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R.I.P. Munch Lunch

heidipie | Feb 2, 200312:54 AM

There have been threads on this board from time to time on great sandwiches we have known. I'm sorry to report that one of the best, and least-heralded, has left us. The only comfort I have is that you hounds are out there to sympathize with my grief and be moved by my eulogy.

Does anybody remember my telling you about the Pocket Deluxe at Munch Lunch? Did anybody else have the pleasure? It was a lovely Asian couple's humble little spot on 9th between Bryant and Harrison. Handwritten signs as well as a letterboard on the wall. They'd make a little teriyaki chicken which they'd serve over rice or on a roll. They had some cold cuts, nice-looking egg salad. But the main thing they'd do was roast a whole turkey every day.

For ten years, when I managed to be in that part of town at lunchtime, I'd head in there, and they always greeted me like a friend. I'd order the Pocket Deluxe and one of them would set to work. They'd take out a pita, slice an end off, open the pocket up and spread it with mayonnaise. They'd stuff some shredded lettuce into it, add a slice of tomato, and then sprinkle in some pieces of bacon they'd fried that morning. A smattering of diced red onion, a thin cylinder of canned cranberry sauce, and a handful of chopped pepperoncini would go in. They'd give the whole thing a little mash with the spatula, to blend it all a bit, mingle the juices. Then they'd lean the sandwich against one of the containers on the counter, its open mouth facing upwards.

Now to attend to the turkey. What kind of meat would you like? they'd ask. Some white meat would already be sliced and available in a tupperware container for the regular turkey sandwiches people would order, but the bird would always come out for a little fresh carving for my Pocket Deluxe. I'd get mostly dark meat, a little white, and of course some skin too. They'd pull off big hunks of still-warm meat and chop them roughly, salt and pepper it on the cutting board, and with both cupped hands pick up the pile of meat and fill the pita until it was nearly spherical and springing a leak along the seam somewhere. Then would come more cranberry sauce, pepperoncini and bacon, and more tomato and onion. And that was it. And how much was it? Four seventy-five, the last time I had it.

Oh, what a sandwich. It was too wide to bite all the way through, I had to work at it from either side. That turkey was so moist and flavorful, and my mouth would be dancing with the sweet cranberry and the bite of onion and the salty smoky bacon and the hot pepper. The ingredients would commingle and yet maintain their separate integrity and thrill. Bits and pieces would fall out the holes in the pita, and I'd redistribute them back on top.

I'd usually eat it there, at one of their little tables. There'd be a slow flow of customers, who mostly looked to be blue-collar types, and regulars to boot--lots of friendly small talk with the proprietors. The dot-commers didn't go to Munch Lunch.

And I'd be friendly too, but obviously not friendly enough. I didn't go out of my way enough to go there, all those times I passed through that neighborhood but didn't see a parking spot, all those times I'd stop by Trader Joe's and not walk that extra block over. I took Munch Lunch for granted, and now they are no more. Some kind of nouveau taqueria is on its way in there now. I am bereft. But at least I got to have the Pocket Deluxe while it could be had. It will live on in my palate.

If any of you know what may have happened to that nice couple, if they are working someplace else, I'd love to hear about it.

In lieu of flowers, fry yourself up some fresh bacon, and get the best tomato you can find, and make yourself a great sandwich sometime soon.

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