I've been know to venture off the beaten path when it comes to finding a good plate of food. Call me old-fashioned, call me a hipster, call me a douche canoe.....I'll take a bubbling cauldron of mystery stew or a crusted-over pan of God-know's what over your typical fast food fare any ol' day of the effin' week. Which brings me to one of the most under-appreciated locales for good "fast" food for 90% of the general public....the deli counter at your small, still locally-owned grocery stores.
Example #1: Ideal Grocery and Market on S. 27th St. in Lincoln. The place has been in business since the dawn of time, seemingly. It's the kind of place that smells familiar, like good food simmering away somewhere, that old lady's perfume that she got in 1975 & is still wearing. There's a produce section with primarily US grown veggies, not always cheaper, but still important enough to someone. THe meat on display in the meat counter is amazing....well-aged and trimmed to perfection. There's also a large selection of locally raised meats. All good stuff that makes a foodie feel good about a place like this.
But I'm here for lunch. There's at least 4 locally-owned individual food markets like this in Lincoln, and I'll be hitting up all 4 to sample the goods. Ideal was a place I had only been to once before, but I know a good thing when I come across it. Today the selection was Beef & Potato Bake and a slice of their heavenly-looking Meat Loaf. You can learn a lot, dare I say all you need to know, about a dining establishment from their meat loaf alone.
The Beef & Potato Bake looks simple enough, and that's just fine. Simple ingredients prepared the right way will always be a good choice. Perhaps a hint of wine in here? Maybe the beef marinade. Definitely some thyme. THe beef was fork tender and superb. A great little treat for next to nothing.
Finally, the meat loaf. The blurry picture shows what appears to be your standard-issue ketchup schmear on top. However, roll your finger over it, and it's actually almost like a candy glaze. Perfect texture, not too dry, not too mushy.....heaven in a styrofoam container.
My recommendation: When you're curious about what's good behind that hot lunch deli counter, bank on whatever looks homemade to be above average every time. Don't be scurred....if it looks good, eat it. If it doesn't....try it anyway, Sally.