20 October 2007

The Sandwich Challenge

What a classic lunch staple is the sandwich. The old trusty lunch box mainstay has roots into olden times, with roots even deeper than the 18th century English Earl for whom the sandwich is named.

Sandwiches come in all shapes and sizes, be they filled with meat or (more appropriately) any and all types of vegetables, spreads and cheese. This run down will feature all of my notes about the best (and worst) vegetarian sandwiches I've ever eaten.

Athens, Ohio is a hot bed of quality cheap food to feed the poor collegiate hoard. Avalanche Pizza, easily Athens' best pizza, also makes Athens' best (and biggest) veggie sandwich. The sandwich is called the boulder and is advertised as being as big as your face. The veggie boulder is three buns piled high with mushrooms, green peppers, onions, banana peppers, black olives, roasted red pepper, lettuce, tomatoes and cheese with a choice of dressings that include Italian, honey mustard and creamy pesto. I didn't snap a picture the last time I was in town, but this image should give you some idea of how big these things are. Plan on gaining a pants size after eating an Avalanche boulder.

Also in Athens (but slightly more refined than the more-is-better Avalanche approach) is Mistretta's Italian Market. They make great panini sandwiches. These grilled Italian delights feature the quality Italian mozzarella that separate Mistretta's from Subway. All sandwiches are made on flatbread, including the fresh mozzarella with a choice of pesto or tapenade, mozarella with red peppers and red onions, and a mushroom panini with porcini, portabella, white mushrooms and mozzarella. The menu features some pictures of the sandwiches. The deli sides can also be very excellent.

When I lived in Chicago, there was only one place for submarine sandwiches: Cap'n Nemo's. Well, maybe there were three--I used to eat at the one in Winnetka, but there are two other locations in Rogers Park and Lakeview. They offer vegetarian chili and split pea soup in addition to three vegetarian subs. The first is the vegetarian, made on a hollowed-out roll stuffed with radishes, pickles, guacamole, lettuce, tomatoes and onions with brick and provolone cheese and the vinegar-based Captain's Secret Sauce. The super cheese has five kinds of cheese and is literally like eating two pounds of dairy products in one sitting. The third vegetarian sub is the Mexicanne, made with the vegetarian chili, guacamole, refried beans, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, giardinera and brick cheese. There might seem to be an ingredient in these sandwiches that doesn't seem to fit, but trust me...outside of the mayo, these ingredients harmonize perfectly together. Trust the expert on this one.

Nestled on the north end of German Village in Columbus is Katzinger's, the deli that offers a treasure trove of vegetarian (and vegan) sandwich options. The menu items that I have tried include the Fred's Jazzy Pita Treata, a hummus and pita sandwich with tomatoes, cucumbers, spinach and kalamata olives. Franklin's Kibbetz is grilled on sourdough bread with fresh mozzarella, pesto and tomatoes. The Bill Clinton, while not vegetarian, is sure to leave a mess on your chin.

Some places don't offer the selection of these larger scale outposts, but the quality of the one offering keeps me going back for seconds. One such sandwich is Weezie's Cheesy (pictured above) from the Brown Bag Delicatessen. The sandwich is made on nine-grain bread with tomatoes, sprouts, onion and cucumber with Muenster cheese, vegetable cream cheese and honeycup mustard. The cozy deli also sells wine and beer, putting it a leg up on the rest of the competition.

Danny's Subs
in Westerville also fits the bill of an establishment with one well-made vegetarian sandwich. You get a choice of white or wheat bread, any or all of provolone and Swiss cheese with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, black olives and banana peppers topped with Italian dressing, salt, pepper and oregano. The sandwich is stacked as high as it can go, and as a result, the lines can build up at peak lunch and dinner hours. The place is small and family owned, and as a result, they are closed on most holidays while keep relatively short hours on other days. The owner and his staff are all very friendly. Danny's is definitely a winner.

Benevolence is a vegetarian restaurant. They feature many soups and sandwiches, including the falafel sandwich which is made like a veggie burger patty. Their food is great because I'll never say no to anything with falafel.

Speaking of falafel, Aladdin's Eatery makes falafel sandwiches the old fashioned way--in pita bread. You can get the pita stuffed full of vegetables or as a smaller-portioned rolled pita, with an optional choice of hummus or baba ganoush in the pita. This is one of many vegetarian sandwiches from this chain with great healthy dining options.

The Fast Food Olympics

And what would a review of sandwiches be without a critique of fast food options? Who has the best quick and dirty sandwich, and who makes the worst? Picking the worst always gives me pain, because the worst vegetarian sandwiches are made by some of the first places I ever ate a veggie sub--Subway. Subway sandwiches aren't completely awful. Think of them as civilian MREs. According to Jared from Subway, these are very healthy, but in reality, I think of the subs as tasty cardboard.

In third place for the cookie cutter fast food sub sandwich category is
Potbelly Sandwich Works. Potbelly is indeed better than Subway, which is akin to saying that you are taller than Verne Troyer or smarter than Miss Teen South Carolina. The subs are average and fairly-priced. Potbelly sandwiches are $2 cheaper than Quizno's, most likely because they are smaller and don't have as many topping options. Overall, they could be better and they could be worse. Outside of the culinary realm, however, Potbelly also should do everything in their power to eliminate creepy management. One of the managers at the establishment I visited was leering at me and giving me the Larry Craig eye. I was afraid if I dropped my potato chips, he would step into his wide stance and give me the once over. I don't know what that was all about, but in my opinion, I'd keep my young children away from the John Wayne Gacy-looking gentleman that manages the Polaris Potbelly. I just don't trust him.

The fast food silver medal goes to
Jimmy John's. Unlike Potbelly and Subway, Jimmy John's has guacamole, which could almost put them in second all by themselves. I prefer the eight inch sub to the club, although the club comes on better bread. Either way, Jimmy John's also trumps everybody else because they deliver.

The grand champion of the crap category is
Quizno's, but that comes with a giant caveat. While Quizno's subs are better than Subway and Potbelly, they also cost way more. You would be better off trying any of the smaller shops described before the fast food ratings. They are worth every penny, while Quizno's is about 300 pennies too expensive.

I should update this entry regularly as I continue to eat sandwiches. Enjoy the pictures, and go eat a freaking sandwich.

Sandwich Challenge

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