enjoying lunch in what appears to be part deli-part meat store-part drugstore, circa 1962. There is no one standing, no line, no greeter, so I present myself at the counter, behind which three people are cleaning and slicing meat. They ignore me, although I am just full-on staring at them just feet away. Seriously. For like, a whole two minutes I stand there waiting for one of them to acknowledge my presence. I'm smiling, staring them down, daring them to acknowledge me, thinking it is starting to feel a little too "Deliverance" for my taste, and now I'm thinking I am going to stand here for just one more minute, almost daring them to say SOMETHING. Am I supposed to just yell out my order, or... FINALLY one of the kitchen crew wipes his hands on a bloody towel and walks the two steps over to wait on me. I tell him my friend who is a regular here just raves about them and suggested I try the place out, and NOW he's ALL sweetness and down-home good-neighborly-like - meet the whole crew, that's whozits, thats so and so, I'm Whatchamacallit. OK, so I vow to start over with a fresh attitude. I order a chicken salad sandwich on wheat toast. Simple enough for the first visit. Don't want to annoy my new friends by actually asking them to cook something for me, right? So the sandwich is assembled, stuffed into a brown paper bag, a receipt is hastily scribbled and pressed into my hand, and I am directed to the obviously un-attended cash register, four feet across the room, where I WAIT. AGAIN. For what seems like three or four minutes, I stand there politely, smiling at the busy crew, until finally my new best friend from the other counter comes rushing over, all apologies, and sets out to look for the guy whose job it is to ring up the occasional sale. I tell him I assume that must be the guy I passed on the way in taking his smoke break by the front door. It is, and he's still smoking... and my new buddy drags his complaining ass in to ring up my purchase. Seething, mumbling and reeking of smoke, he takes a look at the hand-scribbled receipt, punches the register a couple of times and intones "twelve fifty" . . . now, even in New York I'm not paying 12.50 for a chicken salad sandwich, so I ask for clarification. Trying to decipher my receipt, he YELLS over to the other guy - "This does say one pound chicken salad, right?" I hand him the bag with my now soggy sandwich, weighing decidedly less than a full pound, and ask for clarification. He mutters something unintelligible, there is what passes for a scuffle between the two men, registers are unlocked, MUCH grumbling ensues, my order is re-wrung, and I pay still too much I think, (but then it is lunch AND A SHOW) and make a bolt for the door in an attempt to get the heck out of dodge. My new best friend follows me out to my car, inviting me to come on back sometime when I'm looking for some real good fresh meat - seeing as how his family has been running this place for over 40 years and all - and I'm smiling, nodding and thinking "DEAR GOD get me out of here alive and I promise I'll be a better person!" Now for the chicken salad. It would make a great story if I told you it was so awesome it eclipsed the entire surreal ordering experience, right? Well, no such luck. Watery, bland, boring. All white meat, no flavor. Nothing to write home about, and certainly not worth twelve dollars a pound. Now ordinarily I give a place at least three visits before I decide how I feel about it, but in this case I think I'll quit while I'm ahead. You might like it, but don't ask me to come along.
Sushi House & Grill
on Edgewood - I really want this place to be great. Good prices, decor is borderline asian cliche. First trip - Bento box lunch - the soup is good, but its cloudiness alarmed one of our diners. A side salad heaped with the obligatory ginger dressing, another cliche. Teriyaki beef looked good, medium rare strips atop a bed of sticky, tasty brown rice. Chicken T was four slim slivers of overcooked, underseasoned chicken breast with a light teriyaki glaze drizzled on. no flavor. none. WAY too much tempura vegs for lunch. Little Gyoza were tasty, but the star was the California roll. They send out crab rangoon right from the fryer - molten sweet packets of creamy goodness. Kitchen is fast, service is good, but the food needs some work. I love shumai so I was a bit disappointed with the little buttons of steamed something or other that had a vaguely shrimpy flavor but little if any actual shrimp (easily gotten in Jax as we are fortunate to live so near the excellent little fishing village of Mayport). I'm thinking the frozen ones from the Asian market are better and way cheaper. We skip the salads and go right for the sushi. ALL GOOD - REALLY GOOD! LOVED the Jax roll - a California roll topped with eel and eel sauce - and my friend had the Crazy roll, Shrimp Tempura topped with smoked salmon and eel sauce. The menu says "Voted Best Sushi in Town", but the place JUST opened, so who voted, we wondered? Another location, most likely... Good call, voters, whomever you were.
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