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February 28, 2006

EuroMarket: a fine change of pace for the lunch crowd

I once invited a friend to have lunch sometime, and his response was, “I like lunch a lot. I like it so much that I eat it almost every day.”That got me to thinking. Lunch can get rather stale. To save time and money, I often take cheap frozen food to work that I’ll eat at my desk with a can of soda. The taste and nutritional value, obviously, are questionable. Of course, you could always go down the street to a McDonald’s, but — well, let’s not talk about that.So I was happy to recently discover an out-of-the-way place in the East End called EuroMarket. It’s not far from Westport Road and the Summit, EuroMarket brings a sort of European theme to an unlikely spot in Metro Louisville.EuroMarket is a hybrid wine store, bakery and café, and also a thriving catering business. But for a walk-in, it’s a nice change of pace from the Budget Gourmet and that nearby burger joint. It’s sort of the ultimate fast-casual restaurant, a style that’s growing in popularity across the country.A co-worker (Susan) and I broke away from the office recently and headed to EuroMarket for lunch. The large selection of wine, beer and liquor wasn’t an option, so we headed straight for the deli counter to look at the day’s lunch specials.The choices written on a blackboard — chicken Marsala ($5.99), meatloaf ($5.99), chicken burrito ($3.99) and sweet Thai chicken ($5.99) — were just a start. We noted that EuroMarket actually has four separate menus — a café lunch menu, a box lunch menu (carry-out or delivery), a catering menu and a Chicago-style pizza menu (dine-in or carry-out).Susan chose the chicken Marsala. I went to the standard lunch menu for a roast beef melt ($6.99). Her Marsala came with two sides; she chose potato salad and a special, spicy greens. My sandwich came with chips and a pickle spear, but the greens looked too good not to try, so I added an order for a buck.Our orders placed, the friendly deli clerk showed us where we could get our soft drinks and told us she’d bring our food out. We took a seat at the front of the store in a small space with about a half-dozen café-style tables with umbrellas (indoors, no less — is that bad luck?). Meantime, we grabbed some silverware (OK, plasticware) and napkins and enjoyed the relative serenity. There was only one other table occupied. A quaint mural of a French waiter adorned one wall.Our food came out in about 10 minutes and was worth the wait. My sandwich featured a mound of tender, thin-sliced roast beef topped with melted cheddar cheese and Henry Bain sauce on a focaccia bun. My portion of greens was surprisingly large for a dollar, while the chips were unpretentiously delivered in their Lay’s bag.The sandwich was warm and delicious, cooked to crispy at the edges and quite filling. The greens were quite good, although not that spicy to my palate. They were infused with diced tomatoes and seemed very much homemade. The pickle spear was above average as well — I don’t like mushy pickles.Susan’s chicken Marsala tasted good, but she noted it was drier than she was used to — it seemed the vegetables (onions, mushrooms, celery, etc.) had been cooked separately and poured on top. Nevertheless, the chicken was tender and good, even if the celery dominated slightly. There was no arguing over the portion — she could only eat about half.A self-proclaimed connoisseur of chicken salad and potato salad, she gave EuroMarket’s potato salad high marks. She noted that it seemed to have a little mustard in it, which she appreciated. “A lot of places just use mayonnaise,” she said. There was also fresh dill and cucumber, along with chunks of tender potato.For dessert, we spent time looking over the variety of candies and desserts that are made on premises, along with many more made off-site. We decided to share a slice of tiramisu ($3.99). Not being a huge dessert fan, I took a couple bites of the creamy finisher and agreed with Susan that it had a cheesecake-like consistency. She thought she tasted cream cheese. Interesting.Also, a gentleman who apparently was a manager and/or owner, offered us samples of EuroMarket’s homemade raspberry rum balls. They were coated in thick, dark chocolate, and had a sweet, rich rum flavor with a creamy, fruity center. (I was afraid to eat more than a couple of bites, because I didn’t want to return to work with rum on my breath.)You pay after you eat, and our laid-back experience continued when we had to tell the cashier what we’d had for lunch. You won’t get that at McDonald’s.EuroMarket is located at 12907 Factory Lane. Hours are Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-8:30 p.m.; and Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. (the café is open 11 a.m.-7 p.m. each of those days). The store itself is roomy and  accessible to patrons using wheelchairs. Major credit cards are accepted. For more information or catering, call 243-0000 or visit www.euromarket-ky.com.