An experiment in artisan fast food
If one day you find yourself stuck at Kitchener’s Charles Street Transit Terminal by way of tarriance, stuck feeling the incredible lightness of being, liminal in location, and forced to take some time to wait for your next ticket, why not spend your limbo at Mark’s Downtown Diner?
Go ahead, pretend you’re not in the backwoods of Kitchener-Waterloo; pretend you’re in the Streets of Waverly, New York. If I can stretch the comparison as far as that, then I will by saying that that’s the feeling the faulty brick wall, stools, and service window inside the small “diner” give the place.
Mark’s is certainly in a strange place, though not at first glance, because what Mark’s offers is the typical food fare we’d expect on the concrete streets of any urban bus station: hotdogs, french fries, burgers, you name it. However, what puts Mark’s in the culinary state of being between two gastronomical planes is how it elevates what it has to another, maybe unnecessary, plane of foodie existence.
What am I talking about, exactly? I am talking about Mark’s strangely Barsthesian coded ingredients: fries with pink rock salt and artisan crafted hamburger patties, to name a couple—something contradictory to the not only perceived, but expected fast food dynamic of such a place, especially by a bus station where all human beings are coming and going.
Add to that retrospectively expensive portioning. But fear not, Mark offers a student selection of three choice, conventionally popular items for a mere $3: a grilled cheese sandwich, BLT, or a sandwich with one fried egg. Strange? Perhaps. But, even stranger might be the fused Indian food options that accompany the place.
It seems strangely focused and planned, though no one would expect Indian flavour combined with something like poutine. Oddly enough, it seems to work, harkening on the fast food takeaways of our matriarch’s own homeland. Again, more pricey than most likely all bus-farers would like, but worth a try. To that there are things like handmade samosas, made by, I can only assume, the operator himself.
I can appreciate Mark’s artisanship, and I can appreciate the food, but I find it difficult to judge, especially with portions being as expensive as they are, especially with where they are. It is up to you, dear readers, to spoil yourselves, because as far as this eater is concerned, artisanship at a fast food stand by a bus station is as useful a coding device for the food it offers to the public that comes and goes as are apocalypse movies for comments on failing economies.
Does a beef burger handmade in Ontario served on a locally baked soft kaiser really matter in the instance where people want a quick spot to eat? Is Mark’s own special gravy a good selling point when the Greyhound leaves in five minutes?
Indeed, Mark’s makes a great effort to be original and against the grain of every other easily accessible burger and fry joint in the city, but it seems a strange location to make food so haute. Then again, it may very well monopolize on its ability to appeal to the gastronomically secretive, or the eaters who are “in.” I dare say if it were open later at night, this could very well be the case.