Tahoe’s PDQ Market: Fueling your most epic days
April 8, 2015
"What is PDQ again?"
So ignorant of his insolence was our backseat passenger that I turned around to properly stare him down.
"You've lived here for four years and have never been to PDQ?" came the follow-up question.
"It's the best sandwich place in Tahoe," responded the man steering our 1999 Subaru towards Mount Tallac. Healthy and hungry sandwich debate ensued all the way from the west end of Donner Lake to the West Shore of Lake Tahoe.
"I didn't know there was anywhere to eat in Tahoma," the blasphemy-issuer responded, with a point. While not entirely devoid of restaurants, Tahoma is for truly dedicated mountain dwellers.
To live there is to place yourself quite out of the way of overstuffed café chairs and smoky casino craps tables. Tahoma is less than 10 miles from Tahoe City, but the road is a windy one. Even more perilous is the drive to South Lake Tahoe on a touristy summer day or a white-out winter morning. The commitment is not so extreme as to warrant a squirrel rotisserie on open fire but enough to make a resident stock up at the grocery store.
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Betwixt the big lake's sparkling waters and miles of Desolation Wilderness sits the simple, sweet and convenient PDQ Market, located at 6937 W. Lake Blvd. It is one of 45 or 36 Pretty Darn Quicks, depending on your information source. Founder and convenience store entrepreneur Sam Jacobsen opened his first market in Middleton, Wis., in 1948.
The Tri Dairy Store originally sold mostly dairy products but gradually expanded its grocery selection and popularity. The income bought a second store for which, borrowing from the parlance of their post-WWII times, Mrs. Mary Jacobsen suggested the name Pretty Darn Quick. "PDQ" caught on and was adopted for every location.
After 60 family-owned years, PDQ Food Stores sold to the employees in 2009. Now in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Tahoma, PDQ stores are 100-percent employee owned. Perhaps this is why the employees are so engaged, friendly and patient with last-minute runs from register to aisle and back.
PDQ is replete with everything a person could possibly need in their daily life. Stocked with medicines and produce, cereal and onesies, impressive selections of beer and wine and what appears to be a frozen yogurt vending machine, it is a veritable one-stop convenience shop.
By the time we walked into the heady smell of fresh-baked bread, we were first-world starving. Half way into the store on the left-hand side cherubs strummed their sandwich songs. A half sandwich will suffice any regular day, but this day we were hiking Tallac. With the gate closed, the hike is more than 10 miles long with more than 3,500 feet in elevation gain. This was a full, gargantuan sandwich day.
First, choose your homemade bread. Pesto is a fan favorite, and — while I'm sure garlic, cheese, white and wheat are all delicious — I'm a jalapeno girl. Back to basics, you can have turkey, roast beef, ham, pastrami and/or salami. Choose one of the many cheeses, then veggies and your type of mustard to go along with, or not, the mayo that "comes with." My favorite is the slightly sweet habanero.
The forearm-long sandwich feeds at least two humans. More choices include a variety of deli salads (the tortellini is tasty), honkin' pickles, daily-stacked and quickly-disappearing breakfast sandwiches and a salad bar.
Our sandwiches barely made it to the car. With gusto, we ripped off wrappers and devoured the first halves. Our newly minted PDQ-er enthusiastically grunted his approval.
Much later, scrambling our way across Tallac's summit, I pleaded with my friends to delay gorging themselves so we could capture the perfect picture of our PDQ sandwiches.
PDQ sandwiches are in a class of their own. They are not for pretty presentation or minding your manners. PDQ sandwiches satiate deep-woods, mountain-top, all-day-adventure appetites. They are not for the days you can wait to get back. They are for the days that a squished and sweating sandwich is the best imaginable thing you can pull out of your backpack at the moment of triumph.
On those days, pack a PDQ.
Ashley A. Cooper is a freelance writer residing in Truckee. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.