Ginger and I went into Boston today for doctor’s appointments. Mine was in Copley Square and hers in Kenmore, so she dropped me off and took the car with her. The point of my trip was to talk to my doctor about my antidepressant and whether or not it was doing what it could or should. She had some ideas of ways to help it work better, but wanted me to talk to a psychiatrist about it first. The wonderful woman at the front desk started working on getting me an appointment and got me one within the hour at the same Kenmore Square office where Ginger was. I rode the Green Line to the Fenway and, after a productive meeting with the doctor, met Ginger. She was headed to a lunch meeting with a couple she is marrying this weekend; I was headed to Downtown Crossing to eat my favorite sandwich in the whole world.
Chacarero is a Spanish word that means farmer or peasant. It is also the name of a restaurant and the sandwich they make. Back when I was teaching at Charlestown High, I would go to Downtown Crossing every afternoon with my laptop to write in the Borders coffee shop – and I would, most afternoons, have a Chacarero for my late lunch. Back in the day, there were two guys selling them from a pushcart. The sandwich consists of a wonderful homemade bun, not as thick as a burger bun, about eight inches in diameter topped with grilled beef or chicken, steamed green beans, tomato slices, pepper sauce, avocado spread, and salt and pepper – all for about $6.50. Even when I got there at two-thirty there was still a line. There was also a good chance they were sold out of either the beef or the chicken.
I ate there enough that they recognized me. One day, the older of the two men told me his story of coming to America and starting his food stand. He talked about how his business had grown and how that helped him bring over family and friends from Chile. He also told me he was moving up: he was going to move into the side of Filenes, the big department store, where he had more space and could be out of the weather. He moved and his staff grew. For years now they have been making sandwiches from eleven in the morning until six at night. And there’s always a line. In fact, there are two: you stand in one line to order and another to pick up your sandwich. In the eight or nine people working in the small kitchen, I can still see the guys who used to be at the pushcart. Now, I hear, they even have a sit down restaurant. I think that’s great, but I wouldn’t know how to eat a Chacarero if I wasn’t sitting outside in Downtown Crossing after standing in line for my sandwich, which I have been doing now for a decade.
I don’t really have a big finish here other than to say Chacarero is food at its best: homemade, well done, and feeding people. I love how it feels to go there. I love how it makes me feel. I hope it’s still fun for the folks behind the counter. They are doing great work.