PETITE MARCHÉ (33 University, at Front, 416-955-0302) Complete meals for $10 per person, including all taxes and a bottled juice. Open Monday to Friday 7 am to 6 pm. Closed Saturday and Sunday. Unlicensed. Access: barrier-free, but tight space and tall counters, no washrooms. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
The words "help wanted" in a restaurant window are never a good sign. They usually mean "help needed." And first-time restaurateur Rosemary Gallagher could use some assistance, both behind and in front of the counter, at her recently opened, mostly organic take-away in the downtown core.
Finding cheap eats other than submarine sandwiches in the shadow of Bay Street steakhouses is next to impossible. But this odd, claustrophobic space - with more vertical than horizontal space - decked out with a half-dozen stools at a tall window counter offers some of the best meal deals around. Just don't be in a hurry to get back to the office.
Three customers at once is definitely a crowd here, and since the friendly counter staff aren't quite up to speed, getting something relatively straightforward, like a first-rate tuna salad sandwich on thickly sliced multigrain ($3.95, and weighing in at nearly a pound), seems to take forever.
The sandwich could also use some mild Spanish onion and a little celery to give it a more bite. Its advertised additions of roasted red pepper and green olive are microscopic. A bonus: raw carrot sticks. There are slightly smaller but big-value daily $1.95 sandwich specials like smoked turkey and provolone on whole wheat.
Every day Gallagher offers a TV Dinner to Go ($6.95), the entree of the day (spicy chicken thighs, meek manicotti) with a choice of three sides, including a very good cantaloupe, melon and apple fruit salad.
But the star of the lineup is Friday's old-school but non-organic pot roast, fabulously retro slices of well-done slow-braised beef - there's no such thing as medium-rare pot roast - in a delicious jus lightly accented with soy and studded with carrots. Very Batifole beef cheeks.
Ditching the sides, I get enough sliced meat for eight bucks including tax to make pot roast sandwiches all weekend!