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MARKET RESEARCH 

Cardwell's Market gives fast food a run for the money -- and then some

While performing my arduous research on Cardwell's, I noticed a tiny counter tucked away in a corner of the restaurant. This, it turns out, is Cardwell's Market, where, in addition to the odd bottle of wine or jar of salsa, you can pick up entire gourmet meals for takeout. The next day, faced with an empty pantry and the usual Schnucks vs. Taco Bell dilemma, I decided to give the market a whirl.

I found roasted vegetables, twice-baked potatoes, pecan tarts and lots of tempting morsels I recognized from the restaurant menu. After serious contemplation, I came away with a grilled hoisin-glazed chicken breast, garlic mashed potatoes, green-bean salad and a brownie. Even after a reheat in my irascible oven, the chicken was juicy and tender, the potatoes rich and fluffy. The green beans, in a mild vinaigrette with carrots, red onion and walnuts, were crisp and delicious. And the brownie, which probably weighed close to a half-pound, put me in a coma. All for less than 12 bucks — about the price of a flaccid pie from Pizza Hut. If it didn't involve a 20-minute drive, I'd be a regular. Hey, Bill, what about a South Grand branch?

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