Lunching Perimeter

When you first start a job and have to go out for lunch it can be a very daunting task. You’re alone, don’t know the area, what kind of food is available, or the quality. But you get out there and tentatively try 1, 2, possibly 3 places. After some good experiences you get brave and begin to explore. You try that place with the red sign, the one with the long counter and the retro feel, the one that has horrible service but the food is to die for. You wonder down side streets when the flash of a neon sign catches your eye. By this time you know exactly where to go for a good meal whether you are feeling for something light, hearty, saucy, sweet, wrapped up or messy you are on the ball. People happen to say, “I am craving pizza today.” you jump in with advice tellling them exactly where to go.

This is a good time for you; you’ve weeded out the bad places from the good, you spend little or no time hemming and hawing about where to eat, you always get what you want, and because you have been working for a little while now you have a friend to share that meal with. Everything is coming up roses. Sadly roses wilt.

Somewhere down the line you get tired of all the places you have gotten to know. The pizza is still piping hot right out of the stone oven, the sandwiches are still piled high with roasted meats and veggies, and yes that sushi is still hand rolled by a professional but all you can think is “again?”. You have eaten at all these places a hundred times sure they are tried and true but now something is missing, it still tastes good but it just isn’t right. What could have changed?

And then it hits you. The indecision when looking over a new menu, the hoping for the best after you have blindly chosen something, anticipation before that first bite, the sense of adventure. The food hasn’t changed but you have gotten too accustomed to it. You know exactly how each mouthful will taste, its textures and flavours. It is predictable.

So now you decide you are going to get out of your comfort zone, venture a little further for that meal, that new taste, that flavour of the month. With some research, route planning, and trusty metro pass (or possibly a friend with a car) you head out on a (hopefully) palate pleasing adventure.

This is what is happening to me right now. I have been working at my current job for over a year now. I am comfortable in the environment, the people I work with, and the general area. When it comes to going out for lunch I know all the eating places within walking distance. I have to say I am kind of sick of all those places. It is not that their food is bad, most of it is really good actually, it is just that I have eaten at those places way too often.

I walk around half the morning asking my colleagues what I should have for lunch. The usual response is “what do you feel like?” If I knew I wouldn’t be asking for suggestions, but I would never say that as they are trying to be helpful. And no matter the suggestions when lunch comes around I still have no idea what I am going to have. Oh what “first-world” problems I have. Woe is me.

So I have decided to expand my, lets call it, lunching perimeter. Going further to get that rush when finding that new spot to take a break. Tentatively walking up to this strange door, as you enter the aromas hit, and you begin the size up the place. That is what has been missing, that newness, that anticipation, that unpredictability.

So I started the expansion at a place called Chino Loco. I have heard nothing but good things about this place both from friends and from the media. I have passed it a number of times and it is not too far from work but I just never made it there. But I finally did it.

I call it the “Chinese Burrito place” cuz there are a lot of Asian flavours that they have added to the Latin American (is that too much of a PC term. Is it Spanish? Mexican? I don’t want to get it wrong) delight. You can add things like noodles, edamame, and teriyaki sauce to traditional burrito ingredients like guacamole, cheese, and sour cream.

I streetcar-ed it to the Greenwood location with a friend from work, it is just for walk-ins, small, clean and the walls covered with posters, newspaper clippings (framed) and Lucha Libre masks. After a few moments of indecisiveness and the vendor letting us know that we would be chicken to go with the safe bet which was … chicken, I ordered the slow roast pork burrito on white with noodles, fully loaded. I watched as the guy piled on the ingredients into this massive mountain of goodness, wrap it all up, and finally grill it shut, as we discussed the proper eating method. I was handed this warm foil covered package of goodness. Sadly, because I had to get back on the streetcar I didn’t get to bite into it right away.

I got back to the office, the burrito was substantially cooler but definitely not cold it was in a good enough condition for me to just bite into. I unwrapped it, the smell was intoxicating and it was a good sign that the wrap had not become soggy but was still crisp and firm from the grilling. I picked a corner and took a hearty bite. There was pork,noodles, guacamole, beans, edamame, onions, cheese etc and the flavours just worked together, I wish I took a picture of all the stuff just exploding out of it. It was good, sadly I can’t say it was great. I expected my mind to be blown but I guess the fuse was blown out before the big boom. I liked it, I would recommend the place, but I am sorry I would pick Burrito Boys over it (if one was anywhere close by). It was an experience and it should be tried. Some people really, really, like it. Maybe it was the cool-down factor that made the difference, I may have to go back just so I can test that theory.

Yesterday I went on a journey to a place called Island Foods with 4 other people from the office. It is a West Indian restaurant that a couple of people in the office really enjoy. It was supposed to be a roti run but when I found they sold doubles it turned into a doubles run for me. I ordered 4 doubles, slight pepper, with a cola-champagne.

For those of you who don’t know what a doubles is I am sorry but that is something you have to experience and for those who do know what it is you know there is a fine art to it. The barra (or bara possibly. I have never had to spell it) has to have a specific texture and the channa has to have a certain consistency. This one failed on both levels. The barra was fried too much, heavy, and had too much seasoning. The channa was mushy and the curry was runny and not in a good way. On top of that there was no tamarind sauce available only pepper and it wasn’t wrapped properly. The flavours didn’t work and i only ate 1. I was so disappointed I lost my appetite.

Everyone else at the table seemed to be pleased with their meals. They all got rotis, chicken or goat, that were a good size, looked and smelled good. They enjoyed it. I was sorely disappointed and I would never recommend that place to people. It could just be that because I am from the West Indies and therefore am an aficionado of its culinary delights I know what is expected and I judge a bit harshly. Cuz that place was packed and people seemed to be enjoying what they were having.

I have only made it to these 2 new places so far, one was mostly a hit while the other a complete miss. I will have to see what other places my quest for lunchtime unpredictability leads me in the next while. I wonder if the cold harsh winter will deter me from my quest. I will have to wait and see.


About the Author


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *