1301 Market Street, East Village
Build it — even if it’s with shipping containers — and they will come.
That’s the first thing I think of when I turn up at this Field of Dreams. Because, here on Friday night, that’s what everybody has done. Come. Singles, couples, their kids, their dogs. Arrived to saunter, drink, eat, socialize, unleashed their dogs in the protected green area, let their kids play ball. It’s like those famous old paintings of the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, except no Edwardian dresses. Just jeans and tees and lots of tats.
This is Quartyard, the temporary East Village square that three students from the NewSchool of Architecture (right across Park Boulevard) started as their graduation thesis and ended up turning into reality.
What was dirt and blacktop is now a bona fide social happening. Rafts of people moving among tables, benches, black umbrellas, boxed trees with counters around them, shipping containers transformed into coffee shops, bars, a sausage eatery, as well as two food trucks parked on the Park Boulevard side and a concert space.
What’s more: Gavin, Michael, Cara, Andy, and a bunch of other folks I know are already here making a noise at one of the bench tables.
“Drink?” says Gavin.
“How about drink and eat?” I say. Because, yes, a brewski would suit me, but I haven’t had a thing to eat all day. Need to lay down some gut lining.
“Follow me,” says Gavin. We end up at this two-stack container. Big black sign reads, “S&M,” but then, before you get any quirky ideas, it says “Sausage & Meat.” Oh, right. Plus there’s a picture of a dead pig on its back with its red tongue hanging out. Down at our level, a fine mesh separates you from the crew behind a long counter. “To keep out the flies,” says Marlene, the gal at the cash register. “Health regulations.”
So, what to eat? Blackboard has all sorts of crazy sausages listed. “And these guys are sustainable, organic, nice to their pigs,” says Gavin. “They’re bringing back small butchery, small farming. None of those mass-production stinkpit piggeries you read about.”
Sustainable pigs! Behind the mesh alongside Marlene is Mark Younggren, executive chef. He and two buddies, SDSU alums Scott Slater and Justin Frank, have created this local company that does most everything through Cook Pigs Ranch near Julian. Cook is trying to help save rare breeds of pig that have been squeezed out of the mass-market pork world. And they’re only farming them on a small scale, slowly. Like, no hormones to speed up growth. No miserable battery cages. Plenty of time out among the oaks foraging for acorns. Win-win: Happier pigs, more flavorful meat.
Ah. And they do sell beer here as well as sausages. Gavin goes straight for the Alesmith Tony Gwinn 394 Pale Draft ($6; $4 during happy hour).
Me, I’m looking at the sausages and sandwiches. Today they’re featuring the “Porka-Cola,” a ’wich of “pulled pork braised in molasses and cola,” with chipotle raspberry BBQ sauce, caramelized onion, and Sriracha slaw. Eight bucks (no happy-hour food deals).
Or Habana Cubano ($9) with pork butt, creole mustard mayo, swiss cheese, and S&M pickles. Or they have one with bison meat chipotle sausage ($9), or “Robert’s Reuben ($9), with corned beef sausage.
As far as sausages sold like hot dogs, they have the normal brats and “classic Italian,” plus a bunch of Hebrew National all-beef ($5), lamb merguez ($8), alligator-antelope ($10), and even “The Roo,” a kangaroo sausage ($9). (Not everything comes off the Julian farm.)
I’ve had alligator before, and been disappointed in the taste. It’s like chicken meets tuna; needs heavy flavoring.
But I’m curious about kangaroo. These guys are red meat, right? But healthy. Open range. Low fat, all-protein, tons of omega-3, no antibiotics, growth hormones.
So I go for it.
I’m back with the guys when Marlene brings over my sausage in a bun.
I look for the kangaroo. It’s hiding somewhere under a blizzard of red cabbage coleslaw, with a sauce squirted over it. It takes a while to realize I’m not getting a whole lotta taste. Alligator again? Of course I never did go to the sauce section of the counter and load up.
I’m feeling frustrated enough that when I’m done I head back and start staring up at the board again. “Corned beef sausage, $6,” it reads on the list under “Wienies.” I go for it. Mark loads it up with sauerkraut, swiss, 1000 Island, and pickles, I add a little Tapatio heat and this time we have lift-off!
“Scott Slater started with sausage carts outside Home Depot,” Mark tells me. “Then he opened Slater’s 50/50 five years ago — burgers with 50 percent ground bacon always added to 50 percent ground beef — and now he’s come back to sausages, pork, exotic meats.”
What he doesn’t say is Slater’s 50/50 went ballistic. He has places here (at Liberty Station), Huntington Beach, Pasadena, Lake Forest, San Marcos, you name it. And with S&M, he’s already simultaneously opened here at Quartyard and at 4130 Park Boulevard, University Heights.
So cool. But it’s not just S&M that grabs me. It’s the whole Quartyard idea. You might say, at last, East Village is getting a living, beating heart. Except the suits are due to rip out this heart two years from now. That’s the deal. This is temporary.
Stop the press! Kangaroo sausage off the menu at the moment.
The Place: S&M Sausage & Meat, Quartyard, 1102 Market Street (at Park Boulevard) East Village, 619-753-3905
Prices: Porka-Cola sandwich (pulled pork braised in molasses and cola), $8; Habana Cubano sandwich (pork butt, creole mustard mayo, swiss cheese), $9; bison meat chipotle sausage sandwich, $9; Robert’s Reuben sandwich (with corned beef sausage), $9; corned beef sausage in a bun, $6; Hebrew National all-beef sausage in bun, $5; lamb merguez, $8; alligator-antelope andouille, $10
Hours: 11:30 a.m.–9:00 p.m. daily (Friday, Saturday, till 11:00 p.m.)
Buses: 3, 5, 11, 901, 929
Nearest bus stops: Park and Market (3, 5); 11th and Market (11, 901, 929 northbound); Tenth and Market (11, 901, 929 southbound)
Trolleys: Blue Line, Orange Line
Nearest Trolley Stop: Park and Market