For six decades there's been a whole lotta cooking going on in that tiny concrete block building on Placer, the one across from Holly Bail Bonds. Back in the 1960s it was home to Jan's Frost Shop, run by a swarthy burly hirsute man who called everyone sweetheart and who made the most fabulous greasy pastrami sandwiches and French fries. After Jan's closed, a series of fast food cafes opened including (in no particular order) Between the Bun, a hot dog place whose name escapes Femme de Joie at this moment, the first home of now-permanently-closed Brick's, Wilda's, and at least one or two others now lost to the vagaries of memory.
Ma Der Ma Der Sap House opened in that little building just a few months ago, serving Thai/Lao fusion with AmeriMex influences. Staffed by three energetic young men working the flattop, they use minimal equipment in a cramped kitchen to quickly turn out innovative specialties. Customers come from the nearby offices and most seem to already have their favorites from the short menu board above the counter.There are a few tables inside; in good weather sit on a barstool outside and eat at the ledge on the side of the building. Service is fast, helpful, and cheerful. For those wondering about the name: Ma Der Ma Der means "come over, come over." Sap means "tasty" but also means "spicy-hot" or "chile hot."
A quick primer on Sap House sauces, fifty cents for a small cup with about two tablespoons of sauce: roasted Jalapeno is by far the mildest and would be acceptable to nearly all palates. Honey-Sriracha is like a hot and sweet orange-colored ketchup; if you like Srirachal you'll like this. Roasted Thai chili sauce moves up considerably on the heat level; it is similar to bottled chile-garlic sauce, but hotter. M. de Joie didn't quite have the moxie to sample the roasted Habanero sauce but has to assume it will take the top of your head off.
The cafe's namesake dish is an Asian take on a burrito. Packed tightly in a flour tortilla are 2 eggs, mushrooms, onions, bell pepper, Lao sausage, tri-tip, sticky rice, and your choice of sauce; the tortilla is grilled just enough to give the exterior a little browning and crisp texture. If you have any doubts about whether the combination of Thai/Lao/Mexican is a good idea, this will lay them to rest: the flavors and concept work. Two people could easily split one sapprito for lunch.
Philly cheese steak fries, $8.00
A registered dietitian would probably have harsh things to say about the Philly cheese steak fries: it combines French fries with cheesy, oniony fried strips of ribeye steak. It's not on any known sensible diet plan. The fries - the bedrock - make it a carbaholic's nightmare. But this gooey, salty mess of sandwich filling is as addictive as potato chips: you cannot have just one bite. It's not health food but then Ma Der doesn't claim it to be. If the photo looks a little fuzzy, well, that's steam rising on a cold day.
Blackened shrimp tacos, two for $7.00
If you just can't bear all the goodness of the goopier dishes, the blackened shrimp tacos are more salad-y. While they aren't actually blackened, lots of spicy rock shrimp with a squeeze of lime give a little kick to the rabbit food underneath, all held together in a flour tortilla canoe. M. de Joie thought that a creamy sort of dressing would be good to bind it all together, but it was quite delicious without, light and tangy.
Femme de Joie likes this little place, innovative without pretense and a good value in old Redding, which despite the number of offices really isn't served well for fast non-junky lunch restaurants. Everything on the menu is under $10, can be split if you're so inclined, and is already packed in a to-go box. Make it as mild or wild as your palate approves. If you're looking to have something different and exciting for a workday lunch, try Ma Der Ma Der Sap House & Grill.
Ma Der Ma Der Sap House & Grill, 1718 Placer Street, Redding CA 96001. 530-691-4194. Open Monday-Saturday, 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM. Cash and cards; no checks. No alcohol. World's worst and tiniest parking lot; many signs saying, "no restaurant parking." Better to park on Yuba, Oregon, or Placer instead. Vegetarian and vegan options. Follow them on Facebook.