Remember like 3 weeks ago when I did a write-up of a food hall in my hometown, guaranteed to attract the attention of like, 2 people?  Well, it’s time for more of that! 

Attempt #1

While there wasn’t a line outside this time, the market itself seemed just as busy as it was the day after the grand opening.  I also tried to make a point to take in more of the decor, but I don’t think I really have anything new to add other than the fact that I watched not one but two people struggle to stuff the big paper bags their food came in into the trendy, tiny-opening trash cans.  More importantly, I forgot that like, half of the stands are closed on Mondays, meaning I would have to come back another time to finish my quest. 

ERMA’S ISLAND- Jerk Pork (half portion)- $10

I want to say right off the bat that of all the things I’ve tried from this market, this was hands down the best smelling.  And thankfully, the pork pretty much tasted as good as it smelled.  It was tender and juicy, and the sauce was complex, with a good amount of heat that didn’t overpower the other flavors.  The rice and beans that it came with, on the other hand, was a little bland, but that’s nothing that mixing the sauce into can’t fix.  

Unfortunately, I can never show my face there again, because when the cashier asked me if I wanted the half or whole portion, I said “Yeah,” and made her repeat herself like 3 times.

MAMMA HAI- “Marco Polo” Banh Mi- $10

Yes, that’s pepperoni on a banh mi.

The roll was nice and crusty, and to be honest, that’s like 90% of what makes a good sandwich for me.  Unfortunately, the pickled veggies and cilantro (and this blog is pro-cilantro, get over yourselves, haters) sort of overpowered the pepperoni and the char siu pork, which is a shame because I wanted that pepperoni to shine.  If this was a $5 banh mi, I wouldn’t have a problem with that, but at $10 I would have liked a little more meat, or at least for the already existing meat to make its presence felt.  The pate and mayo kinda also get lost, but do present a bit of richness in about every other bite (and, for another controversial sandwich opinion, I don’t necessarily think that every bite of a sandwich has to have an even distribution of everything, otherwise the flavors sort of just blur together after a while).  Overall, it’s a fairly decent sandwich, but left me longing for something more.  They also have a curry chicken banh mi, maybe that one has a better balance of flavor.

CAKE BAR- Locus Cake- $6.50

One thing about Cake Bar that isn’t made apparent by looking at their stand is that, according to their website, it’s meant to resemble a Vietnamese cafe.  In hindsight, this kinda explains the wide variety of specialty teas (specialteas, if you will) they also had available.

The chocolate cake was moist and had little crispy bits running throughout it.  At first, I thought it was eggshells, because I’m an idiot and always assume the worst.  After picking out an especially large chunk, I realized it was broken up bits of Biscoff cookies! (Further research has shown me that the parent company that makes Biscoff cookies is called Locus, thus, y’know, the name of the cake.  Probably should have put that together sooner, it literally says “Locus” on the cookie, one of which was lodged into the top of the cake.)  The buttercream was surprisingly light, and the caramel on top had the perfect consistency, gooey enough to stay put but not so gooey that it turned into a stringy mess after running your fork through it.  The only negative thing I really have to say about the all-around experience was that the box they used made it kind of difficult to get the slice out of it (as you can see, I ended up just tearing the sides up).

Attempt #2 

Since the market is relatively close to my work, I figured I would drop by after work one day to bang out the rest of the list.

BAGHDAD RESTAURANT- Beef Shawarma- $6.99

At first, I laughed to myself upon seeing it in one of those gas station sub bags.  The laughing faded pretty quickly, though, upon seeing it was, in fact served on a sub roll.  I’m not a shawarma expert. maybe that can be an acceptable way to eat it? The beef was well spiced and that perfect sweet spot between tender and still having something to sink your teeth into.  Unfortunately, that’s more or less where my compliments end.  What little sauce the menu promised (just called “sauce,” don’t ask me what it is) has soaked into the bread and completely disappeared, making the whole thing somewhat dry and lackluster.  Also, they didn’t cut it, which was fine with the heartier banh mi’s baguette but with the softer sub roll didn’t have the structural integrity to be picked up whole without a struggle.  My biggest gripe with it is mostly on me, though, as the juice from the pickles tainted most of it with pickle stank, which could have been avoided entirely if I had just ordered it without.  

SOULUTIONS- Mustard and Berbere Fried Chicken ($6) and FIRE MAC ($4)

(Note- the $6 order of chicken comes with 2 of these chicken cutlets, but I carelessly ate one before taking the picture.)

I do want to clear the air here and say that yes, I did accidentally order fried chicken and mac and cheese from both of the soul food places.  I was originally going to get the burger, at my friend’s recommendation, but the menu board by the register suspiciously didn’t have the burger on it, so I panicked and ordered the fried chicken again.  

While the breading was stained yellow from mustard, the honey mustard taste was very subtle.  I also have to admit to not knowing off the top of my head what berbere (I had to google it, it’s an Ethiopian spice blend) tastes like, so i can’t tell you if this tasted like that.  But, despite not being especially strong in either of the namesake seasonings, it definitely is a flavorful piece of chicken nonetheless.  Flavors work that way sometimes.

The Fire Mac may not have delivered as strongly on cheese as I may have liked, but it definitely did deliver on the fire, drizzled with a tangy buffalo-esque sauce.  And Topped with crumbled bits of fried chicken skins? Can’t go wrong with that.

JUICE AND FLOWERS- “Root | 12” Juice- $8

Misleading name, I didn’t see any flowers anywhere.  Zero stars. 

The beet and lemon were the most pronounced of the flavors, with the ginger lingering on the palate and, unsurprisingly, the apple and carrot mostly being there to round the whole thing out.  The employee that waited on me was very passionate and knowledgeable about the juice, informing me that 2 pounds of produce had gone into this little bottle, and that it’d have a shelf life of 3-5 days.  Which is good, because I put it back in the fridge after I got home to chill it back down, and then proceeded to forget about it for 3 days.  It’s also a very thick and hearty juice, so it doesn’t feel that weird to only want to drink half a bottle in one sitting and, y’know, make this $8 bottle of juice last a little longer. 

Attempt #3

Knowing fully well that I was going to have a long night shift ahead of me, I decided to check out the Coffee Bar side of the market for what would be my third trip over the course of 5 days.  I feel like I should also point out that the Coffee Bar, as its name literally breaks down as, serves coffee during the day and a full bar at night.  I also noticed during this visit that the Coffee Bar has a patio seating area under construction, cheesy string lights and all, that I am looking forward to.

Fruity Pebbles Latte- $6

Against my best judgement, I got it “for here” for the sake of the pic, even though a.) I had to break my rule of not eating in places because this fucking pandemic isn’t over yet and b.) I was nervous about being late for work the whole time (I did, in fact, get there on time).  As I waited, I could see their secret recipe fruity pebbles milk sitting on the counter.  It was, in fact, fruity pebbles and milk.  

I didn’t really think the Fruity Pebbles would work with the espresso, having had been burned before by places that just dump them onto things with no regard of the flavor profile just for the sake of the burst of color.  But, somehow… it did work.  Maybe it’s because cereal milk is never quite as strong as some might hope, but the subtle fruitiness of the milk played well with the chocolatey notes in the espresso.  The espresso itself probably also had the best crema on it that I’ve ever seen on a latte (and yes, I had to google the pretentious espresso-snob term for the foam that floats to the top).

Also shoutout to the pour over, which on their menu board is priced at “4-ish”

I’m so glad I’m living with my parents again at the moment.  Otherwise, this whole thing would’ve been like, a month’s worth of my food budget.

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