In search of the perfect sandwich
Tom: I wish this could include cocktails, to give our cake the frosting it needs.
Beth: Plus it would cut down on the bloat, wouldn’t it? Or add to it?
Tom: This is pretty tough business, driving around and eating sandwiches.
Beth: My 16-year-old son is very excited because he’s convinced I’ll bring home leftovers.
The J.J. Gargantuan at Jimmy John’s is a “gutbustah.”
Beth: The obvious choice at Jimmy John’s is the J.J. Gargantuan.
Tom: Jimmy John’s stresses me out when you walk in and 20 people say, “Hey, how are you?” It unlocks a primal fear I have about shopping. I have this phobia of interacting with people in stores.
Beth: I find that hard to believe, because you’re quite the talkative fellow around the office. So, here’s our Gargantuan, also known as “the original gutbustah!” Genoa salami, sliced smoked ham, capicola, roast beef, turkey & provolone, jammed into a homemade French bun. What, that’s all?
Tom: All for $8.29.
Beth: Ooooh, this is gooey.
Tom: It’s pretty tasty. There are at least four kinds of meat. Oops, true to form, I’m already wearing this lunch on my clothes.
Beth: I like the big roll of meat with the salami in the center. It’s like biting into a delicious bankroll. OK, let’s try something the polar opposite of the Gargantuan. How about the Totally Tuna.
Tom: That looks a little less lethal. I like a good tuna sandwich. I could use a little more filling on this one. Maybe it’s sacrilege, but how about some fruit on the side?
Beth: Lots of onion. It’s hard to compete with that yummy Gargantuan.
Tom: Look how close the delivery car is to mine. I don’t think I’ll be able to shoehorn my body into my car.
Beth: Especially after those sandwiches.
The Caprese Ciabatta at Schlotzsky’s
Beth: Next up is Schlotzsky’s. That’s so hard to spell, why did we pick it?
Tom: This will be my first Schlotzsky’s experience. You?
Beth: No, I used to eat Schlotzsky’s back in the day, before carbs became the enemy. They have those round, flat buns. I know the menu has changed a lot since then, so it will be interesting to see Schlotzsky’s 2.0.
Tom: Well, I’m on the edge of my seat.
Beth: They started with that round sandwich on sourdough bread. And they’ve added lots of stuff, like soups, artisan flatbreads, ciabatta sandwiches.
Tom: A lot of restaurants open up the kitchen for the guests to see. I’m not sure that’s a pro here. The ambiance is odd—feels more like a store rather than a restaurant.
Beth: So we got the Caprese Ciabatta sandwich for $7.99, and the Original, medium, for $5.69. To me it’s too much that they also sell Cinnabon rolls, which is their sister brand also owned by Roark Capital. Just the scent is too much. I’m just saying the sandwich doesn’t look anything like the picture of the Caprese. I hate that.
Tom: Mine looks a little more appealing. There’s a lot of mustard going on here, though. So much mustard!
Beth: It looks like half a cup of mustard. The Caprese has nice flavor: pesto, sundried tomatoes. What do you think of your Original?
Tom: It’s truly hard to get beyond the vast quantity of mustard. However, it’s tasty. The bun is unique and I like it.
Beth: I like the nutty flavor of that original bun, but yeah, way too much mustard. It proves the people making the sandwiches have to do it right, or the whole thing is ruined.
Milio’s Italian Club drew raves from Tom for extra touches.
Tom: So this is our Milio’s sandwich, the Italian Club, with traditional-sandwich-style wheat bread. I chose two slices rather than three. It’s a beautiful sandwich. I would never invest the effort to make something this elaborate myself. This is why you pay money for it.
Beth: Mine is a limited-time offer, a turkey, bacon and guacamole. It set us back $17.28 for the pair, including two bottles of water. I’m going to pound on Milio’s for its beautiful picture of this sandwich and the less-than-beautiful sandwich. The photo had all that luscious guac piled on.
