It was a blowout day. And I mean that quite literally, as friend Keith’s front bicycle tire suddenly popped with a thunderous bang. Taking quick evasive action, I swerved around him as he managed to straighten out his trajectory and keep his bike upright. Fortunately, we were only a few hundred yards from our destination, Mary’s Market and Deli, located in Hygiene’s commercial center.
Mary’s has the welcoming feel of the archetypical country store, with a warm wood interior and retro retail fixtures such as a nut display that seems strangely familiar. It’s also remarkably cyclist-friendly — Keith was able to make use of a communal floor pump to fill his tire — and there’s plenty of bicycle parking. Outside, there’s plenty of space and picnic table seating to enjoy a mid-ride repast.
In addition to locally sourced meats and produce, there’s an impressive selection of energy bars and sports drinks. My favorite, Skratch Labs hydration beverage, is available premixed and chilled for $1.50 per water bottle fill-up. Those eschewing energy bars can load up on smaller protein boosts such as single-serve cheese sticks and hard-boiled eggs. Ravenous cyclists (or anyone else, for that matter) can avail themselves of the deli, which dishes out made-to-order sandwiches, homemade soups and a rotating menu of savory and sweet pies.
Recovering from his tire mishap, Keith found a $6.95 turkey with Swiss on wheat to be just the ticket. This light meal was a straightforward but satisfying option, topped with mayo, mustard and fresh lettuce and tomato. For an extra buck, one can opt for gluten-free bread, and other fillings include ham, roast beef, and chicken or egg salad.
My more substantial meal began with a $4.95 bowl of medium green chile, which is one of the best I’ve had in a while. Chunks of tender pork mingled with just the right amount of chile heat to create a pleasant mouth burn. Unlike some examples of this dish, the individual flavors came off as fresh and distinct, with no muddled qualities.
For a main course, I went with a hefty $5 serving of house-made ground buffalo pot pie, which seemed much closer to something out of a pioneer kitchen than a freezer case. Vegetables in the filling included the requisite diced carrots and peas, as well as unexpected but successful additions of squash and cauliflower.
Juicy meat precluded the need for heavy gravy, and the dish relied on what tasted like sage to tie the whole preparation together. The crust was a touch doughy and was closer to pale white than golden brown in appearance — with a flakier texture, this hearty pie would have been darn-near perfect.
Similar crust concerns informed my experience with a $4 slice of peach pie. Otherwise, the slightly sugary filling satisfied my need for sweet, and this quality was nicely tempered by the fruit’s subtly tart edge.
As a dining destination for the cyclist, one would be hard-pressed to find a more suitable spot. But even if you aren’t a rider, you can still appreciate the endearing qualities of this market. Heck, if you’re a deceptive person, you might even explore the possibility of purchasing one of their homespun pies and passing it off as your own.
Mary’s Market and Deli, 11809 N. 75th St., Hygiene. Call 303-774-8330.