Skip to main content

Lost in the supermarket


Photo by Fred Green


A very wise man (and a close friend) once dropped some science on us with the following prescription for life: “Never buy pizza at a gas station.”

This may sound like a simplistic jibe, but a valuable lesson lurks underneath: some things in life require a specialist.  Bad pizza (which reminds me of another old joke: pizza is like sex; even when it’s bad it’s still pretty good) is far too easy.  The same can be said for barbecue.  Any jamoke can grill up some meat, slather on some sauce, and call it ‘cue, but  only an experienced devotee can create a truly transcendent barbecue experience.

All bits of advice I should have remembered when I tried to buy some barbecue at a supermarket.  If said establishment was in Texas, (where some of the best pit masters hold court at “markets” where freshly smoked cue comes to you ladled on a large sheet of waxed paper with a side of chopped pickles) I might have had a chance.  But, this is Los Angeles.

The market in question, Hows Market in North Hollywood, is a nice enough grocery emporium.  In addition to a salad bar, hot food bar, deli counter, and hamburger stand inside the store, there is also a lovely seating area with fireplace and flat screen television where you can kick back and consume your purchases.  Among these could be some barbecue, cooked on a grill on the sidewalk in front of the store, then brought inside, where it is served and paid for.

I obtained a tri-tip sandwich for only $5.50, a reasonable price by most anyone’s reckoning.  Chicken sandwiches and baby back ribs are also available.  I should note that this tri-tip sandwich was not bad in any sense.  But it committed a sin that was far more unpardonable: being undistinguished.  Bland, lifeless, lacking in personality, however you’d care to phrase it.  The meat was quite good, as befits a supermarket carrying excellent quality foodstuffs.  The sauce, however, did its best to hide, flee, run away, make itself vanish from the palate, leaving behind no impression whatsoever.  I will refrain from mentioning the name of this indistinct, sorry product.  Topped off with a lackluster factory bun, there you have the ultimate culinary sin: an apathetic meal.  Here’s another saying that applies just as well: the opposite of love is not hate, but apathy.  I didn’t care about this sandwich.  And that’s a shame.

FOOD: 1 out of 5

ATMOSPHERE: 2 out of 5

SERVICE: 1 out of 5

VALUE: 2 out of 5

Hows Market, 5300 Lankershim Avenue, North Hollywood, CA  91601  (818) 432-4766

(Transit convenient; across the street from subway station and major bus transfer point; free parking)