Streets Market and Cafe has anxiety-inducing architecture but excellent prepared foods

Streets Market and Cafe has anxiety-inducing architecture but excellent prepared foods

222 N. Charles St., (667) 930-3405, streetsmarketcafe.com

Currently occupying the baffling building that previously housed a Super Fresh and then Fresh & Green's is Streets Market and Cafe, a small chain specialty grocery store and hybrid prepared-foods market and entry-level ethnic-food-product emporium. It's been open less than two months and has already become a regular part of my routine when I need a quick-but-decent lunch or dinner or if I want scoop up a few items that fall on the organic/natural spectrum and don't have time to schlep over to Whole Foods or bus it to Trader Joe's.

Before we get to its very good, fairly affordable prepared foods, a warning: The place is a bit of a clusterfuck. The division of some of the food by region means you're often looking for a variation of the same thing in a few different places and if you're not totally sure where something is, you might be screwed. For example, I went in there recently looking for tzatziki and wandered for a while and just never found it. Not saying they don't have it, I'm just saying I couldn't easily find it. And there is in general the bizarre, maze-like, rooms-within-rooms qualities to this building's layout. To be fair, this has haunted every business here all the way back to the Super Fresh.

Still, Streets Market's whole set-up feels like a massive troll. Inside, it is part of a market, except when it isn't because it's mostly a grocery store, minus the open-ness of a supermarket or a proper market (it lacks the charm of Wegman's phoney-baloney indoor approximation of an outdoor market, even), so it maximizes the capitalist claustrophobia of a supermarket for no good reason. And there is only one entrance/exit to the building, so when it's busy, you're awkwardly scooting by people who are leaving as you enter. The outdoor eating area only has one entrance/exit as well even though the area wraps around the side of the building. While it could logically have another exit it instead just curves around the building and then ends at a wall. "Horror In Architecture," this book from a few years ago that explores the way architecture can induce horror-movie-like levels of dread, comes to mind whenever I walk around Streets Market.

If the architecture doesn't literally drive you mad, then you're rewarded with Streets Market's excellent prepared foods: The Korean chicken wings ($6.99)—six massive, spicy, yet candy-sweet wings—and the pork and rice box ($6.99)—a huge helping (too much, really) of Korean pork, white rice, and egg—are two favorites. A special last month that I wish they'd turn into a constant is the bulgogi burrito ($6.99), a spinach tortilla containing beef bulgogi, kimchi rice, and sour cream to balance the burrito out. Over in the corner right past the fruit and vegetables, in the bins for breads and rolls, are a few heartier, meal-like buns. There are chicken curry and bulgogi croquettes ($1.99 each) and a few dessert buns all priced at $1.79, including Korean-style green bean or red bean buns, a mocha bun, and a choux cream bun (a very sugary piece of bread shaped like a little tiny catcher's mitt full of cream—not creme, fuck creme—so it's sort of like a Boston Cream doughnut but not as intense). You can eat one of any of these and not hate yourself afterward like I do with most desserts.

An ideal meal for two would be two of the croquettes along with the wings or the burrito or rice box, which you can easily split and it would all add up to a reasonable 12 bucks or so. This is fairly fancy munch-while-you're-on-the-go food with a bit more thought put into it.(Brandon Soderberg)

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