Sandwich Chronicles: Panama 66

WEEK EIGHT

Work is pretty rough this time of year.  We are currently in our post-Christmas dead period where all the New Year’s Resolutionists have finally given up on their goals of weight loss and reading more and have settled back into their respective couches with takeout and Netflix, not to return until next Black Friday.  Due to this sudden lack of cash flow, payroll gets all kinds of tight and we basically just end up sending everyone home after they hit the required two hour mark.  Last Tuesday was my turn: after coming in at 6 am, commute lit by a gorgeous crescent moon, I was off by 9.  I had already been fully awakened by that point and had an entire day ahead of me; while I had a lot of Workaholics to catch up on, I figured I could save that for the last seven hours of the day, and agreed to meet Erica in Balboa Park to explore the free museums.  It was the third Tuesday of the month so the Museum of Man and the art museum were among the ones free of charge; we decided to start with the SDMA, grab lunch and a drink at the newly opened Panama 66, and catch some mummies afterward.

The art museum was, you know, the San Diego Art Museum.  We walked around.  Laughed at the ugly stuff we could probably do ourselves, saw some paintings of Jesus depicted as a Man-Baby.  The usual.  Also, FYI, searching Google images for “Jesus as man baby” does not disappoint.

First there’s this little guy, apologizing to Mary for making everyone think she’s a ho.

First there's this little guy.
Forgive me, mom.  I know not what I do.

Then there’s this little hipster baby Jesus, who was probably a Vegan and built his own tree house.

Then there's this sweet little bearded savior.
Baby Jesus had a beard before you even knew about them.

And finally this guy comes along and raises some important questions about race and the white-washing of our dear Emmanuel.

And then this guy comes along and raises some important questions about race and the white-washing of our dear Emmanuel.
Or maybe he’s just a guy named Jesus Manbaby.

Just thought that needed to be shared.

Obviously we had worked up an appetite after the strange and intriguing museum visit and headed straight to Panama 66.  It is owned and operated by the people who run Tiger! Tiger! and Blind Lady Alehouse, so I had some pretty high expectations.  Though I’ve never dined at Tiger! Tiger!, I have a very special place in my heart for Blind Lady’s egg and bacon pizza.  The egg is cracked in the center.  It cooks just enough to leave the yolk runny.  It’s topped with swiss chard and truffle oil…needless to say, I could eat this for breakfast everyday.

Panama 66 has a different feel to it, which is to be expected given its touristy location.  It’s an open, outdoor area with a bar/counter where you order.  Erica and I snagged a seat and pored over the menu.  I was happy to find they had a decent selection of good beers for pretty cheap.  I found this especially surprising in Balboa Park, where a soda can set you back $5.  They also had many delicious-sounding sandwiches and I had been told by a friend I had to get the pork loin, but for whatever reason, I went against her guidance.  I was interested in something light and the butternut squash sandwich caught my eye.  So that’s what I got.  And I never regretted a sandwich more:

UGH.
Ew.  Just ew.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the densest, nuttiest, richest sandwich you will ever eat.  Or, if you’re lucky, won’t ever eat.  It sounded so refreshing in theory:

Roasted butternut squash, shiitake mushrooms, kale slaw, pepitas, miso vinaigrette on house-made focaccia.

You know, reading that over now, it doesn’t really sound refreshing at all.  It actually sounds pretty heavy.

So maybe I didn’t really think about how that would all come together until it was too late, but whatever, I still don’t think it’s my fault.  Basically the bread was good, but too heavy for that thinly-sliced squash.  The squash itself needed some kind of flavor.  The mushrooms and the pumpkin seeds really had no place on the sandwich and, combined with the miso, only brought that umami flavor to an almost unbearable level.  And the kale?  That’s not a slaw.  That’s just kale, cut up.  So basically, nothing on this sandwich worked.  And I hate to say this, but I didn’t even finish it.  Scratch that–I couldn’t even finish it.  While I was yet again learning the hard lesson to never order vegan when pork is on the menu, Erica got one of the most gorgeous turkey sandwiches I ever seent.  She even let me have a bite, probably because she’s a good friend and not because I was eyeing it with the same intensity with which a lioness stalks her prey.

That's me, across the table, crying into my gross food.
I’m just about ready to pounce.

This was hers, a combination of turkey, brie, butter lettuce, bacon, and a cranberry mayo which is, in my opinion, just delightful.  This sandwich changed my mind on Panama 66.  This sandwich offered them hope of redemption.

Plus, it’s hard to swear off a place with this view:

Goddamn, San Diego.  Why you so beautiful?
Goddamn, San Diego. Why you so beautiful?

RECAPPIN’ IT

Price: Unlike the beer, the sandwiches run a little pricey–my abomination was about $9, and most of the meaty ones were $11ish.

