I was hungry when I decided to get lunch from Quality Shop the other day, but I didn’t know what I wanted.
I didn’t want to know what I wanted. I’m sort of decision-averse, and I get easily overwhelmed with all the little decisions I have to make all day. I was hoping something on the menu would just reach into my subconscious and I’d instantly know what to have.
Then I looked at the menu. Two cheeseburgers with fries for $7.99. Done. The menu item hit me hard on several levels, including nostalgia (I’ve always loved cheeseburgers), value and the comfort-food factor.
Quality Shop has been a fixture on Stevens Avenue in the Deering Center neighborhood for some 80 years. It’s the kind of place that serves no-frills food, and lots of it, in a cozy market atmosphere. There’s no bistro seating and you can’t order a small plate. It’s the kind of take-out that has powered Americans on the go for generations.
And it’s fast. I called ahead on a weekday at lunch, and the woman who took my order apologized that because they were crowded, it would take awhile – about 10 minutes. I had to drive from South Portland, so 10 minutes seemed perfect.
When I got there my order was ready. The two burgers were very warm, wrapped in foil. They were much bigger than I expected for a two-fer deal. Both were thick, with white American cheese, on buns that had been buttered and grilled. They came with a white-and-red box of crinkle-cut fries, also hot.
It was too much food for me, but that didn’t stop me from eating it. Because it was just $7.99, I thought that at a place with such low prices, I should buy my next day’s lunch, too. So I ordered large regular Italian – a Maine Italian, that is – for $4.79. It was on a very soft roll, as a Maine Italian should be, with ham, cheese and all the veggies. The ham was a little thicker than I usually find in an Italian, but tasty.
Besides burgers, the grill selection includes hot dogs ($1.79), as well as gyros and a chicken souvlaki. There are fried foods like chicken tenders, clam cakes and fried mushrooms. Then there are cold sandwiches, hot sandwiches, salads, pizza and a couple pasta meals, including spaghetti and meatballs for $4.29.
Deering Center is a pretty neighborhood with many picturesque places nearby to stroll through, including Evergreen Cemetery and Baxter Woods. So if you’re looking for a pre- or post-stroll lunch, or just some fast and satisfying take-out, Quality Shop lives up to its name.
WHERE: 473 Stevens Ave., Portland
INFO: (207) 774-6434, On Facebook
HOURS: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily
WAIT: About 10 to 15 minutes for lunch phone order
PARKING: On street
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: No