October 18, 2012

Eat and Run: Fresh Approach

At the Portland market, they seem happy you're there. Turns out the feeling's mutual.

PORTLAND – A positive attitude can go a long way. I became a grateful and loyal customer of the Fresh Approach Market when I heard these words:

click image to enlarge

Joe Ruggiero makes a Cuban, the most popular new sandwich at Fresh Approach Market in Portland. It’s grilled, and made with country ham, cured and cooked pork belly, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard.

Photos by Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Debbie Sawyer fills a cup with chili at the deli counter at Fresh Approach Market on Brackett Street in Portland.

Gordon Chibroski


WHERE: 155 Brackett St., Portland; 774-7250

HOURS: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday; 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday

CHEAPEST GRUB: $2.99 for a breakfast sandwich, with choice of ham, bacon or sausage with egg and cheese

WAIT: Five minutes

PARKING: On street


RATING: ★★★★

Based on a five-star scale

"We appreciate your business."

It feels good to be noticed. It feels good to not be taken for granted. It feels good to be appreciated.

I stopped into this corner market for the first time a few weeks ago. I was hungry for lunch, and had little ready food in my apartment. I've spent the past several months walking by this neighborhood market, but never stopped in.

I finally did on a rainy fall day, and the pleasure was all mine. The Fresh Approach Market on Brackett Street, directly across from Reiche Elementary School, is a friendly neighborhood store.

The market has a somewhat nondescript storefront. It advertises itself as a market, and it's obvious from the placards and signage that it specializes in meats and deli products. But it's so much more than that.

Step inside and one quickly discovers that Fresh Approach is a bustling full-service corner grocery with produce, dairy and bakery products in addition to a well-stocked and appealing deli section. The lunch menu entices with a board selection of hot and cold sandwiches, freshly grilled burgers and daily soups.

This is the kind of place my parents grew up with. It's not exactly a relic from an earlier time, but these neighborhood markets were a lot more common a generation or two ago. It's very nice that some still exist.

Two quick impressions: The sandwiches are made on the spot with fresh meats and cheeses, and the prices are reasonable. How does $3.99 for a ham Italian sound? Or $3.99 for a well-sized cheeseburger, grilled while you wait?

I opted for a meatloaf sandwich ($5.99) and a cup of chicken gumbo ($3.49). Oh my, were they good.

The gumbo was perfect for a raw, rainy day. It was creamy and thick, with shredded chicken and rice in every spoonful. I don't know if the thickener was a roux or file powder – or something else – but it packed an ever-so-slight hint of Cajun seasoning. What impressed me the most was the texture and plentifulness of the chicken. These weren't chicken chunks, but thinly shredded flanks of well-cooked chicken.

The meatloaf sandwich could not have been better. It featured two hunks of seasoned meatloaf, each sliced about a half-inch thick, and served on a chewy 12-inch sub roll with melted cheese and a touch of ketchup. My intent was to eat half and save the other half for dinner. But I plowed through all 12 inches without hesitation.

While I was waiting for my sandwich, the deli clerk began grilling two burgers for another customer. She laid out two huge patties and began sizzling them right in front of me. I'm a big fan of big burgers, and I don't mind admitting that I have been thinking about those slabs of meat for the past two weeks. They are next on my list.

Before checking out, I grabbed a few other grocery items that I needed for my apartment. I was quiet and kept to myself, as I typically do. But the clerk would not let me go unnoticed. He did not recognize me as a regular, and seemed genuine with his greeting.

"We appreciate your business," he told me as I handed over my cash.

It's nice to have a place in the neighborhood that's convenient and reasonable – and where they truly make you feel welcome.


The staff of GO anonymously samples meals for about $10.


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