Menu:  It’s a little underdeveloped, but it is also a new spot.  With time, they may beef it up a bit.  The sandwiches they do have are unique, though in some cases, like, oh I dunno, a butternut squash/mushroom/pumpkin seed sandwich, uniqueness doesn’t pay off…

Ambiance:  Outdoors in Balboa Park–gorgeous.  Reference above glamour shot of the Museum of Man bell tower.

Sides:  For an additional $4, you can grab some fries?

Second Trip Worthy?  I’d like to give their pork loin a go, but I’m not going to go seek it out.  If I am ever exploring museums in the future, I’ll swing by.

Overall rating: On the sandwich alone, 1 out of 10 sandwiches.  I never thought I would hate a sandwich so much.  I need to sit and think about my life.

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Sandwich Chronicles: Rubicon Deli

WEEK SEVEN

You guys.  I’ve finally gone and done it.  I’ve been told for years it is the best sandwich shop around and while I held high hopes, I didn’t realize just how good it would be.

I ate at Rubicon.

I must say, when I arrived there, I kind of didn’t know where it was.  I knew it was on India by Shakespeare’s Pub but I could not for the life of me find a sign.  So I parked, got out of my car, and saw a line of people directly in front of me.  I figured that had to be it.  Then I saw people eating sandwiches on the little sidewalk patio and knew by the looks of those culinary marvels that I was in the right place.  Though the line went out the door, it’s only because the counter is basically three steps inside the building.  After a short wait, it was time to order.  I had heavily researched this establishment prior to arriving and was set on ordering either the Dapper Dipper (a fancy french dip) or the Rich Boy (chipotle grilled chicken, cheese, and avocado).  However, once I got to the front of the line, I began to have second thoughts.  The dip sounded/looked and smelled delicious (one of the patio people ordered it, okay?  He was right there and I was just kind of casually leaning over, checking it out…it wasn’t as creepy as it sounds).  However, it was about 85 degrees out and as much as I love au jus, I thought I should maybe save it for a time when it could be more fully appreciated.  The Rich Boy was highly favored on Yelp, but it sounded pretty similar to the sandwich I got from BFD (https://lazygirltrying.wordpress.com/2015/02/21/the-sandwich-chronicles-bfd/, in case you missed it!), and I felt obligated to try something a little different.  Then I saw it.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the Belly Up:

Cue Lord of the Rings theme
Cue Lord of the Rings theme.
One sandwich to rule them all
One sandwich to rule them all!

This sandwich is unlike any other sandwich I have either reviewed or ever eaten.  It’s pork belly with a sweet and tart Asian slaw, lettuce, and a miso ginger mayonnaise.  You choose your bread and, being unsure of what it would go best on, I went with the recommendation of the guy at the counter–the pesto roll.  It sounds weird, but it works so well.

As a rule of thumb, I’m not usually a huge fan of coleslaw on sandwiches.  As with potato chips, I adopt a very conservative policy of segregation–they are sides, that is where they should remain!  However, I wholly support the integration happening in this sandwich.  The pork belly, being as fatty and rich as it is, needs something slightly sweet and acidic to break it up.  Not to mention the crunch of the slaw also adds a nice texture to a sandwich that would otherwise be, well, soft and flabby (don’t take that the wrong way, pork belly; I love you just the way you are).  Though it is expensive, weighing in at $12.99 for the whole, it is also gigantic; half is basically the size of a homemade sandwich.  Considering the quality of ingredients and the fact that I could never make this myself, I say it is well worth the price.

Because this was a really special sandwich day, I decided to splurge and get myself a side of their bacon potato salad.  I love potato salad so very much, and have honestly never found a place that serves it with bacon.  I don’t know why this is; it only makes sense, especially if it also contains hard boiled eggs…it’s like breakfast in a creamy, mayonnaisy scoop!  Who wouldn’t want that?

WAAAAAIT a minute...
What is this shit?

So you can imagine my disappointment when, at home, I discovered they gave me not the glorious meaty potato salad, but fucking QUINOA.  MOTHERFUCKING QUINOA.  Sure, it was the healthier option, and sure it probably saved me from having a heart attack that day, but there is nothing as disappointing as expecting bacon and getting a super grain.  To be fair, it was really good, even better the second day, once the flavors had time to meld.  It had a nice garlicky richness, a vinegary bite, and the tomatoes and cucumbers were refreshing..so yeah, it wasn’t the worst side I could have received.  But still, man.  Goddamn quinoa.

BULLET POINTS:

Price: I’m not going to lie, it’s pretty expensive.  But if you’re going to budget for a sandwich, this should be the one.  Also, I don’t think it is humanly possible to eat a whole in one sitting, so you really get two meals for the price of one.

Menu:  A large handful of unique specialty sandwiches along with the option of building your own.  They also offer salads, for the weak.

