Word of Mouth

At Parsley, a quick trip to fast-foodie nation

Parsley knows its sandwiches, if not its radicchio

Parsley is a tiny, newish sandwich shop located at 303 West 11th Avenue, not too far from Westword headquarters, open for lunch every day. I’ve eaten there twice now and enjoyed their offerings quite a bit: fresh, simple ingredients, a menu that’s atypical without drifting off into the bizarre.

Last Friday, on a brisk, overcast day, I trotted down to Parsley not quite remembering if they had soup, but hoping for that lugubrious afternoon staple: cup of soup, half sandwich. When I inquired as to the availability of soups, I was informed that they did not have any, but was the fifth person to ask that day – and thus they would be adding soup to the menu. Did I have any suggestions? Tomato bisque, I told them. Chicken noodle. Nothing fancy. I placed my order and sat down to wait.

“I have another suggestion, but this would be very cocky,” I told the two young women working behind the counter, more wanting to make conversation than anything. Another fellow flipping through receipts – the manager/owner, I assume – listened in. “You should try posole.”

No one working at Parsley knew what posole was so I explained to them that it’s a hearty Mexican stew, often served on Thursdays in Mexico, and made with hominy, pork, chile, garbanzo beans and a shit-ton of delicious other seasonings. This led to another question from the staff: “What is hominy?”

Rather than take this as a warning sign that the people making my sandwich were not the most knowledgeable foodies around (no matter; I already knew they made great sandwiches), I actually appreciated the question. Why pretend you know what something is when you don’t? When I first started working at a coffee shop/bakery back in the day, a customer came in and ordered a drink that I had no clue what it was. Rather than just invent some bullshit, I asked what she was referring to, and she actually tipped me extra for asking. At Parsley, I gave them some answer using the words “cornmeal” and “hearty” and sat back down to read the paper.

A few minutes later I was interrupted by a small, lettuce-like piece of green entering my peripheral vision.

“Do you know what this is?” one of the women inquired, holding the little shrub before my eyes.

“Radicchio?” I said dubiously.

“That’s what we thought!” the girl exclaimed, turning to head back behind the counter.

I had to laugh. Here Parsley had pegged me as some sort of foodie merely because I like posole and as the resident foodie in the place – indeed, the only customer in the place – they decided to trot out whatever food questions they had. I half-expected to field queries on wine and fish pairings, the proper way to slaughter and dress an elk (with reverence and a katana blade). And I enjoyed the experience. It seemed downright neighborly, the behavior of entrepreneurs -- not experts -- doing a few things and doing them well.

And if they’re going to branch out, these entrepreneurs will do it carefully, gauging the customers’ responses to ideas and learning what ingredients they need to know about as they go. And apparently that’s radicchio.

Still, if they do decide to add soups, here’s hoping Parsley talks to a Mexican about posole. I know a good one when I taste it, but I for damn sure don’t know how to make it. – Adam Cayton-Holland