Tom: And I don’t see any on the real thing.
Beth: Mmmmmm, the bacon’s good, but there’s way too much mayo. I taste just bacon and mayo.
Tom: You can see some flecks of spices in the Italian Club, and olive oil throughout the whole thing. You can see there’s some good effort put into this sandwich.
Beth: This journey is highlighting the importance of the people making the sandwiches. You think, well who can’t make a sandwich? But like everything, only a few can do it well.
Tom: The décor in Milio’s looks like a little Bay Cities deli, right? I like the fact it was put in an urban space that wasn’t the corporate template. It is a simple, honest little deli.
Firehouse Subs’ Turkey Verde was Beth Ewen’s favorite.
Beth: I wish I wore my Thanksgiving outfit for this.
Tom: Thanksgiving outfit?
Beth: A very stretchy black dress, and then a colorful scarf to draw the eye upward, away from my bulging stomach.
Tom: So this is Firehouse Subs. This is a pleasant environment. There are actually firemen’s jackets hanging up. The atmosphere isn’t over the top, in your face.
Beth: You know that Firehouse was started by two brothers who were firefighters. Do you like the Dalmation spotted tables?
Tom: I wouldn’t single those out as my favorite element, but I like the authentic feel.
Beth: So we ordered a New York Steamer sub, with beef brisket, pastrami and provolone. Sounds promising, at $5.99. And then the Turkey Verde, which is hot turkey, Monterey jack, salsa verde sauce, lettuce, tomato and onion. I feel like this menu has the most interesting variety of choices.
Tom: I’m going to dig into this Steamer. This is the best sandwich we’ve had so far. It’s got a ton of flavor. You can taste the difference between the brisket and the pastrami. The bread is good, the whole thing is warm. I don’t know what the cheese sauce is but it’s simple and delicious and full of flavor. It’s the best sandwich I’ve had from a fast-casual place.
Beth: You’re going to like the green salsa on this Turkey Verde. It’s got a unique flavor, a lot of bite. I liked the pesto in our Schlotzsky’s sandwich a lot, but this is more unusual and very tasty. I like the wad of meat in these sandwiches, too.
Tom: What’s your favorite? I’m going with the Steamer.
Beth: The Turkey Verde for me.
Potbelly’s Mediterranean sandwich has a “zingy” taste, Beth says.
Potbelly Sandwich Shop
Beth: Let’s take your picture by the potbelly stove, now that we’ve gotten photos with our books. What a nice touch, to have a shelf full of books to browse, although they should restock their shelves. I think most of the books have copyright before 1970. I like the communal table around the stove, too. Do you think they really operate the stove in the winter?
Tom: Um, no. There’s no ductwork or anything. It would be a disaster. But you could give it a shot and we could see what happens.
Beth: I think if you have a potbelly stove in your restaurant you should be able to light it.
Tom: Somebody should hold their feet to the lack of fire. Friendliest service so far. By the way, this mid-’80s Hawaii coffeetable book is right up my alley, so I don’t know why you’re dissing this book collection.
Beth: Very friendly service, but not efficient. We had to keep repeating our order to different stations, and they forgot the avocado on the Mediterranean.
Tom: This is my first meatball sandwich, so I’m about to live it up. Mmmm, I can see why this is a thing.
Beth: How much was that sandwich?
Tom: $4.80. That’s cheap for such a nice sandwich. Really good bread, too.
Beth: The Mediterranean has a zingy taste because of the artichokes, and the roasted red pepper is good.
Tom: I don’t like the Mediterranean. It seems like a random assortment of ingredients that don’t work together very well.
Beth: The meatball is pretty bland.
Tom: I really liked it, but it is my first one.
Beth: If you ever had a zesty, juicy meatball sandwich, with sauce dripping all over your face, you would know what I mean. Hey, maybe we should try one more place.
Tom: Are you nuts? This adventure is over.