Consider this a symbolic award. The pit beef sandwich here is pretty good but aside from this write-up, it probably won't win any awards. But this little tuft of roast beef on a so-so bun, served from a lunch cart on the side of a downtown street, means something bigger than beef, horseradish and bread: Every one you eat is a little victory for a small business owner. So the story goes, the manager of the Marriott-owned Residence Inn did not like Maria Kaimakis selling $5 sandwiches from a lunch cart in front of the hotel--a hotel with millions of dollars of overhead and a restaurant that sells more expensive fare. He put in a call to City Councilman William Cole (D-11th), who called the Downtown Partnership, who negotiated a deal that offered Kaimakis the opportunity to go sell her sandwiches elsewhere. The ostensible issue was whether a business can hold onto a street vending license without using it--it just so happens that Kaimakis and her husband have maintained, but not used, a street vending license since they put away their cart in 1993, when their restaurant Cypriana opened. But we think the real issue is that a powerful individual picked up a phone, complained, and absent any proof that the pit beef cart was in fact damaging his business, pushed Kaimakis on down the road. If you can find her cart, buy a sandwich and score one for the little guy. Righteousness tastes pretty damned good.
Editor's note: Maria Kaimakis informs us the cart can be currently found at the corner of Light and Redwood Streets, and their phone is (410) 627-0800.