The food is affordable and delicious. the stranger

The Central District has been on the long, slow march toward gentrification for well over a decade now. Hell, it's gotten so weird and belligerent in the last few years that the addition of a legal pot shop in the neighborhood inspired complaints of gentrification. Gentrification is a real problem with very real consequences, but it's tricky to address because you only hear about it when it's happening. People only complain about gentrification when something new is arriving, when a building is going up or a new business is launched. By the time people start complaining, it's too late.

So if gentrification in the Central District has you concerned, here's something you can do to fight it: Give your business to Sam's Moroccan Sandwich Shop (1110 23rd Ave, 328-5688). It's just up the street from Uncle Ike's, the new pot shop, in a strip mall that miraculously hasn't been turned into an enormous mixed-use condo block. Two local men opened it about a month and a half ago; the owner/operator is originally from Morocco, and his business partner hails from Eritrea. The fellow from Morocco works behind the counter, and he's as friendly as humanly possible; his nickname is Sam (his given name is Hisham Habchi), and he'll take care of you without making you feel smothered. The space itself is clean, no-frills, and welcoming. Most importantly, the food is eminently affordable—two people can eat there for about twenty bucks—and, yes, it's delicious.

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Before eating at Sam's, I never thought of Morocco as a hotbed of sandwich artistry. Consider the pocadio tuna sandwich ($5.99), a wheat roll stuffed full of albacore tuna, beets, carrots, olives, and a boiled egg. Sam gets the mayonnaise ratio exactly right, which is to say he uses barely any at all, just a little for texture and a hint of flavor. The Casablanca chicken curry sandwich ($5.99), too, is excellent. It's spicy without being punishingly hot, and the chicken isn't too curry heavy; it's peppery and juicy with the spices seared into the skin, and not at all doused in the clotty sauce you'll find in a bad Indian restaurant. (I've heard good things about the sardine sandwich [$5.99], too, but tuna is about as adventurous a fish as I'm willing to attempt at lunch; who wants to spend their afternoon breathing scales and gills at their coworkers?)

Sam's also serves a collection of crisp, fresh salads ($2.99 side/$6.99 large). They're not conceptually ambitious (the sable d'or salad is greens, raisins, walnuts, and feta; the souk chop salad is tomato, cucumber, onions, and olives), but they're satisfying. If you eat in, you can take your time over a colorful pot of tea ($1.99) and strike up some conversations with your neighbors. Could there be a better poster child for antigentrification? If a place like Sam's were to ever be replaced by a Jimmy John's, Seattle would deserve to be turned into an upscale parking lot. recommended