Published December 06. 2012 4:00AM
The clever name first drew me to Good to Go, a prepared foods market and lunch counter in Groton. Maybe it drew you there, too. If not, consider this additional writing on the wall and go there.
The unassuming little storefront along Pfizer Row belies the culinary creativity and warmth within. Once inside, the bright interior, with its tidy row of refrigerator cases and a well-stocked case of lunches of the day, presents a space that seems bigger than it appears from the outside. The kindly staff and lovely smells within immediately made my venture inside worthwhile.
The cold cases hold a slew of prepared foods to go, with soups, pasta dishes, entrees, sides and some desserts available. Among the soups is the must-get lentil and chorizo ($4.99 for a pint). The spice of the chorizo is present but subtle beneath what seemed like an Indian-inspired lentil soup base. It's a soup made for long winters, and it's complex enough to make for a pleasant dinner-time.
As for the beef barley soup we sampled ($5.49/pint), my husband probably put it best: "This soup makes a strong argument against being a vegetarian," he declared. We are agreed, as GtoG's beef barley reflects a perfect marriage of stew-y ingredients. Tomato shines through for an overall bright flavor, accented perfectly with garlic and spices. The beef is tender and cut generously. It is very, very good.
Equally well seasoned and delicious was the Spicy Asian Lo Mein ($5.49/pound in the daily lunch selections case). These are thicker noodles laced with a spice blend that kicks first (pepper flakes dot the mix) and mellows out soon thereafter. It's a pleasant heat that underlines the nice balance of this dish, which presents more like cold sesame noodles than the lo mein of your basic chain restaurant.
The only disappointment after my first visit was an unfortunately dry ginger cake. Among the daily specials are baked goods, including cookies, brownies, breads and small loaf cakes made on site. All the baked goods look lovely, and the ginger cake seemed a nice late afternoon treat. While the flavor of it was very good - not too ginger-spicy, not too sweet - the cake was bone dry and crumbly - not good for a dense style of cake.
Another sampling day brought Beef Bourguignonne to my dinner table, and our only regret was that there wasn't more in the generous takeaway pan ($11.99). Thick cuts of carrot, potato and beef - all flavorful on their own merits, which are amplified by balanced seasoning - make Good to Go's Beef Bourguignonne a more casserole-style dish, which is absolutely fine. It was delicious.
Of course we needed a side dish with such a luscious meal, so naturally we just added more potatoes to the mix. Good to Go's garlic mashed potatoes are what people dream of eating on Thanksgiving: thick and flavorful, made all the more decadent with sour cream and lots of butter. The garlic is allowed to be garlic, and it is nicely tamed by other more subtle flavor elements of the potato mixture.
Happily, our dessert selection of an ample cranberry cake loaf ($2.99) that night was a total hit. The berries were fresh and bright, balanced by a buttery, moist cake. It was lovely with a cup of tea and none-too-filling.
The highlight of all of our sampling came when we tried one of the daily specials: a Carne Asada quesadilla. It's $5.99, but take note that this thing is huge, with two layers of steak, cheese and black beans. Seasoning with some true kick brings out the flavor of the good-quality steak, and there's no shortage of cheese, which is very well selected - not too sharp, not too mellow. Quesadillas can be such a bore in the wrong hands, but Good to Go's chefs know their way around a tortilla. We loved this dish.
Speaking of the chefs, on each visit I made to the shop, the affable resident chefs were out and about greeting customers and offering advice on how to prepare some of the foods between trips to the kitchen. For whatever reason, it's nice to see the person behind the stove, and doubly so when they appear to truly love their work.