BG Eats: Cambridge Market has a traditional delicatessen atmosphere

At Cambridge Market, the classic Reuben and Ole Smokey roast beef speciality sandwiches are served with one side each. Tuesday’s special, hashbrown casserole, is a cheesy and crispy potato mixture, while the potato salad was overwhelmed by a bland thick dressing. Cambridge Market is located at 830 Fairview Avenue in Bowling Green, Ky.

John Greer

While Cambridge Market & Cafe might not be well known to many students on campus, it does very brisk business by catering to an older crowd. The appeal seems to lie in the classic menu, which consists mostly of the conventional sandwiches and home-style sides, and the traditional delicatessen atmosphere. 

Lunch hour at Cambridge Market is energetic. Scrambling employees yell out orders that ring above the constant hum of animated conversation and perpetual motion. The ample interior space ensures that finding a table won’t be too difficult. 

The food attracts traditional tastes. Sandwiches include a country ham, the traditional club and chicken salad. Most of the sides consist of minimally prepared vegetables such as green beans and corn, or popular southern accompaniments like mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese. Daily specials are also displayed at the counter. 

One such classic choice was the Reuben, which arrived in a small, dense package. The meat may have been tender and piled high, but the flavor was too mild to make any impact. Nor did the Swiss cheese, sauerkraut or Russian dressing really resonate. It was serviceable, but there are better versions elsewhere. 

Slightly less conventional was the Ole Smokey, a roast beef and pastrami sandwich on an onion roll topped with smoked cheddar, raw red onion, pickles and a coat of sweet barbecue sauce. None of the elements seemed first-rate, but they provide enough sweet and smoky complexity in each bite to make it worth consideration. The roasted onion sweetness of the roll particularly pulled it together nicely. 

As for the sides, the hash brown casserole and potato salad provide a similarly uneven impression. The unabashedly cheesy nature of the casserole was in full force. Certainly no surprises here, but it was well done. 

The potato salad made a worse impact. The natural tanginess and astringency of the mayonnaise and (what appeared to be) roughly chopped onion were rendered impotent by an overbearing sweetness more reminiscent of a sugary coleslaw rather than a potato salad. 

The constant clamor at lunch hour invites the expectation that Cambridge Market & Cafe serves some pretty superb dishes. In my experience, they were serviceable, but fairly uninteresting. Perhaps next time I’ll ask the regulars for a recommendation.