I believe that going anywhere before closing time shows the true colors of any establishment. Be it a high-class restaurant or a shabby hole in the wall, late hour employees display the upper limit of human kindness and the quality of their businesses differently right before closing time. I wanted to test that limit. On the corner of Edgewood Avenue and Jesse Hill Jr. Drive – along the old-fashioned brick buildings, the patchy express drug store, and the vague psychic who could help me find my soulmate stands the Sweet Auburn Curb Market.

The market was not bustling with people, the shops were closing up and some of the employees were mean. Nevertheless, I still explored the plethora of locally-grown produce, the boldly rich meats, and the diverse, expansive variety of the independently-owned international delights – which in all seems to form a connection that brings local business owners and consumers together.

beer, ale, tea
Khalel De Castro

I arrived thirty minutes before closing time, feeling curious and somewhat fearful of the unknown – I didn’t know what to do or what to say. It reminded me of what it was like the first time I stepped on American soil as a second generation Asian American. I was fresh off the boat all over again.

I walked in slowly, keenly observing and analyzing my surroundings. Suddenly, my eyes lit up as a brush of sharp ammonia went up to my nose. I received a discerning tune of classical music inside the refreshing market. The bright, plastic like, silver tables at the food court reflected the market’s roof that showed the bare and shrill metallic ventilation, giving the area a modern-esque, yet unsteady and rustic look.

gastronomy, wine, cheese
Khalel De Castro

At the heart of the market stands the produce section – home to a variety of fresh and locally grown ingredients from crisp and well-rounded heirloom tomatoes to bold and eye-catching meats, such as ham hocks and chitterlings. I was lucky enough to see the produce before the owners covered them with large blue tarps and wax paper. The market is surrounded by a variety of international dishes from Venezuelan arepas to Caribbean ox tails. Since it was near closing time and everyone was cleaning up (which explains the ammonia), I was limited to only a few restaurants.

With only twenty dollars in my pocket—which I may or may not have pilfered from my mother’s purse—I decided to treat myself to a three-course meal and have a taste from a little bit of everything that was open. I decided on an appetizer from Afrodish, an entrée from Metro Deli Soul Food, and finally, drinks and desserts from Rawesome Juicery. I wanted to make sure that I had enough to pay for my meal and make the most of my experience. Luckily, the market offered an array of affordable goods that complimented my cheap nature.


coffee, tea, beer, kettle
Khalel De Castro

A mix of African and Caribbean delicacies, offered an assortment of exotic and tropical dishes ranging from goat curry to Jamaican patties. All the other dishes were put away, and they also ran out of beef and veggie patties, but they still had chicken – which shows how they suit to all types of meticulous eaters. Chris, an employee, didn’t mind that I wanted to buy a two-dollar Jamaican patty before closing. Instead, he seemed to treat me like how he treats all his customers – in a cheerful and well serving way.

I appreciated that, even though I’m the schmuck who kept him from leaving. The chicken patty was a burst of flavor that I didn’t expect would come out of a soft golden flaky shell. It was spicy, the cumin and the various spices blended so well together that it felt like my mouth was holding liquid gold or when I looked at it – really really yellow paste. Looks can be deceiving; however, this simple yet almost firework-like sensation left a spark on my palate that left me savoring the last bits of the patty’s crust.

Khalel De Castro

I walked up to the counter of Metro Deli Soul Food to what seemed to be an open kitchen and a variety of classic southern meals; such as, fried chicken, cornbread, and an array of beans, all displayed a la cafeteria-style. I locked eyes with someone inside who seemed to be the owner; she looked at me straight and almost murderous with flat and languid like eyes, as if I was the bane of her existence.

One could tell that Mimi was a strong and independent woman; it subtly said so on her bold and yellow menu, it had no fancy words or lettering, it was simple, vivid, and straight to the point – it showed what food she offered and how much it costs. Out of fear, I told her that I was writing an article about her restaurant just so maybe I could get some pity and brownie points.

Miraculously, I think it worked – she smiled. “Everything is good!” she exclaimed. Respectfully, I didn’t want to keep her waiting, so I quickly ordered the first thing I saw; the pastrami sandwich. Even though the grill was already clean, Mimi still kept it professional, she pan-fried the rye bread and Swiss cheese, and assembled the lettuce, tomatoes, and the smoked pastrami all stacked up together like Jenga. It was savory and almost piquant; I was drooling while I indulged myself in the fatty, greasy and delicious fusion of delicatessen and soul food – a real stimulating pleasure after a month of eating mediocre college cafeteria food. It’s not fine dining, but after eating that sandwich and meeting Mimi, I felt like a man.

After indulging myself to some greasy yet delightful guilty pleasures, I decided to end my course with something healthy.

Rawesome Juicery

coffee, beer, espresso, tea
Khalel De Castro

A healthy juice bar that is highly unlikely to appear in a market that sold whole pigs and fried chicken, stands tall among its competitors as it promotes healthy eating in a place where eating healthy is particularly improbable. Like what I told Mimi, I told the owner of Rawesome Juicery – Kawai, that I was also writing an article about his establishment and surprisingly, he gave me some drinks for free.

One of the drinks was called “Kale-Yeah”, an invigorating green beverage made of spinach, kale and ginger which was an earthy and peppery drink that smelled like freshly mowed grass (I love freshly mowed grass). Their tropical bowl – a nutritious dessert that looks like soft serve chocolate ice cream, but is actually made of pineapples, mangoes, acai berries, apple juice, and bananas –were deconstructed in an almost molecular gastronomy-esque way to produce a raw, wholesome and refreshing treat that was surprisingly delightful.

butter, bread, toast
Khalel De Castro

Going to Sweet Auburn Curb Market right before closing time opened up new doors to what the establishment really stands for; the food, the service, and the people. What made it so different from regular restaurants and farmers markets; is that I was able to meet and connect with the owners and employees on a much closer level, I got to appreciate more of what they offered, and saw how they really identified with the products they sold. With Chris, who still gave excellent service even when I just ordered a chicken patty, or with Mimi, who was strong and mean, but was dedicated and passionate to her work, and even Kawai – who dared to be different just to show his enthusiasm for healthy living.

It may be rude to ask for something from these independent businesses right before they leave, but the fact that they still remain passionate with what they offer and continue to provide genuine service to their customers ultimately brings people who share an appreciation for food, local products, and international delights, together.