With a mix of trepidation and excitement, Boston greeted news that a new, giant Walgreens in Downtown Crossing would feature more upscale food offerings, like sushi. Inspired by their dialogue on the merits and failures of Dunkin Donuts’ glazed donut breakfast sandwich, two Boston Magazine staffers decided to try out the latest unlikely culinary offering on Boston’s mass market food scene.
Eric: Hi, Food Editor Leah Mennies!
Leah: Hi, Associate Digital Editor Eric Randall!
Eric: So do you want to tell the readers about our undertaking?
Leah: Sure. So, it’s been discussed for many moons that a super Walgreens was on its way to Downtown Crossing. And, as our luck would have it, part of this behemoth’s master plan was to serve … s
Eric: Enter Eric and Leah. So we picked up some of their basic offerings. Some spicy tuna rolls, some crab stick rolls, some avocado rolls, and some tuna and salmon nigiri. We should add that while we got their more basic offerings, Walgreens did have some more interesting rolls on offer. There were crunchy rolls and rolls topped with berries, for instance.
Leah: A random sampling, one might say. Because if Walgreens has the balls to serve sushi, well, you kind of have to hand it to them. Or at least investigate—am I right? (Yes. Yes, I’m right.)
Eric: Right, though I think I should correct the impression that some grossed out readers might have when they picture Walgreens. This new Downtown Crossing location is way more upscale than your basic pharmacy. It’s like a fancy market, with a sushi bar, a froyo bar, I’m pretty sure there are manicures going on in there. They have this nicely designed wall of trite Boston sayings. (Wicked good game at Fenway! Take the T!”)
It’s a big to-do. So when you walk in, the sushi doesn’t actually seem so out of place. It’s not like … on a shelf next to the pantyhose.
Leah: Which is how I think many people imagine it. (Also, no one says “pantyhose” anymore, Eric.)
Eric: Sorry. I’m not up on the latest trends in lady undergarment nomenclature.
Leah: Tights. Just go with tights from now on. But we digress. Let’s run through some general first impressions. I first thought, “Well, this all looks very clean and organized nicely in its packaging,” which then quickly transitioned to, “Dang, that’s the brightest nigiri I have ever seen!” Like, the tuna and salmon nigiri looked like those sushi-shaped erasers you can buy in Chinatown. (I know this because I have a paper bag full of them in my cube…)
Eric: They were oddly fluorescent. In fact, they looked much more vibrant than they tasted.
Leah: The salmon tasted like nothing at all. It was almost eerie.
Eric: Right, it was definitely fish, it just seems to have lost its flavor somewhere along the way. Meanwhile, the tuna had a sort of metallic tang to it. The tuna was to be avoided, at least today.
Leah: Agreed—but the spicy tuna roll didn’t have that same metallic flavor. In fact, it really delivered on the “spicy” part of the equation. Not in a mellow, mayonaisse-y way.
Eric: It actually had a significant kick to it. You had to wait for it, almost like you would with a jalapeno or something. I like spicy food, so that was actually kind of fun and new.
Leah: Yeah, I agree. I like really spicy food, so I took no issue with that.
Eric: Let’s talk about where we’d put this in relation to the generic category that is “supermarket sushi.” Is this just supermarket sushi?
Leah: It’s just supermarket sushi, I have to say. Though the rice was gummy, the texture and flavor of the rice really wasn’t that bad. I’d put this above Trader Joe’s and below Whole Foods.
Eric: Having grown up on supermarket sushi, I’m down for a little overcooked sticky rice.The rest of the staff, which is pretty well acquainted with the sushi from Whole Foods, as there’s one nearby our offices, seemed to agree that this didn’t quite compare. People seemed split on whether they’d run out to pick it up on a lunchbreak if they worked in Downtown Crossing. Final thoughts on that?
Leah: Honestly, I’m totally game for a round 2. There’s some unsatisfied curiosity in that arena. But only for maki. I don’t think I’d go near the nigiri again. I think one of the cardinal rules of successful supermarket sushi is that it needs distractions, be they in the form of crunchy tempura bits, flavored mayo, or even fruit to distract from the lackluster fish. At the Wegman’s near my parents’ house in Pennsylvania, they have a coconut shrimp tempura roll.
Eric: That sounds amazing. People who work near the Fenway can look forward to it. As for me, I’m a bit more shameless than you and, like I said, I grew up on Hannaford’s sushi, so I’d probably pick it up for lunch now and again. But I’d stick to tempura and spicy sauces, too. Also, this is all contingent on us not getting food poisoning in the next 24 hours. Not that I have any reason to think we will. Everything tasted like it was on the up and up. (But if this turns into one of those Airplane “chicken or fish?” moments, Boston Magazine is going to be seriously understaffed later this week.)
Leah: Yes, let’s cross our fingers on that. (Next Day Update: We all feel fine.)
Eric: Well, until next time someone in Boston puts out an odd and vaguely intriguing new food product, Food Editor Leah Mennies.
Leah: Yes, until next time, Associate Digital Editor Eric Randall.
Source URL: https://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/2013/05/01/we-tasted-the-downtown-walgreens-sushi/
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