That Place

Every so often I discover a place that just makes me feel good when I eat there. It's a strange phenomenon, since the aspect of people that cause them to enjoy food is probably pretty similar, but the aspect that makes us truly fancy something is very personalized. It digs deep into our personal preferences, our personality and even our current situation and surroundings.

If a place makes a good hamburger, the majority of people who eat hamburgers will enjoy that hamburger. But it takes a lot more for a person to truly have a tiny, little warm place in their heart for that burger joint. Most would write it off as a good burger and remember that if they ever considered returning. But for a select few, this place becomes the place they associate with a great burger, the place that reminds them of the best burger they've ever tried, the place they secretly would love to eat at daily, or even the place that somehow redefines their image of a burger in a novel and exciting light. That is their comfort place. For no explicable reason. That feel good place.

We all have a few. We never know where they came from, or why, or even which old one they replaced. They just form. It's that place that no one else “gets” as much as you do. It can be comfort food, but it doesn't have to be. It usually just has some unique aspect that only you appreciate, but it's everything to you.

Having just moved to a new area, I was fully expecting to develop one or more new places. In Ann Arbor, I couldn't tolerate B3W, but was over the moon for these Buffalo wings at a smaller joint because I always went there as consolation for a big exam. When I was living in Manhattan, there was a tiny sushi restaurant on MacDougal Street near my Soho apartment. It was usually nearly empty, but I thought the sushi rice tasted better than any other sushi, the rolls were more creative, and above all, their brown rice sushi (and the fact that they even had it). I went there as often as I could, and brought people, but few others thought it was much more than a pretty good sushi joint.

Now in the DC-NoVA area, I think I have found my first new place. It is a deli sandwich place called Phillip's. There are supposedly four Phillip’s in DC; this store is located on G Street between 17th and 18th. After I started my job, several coworkers brought me and another new co-worker, Rebecca, to Phillip's for lunch. I wasn’t expecting much, but when I got in, I noticed something quite novel. Behind the glass, next to the bread and the toppings was a bona fide carving station!

There was a guy with several large carving knives handling the meat, and if someone ordered a turkey sandwich, he would carve off a big pile of meat off the fresh, roasted whole turkey and pass it to the sandwich compiler who had prepared the bread selection with any cheese, condiments, lettuce, or tomato in the meantime. And then the sandwich was sent to the third member who offered a myriad of other sandwich toppings – all for $6.95. If the next person ordered roast beef, the carver turned to his roast and carved off a gorgeous offering of rare and succulent roast beef. And they had a whole chicken for chicken sandwiches, and a whole ham. You get the point. All of these were freshly cooked, and they looked and tasted tremendous.

Don’t ask me what was so special about this place. The bread and cheese and toppings were all fairly typical, maybe even mundane. I’m not even a huge meat eater, and I don’t eat deli cold cuts very much at all. Maybe that was the thing. This was a deli sandwich with REAL, warm meat, not processed, salty cold meat. I was hooked immediately, and my face now lights up any time anyone mentions going there. I have tried all of their main offerings and approved of them all. But the roast beef takes the cake by far. Killer!

Rebecca on the other hand, true to her New York roots, thought Phillip’s was “okay – nothing to write home about.” She would take a standard Jewish deli any day of the week over this more nouveau take on a sandwich. And I don’t blame her. This is not HER place. This is MY place.

I even thought I was going there for lunch today, and this became a great morning in anticipation. And then my lunch buddies did a total 180 and decided to go to Baja Fresh. Threw Phillip’s out on the street! And why shouldn’t they? They like Phillip’s, but Phillip’s is not THEIR place. There’s just no way they would ever give that place – MY place – its just desserts. It’s just another lunch place in their rotation. They just don’t understand. No one ever will ever quite understand ANYONE’S place. But everyone needs their place nevertheless.

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