If you don’t like greasy spoons, or your lunch must come with a side of kale, C&P is not the lunch spot for you.
If you think life is completed by a meal that comes with a fistful of onions on almost everything, and you like to see several bucks change back from your $10, you’re about to be a happy eater.
If you like the idea of lunch that’s around $7 for all the food that can be stuffed into a small brown sack, after it’s been assembled in front of you, along with a 20-ounce beverage from the cooler, and you don’t mind if your bag is covered with grease spots before you get back to your car, welcome to C&P Market and Grill on Manchester Street — not exactly the new, posh part of the Distillery District’s main drag. C&P is in a tiny white building next to a car-repair garage and across the street from a fleet-fuel station.
But it’s a spot popular among executives in suits, neighborhood workers of all stripes and even the police. At lunchtime, you can see a guy in a suit perched on a stool with an Ale-8 bottle waiting for his order while a stream of customers wander down Manchester with grease-stained brown bags. It’s a clean and comfortable place.
Here you can get friendly food that has never even touched anything claiming to be artisan. But it’s nicely prepared, served by a friendly staff and gets you through to the next meal without the thought once weighing upon you that there are Pop Tarts and Doritos in a nearby office vending machine. You will get carbs, and some grease, and anything with onions on it will appear to have a whole onion dispersed in the bag. Some eaters may not like that. I was elated.
That’s more than comfort food. It’s food for the days when you need to see a friendly face and a meal that wouldn’t be out of place at Mom’s house on those days when Mom was not in the mood to put a lot of effort into feeding you little monsters, OK?
The homemade chili is genuinely tasty: beef, chili powder, beans and spaghetti served with plenty of saltines. It’s not white chili, it’s not floating with exotic little peppers, and the spaghetti wouldn’t be classed with crystal noodles on its best outing. But it warmed me up on a cold day, while the pimento cheese on white bread served as a nice counterpoint. I haven’t had white bread with a spread out of a vat in years. It was delicious.
C&P serves up bean soup (with ample greasy cornbread, of course) with a baloney and cheese and onion sandwich with no apologies — although the chicken sandwich you can get fried or grilled, ya health nuts. For dessert, you can pick up a Twinkie packet or some of the packaged pastries that you can scan while you’re in line to pay.
The rest, quite literally, is gravy: There’s also a breakfast business.
The everything burger came with sweet onion slices and mayo. The combination of onions and mayo on a burger is something I don’t get often because I worry about my cholesterol and always ask for spicy mustard and tomato, even when it’s January and the tomatoes are pale impostors that may as well be iceberg lettuce cores. So make sure you get onion and mayo. You have a day to get through, and breath mints are cheap.
The fries are almost exactly like the fries at Charlie’s Fresh Seafood: meaty crinkle cut taters that nicely spot the small brown bag with grease — this really cannot be avoided at C&P. You get six or seven packets of ketchup in which to dunk this hefty portion. I used them all.
Everyone has a day when they don’t want to speculate on what a meal is doing to their blood sugar or fatty liver or cellulite. Everyone who works there is the model of good humor and kind service. When you have a day when it’s worth $7 for that kind of food and kindness, C&P is the place for you. It serves nothing listed on Weight Watchers or the DASH Diet, and that is exactly the point.
C&P Market and Grill
Where: 1000 Manchester St.
Hours: 5 a.m.-7 p.m.
Payment: Cash, credit and debit cards accepted.