Ambiance:  Is artisanal an ambiance?  Because I think it should be.  Okay, if not it’s young, it’s hip, it’s fun, but you can tell they all take it seriously and know what they’re doing.  Except for the guy packing to-go bags.  He needs some retraining.

Sides:  Well as you know there are potato and quinoa salads, and also a bunch of potato chips.  OH!  Before I forget!  They have the most amazing soda fountain–all the sodas are made with pure cane sugar and the flavors include lemon lime, diet cola, cola, root beer, orange, and SHIRLEY TEMPLE.  Where have you been all my life?

Second Trip Worthy?  It’s taken every ounce of willpower I have not to go back and try that Dapper Dipper.

Overall rating: 15 out of 10 sandwiches!

The Sandwich Chronicles: Bite of Boston

WEEK SIX:  THE LOBSTER ROLL

Lent has begun, and though I am not exactly a “practicing Catholic,” I do still feel compelled by the guilt of Jesus Christ to participate.  This year I’ve given up buying coffee…for the most part.  I mean, I basically just want to be more conscious about when I choose to do so, and not automatically buy it every day.  And yeah, sure, I got one today, but I felt like treating myself, and vanilla iced coffee sounded like a great way to start my morning, and okay GOD, I’M SORRY!  I repent and will do ten Hail Marys!

Along with the giving up of something, we’re also, for whatever reason*, supposed to cut out meat on Fridays.  As this past Friday was the first of the Lenten season I chose to start the forty days off right and avoid any crushing remorse by getting myself a nice meat-free sandwich.  I found a place called Bite of Boston just minutes away from my work and thought it fitting: being Bostonian, they have a 99% chance of being Irish Catholic (at least that’s what The Departed has led me to believe), and I would be in like company.

Though I’ve never been to Boston, I can imagine they are a very proud city.  At least that’s the vibe I got from the decor.

I'm guessing they like sports up there?
So I guess they like sports up there?

The walls were covered in Boston memorabilia, most of it sports-related.  Any other time this would cause me to cower and run from a place, but here, I remained calm.  While waiting for my food and wondering why I was so serene in such a seemingly horrifying environment, I had a revelation.  It’s not the sportiness that I hate in places similarly decorated, but the twenty or so flat-screen tvs, each playing a different game, creating a sweaty whirlwind of chaos and causing me to shout across the table about how funny the last episode of Broad City was LIKE I’M THE WEIRD ONE FOR WANTING TO HAVE A CONVERSATION OVER DINNER.  But in Bite of Boston?  There isn’t a single tv.  I could scroll through Buzzfeed in peace, with just the casual chatter of overweight old men fluttering around me.  Not that I was waiting for long–the food was out in just about five minutes.  And speaking of the food…

isjdflsjd
Mmm, cholesterol.

Ladies and gentlemen, the lobster roll, served alongside a bowl of clam chowder.  Now, candidly speaking, the only other lobster I’ve ever had was either in a bisque or a taco.  That being said, I wasn’t sure if this was a traditional take on the lobster roll or if it is to the sandwich what McDonald’s is to the hamburger–bearing a resemblance, but only vaguely.  I did a little research and found that their roll is indeed made with Maine lobster, flown out from the East coast twice a week.  A for authenticity, F for their carbon footprint.   Though I was incredibly underwhelmed by the size of the sandwich (served on a buttered and grilled hot dog bun and coming in just under 6 inches), I have to say, the taste was pretty great.  Again, thanks to the internet, I learned that many lobster rolls have much more mayonnaise and chopped celery–this one was very lightly dressed with both.  Less fillers = more seafood = a happy Gina.  And though it initially looked small, the buttery roll and rich flavor of the lobster meat really ended up being quite filling.  Though I would have liked more lemon, either in the dressing or on the side; I’m partial to acid (no, not that kind), and it would have helped break up all that heaviness.

As for the clam chowder, it was perfect, and cheap as far as they go; I got the 8 oz bowl for just $3.50.  Though it was amazingly rich, creamy, and hearty, Damon makes a pretty mean chowder as well.  However, he does use bacon in his soup for a little extra flavor–it looks like I’ll be sticking with Bite of Boston’s until Easter’s over.

THE CASTING OF FINAL JUDGEMENT

Price: A bit steep–the small lobster roll is $12, and the large is $15; then again, the price of lobster is always steep.

Menu:  They have a handful of hot and cold sandwiches, though nothing that really jumped out at me; they also have some other seafood goodies, that obviously jumped out at me (fried clams, anyone?)

Ambiance:  Boston, with a touch of Boston.

Sides:  The standards–coleslaw, mac n’ cheese, potato salad, and Boston baked beans, because of course.

Second Trip Worthy?  Only if I ever get the craving for a lobster roll.  Though when that craving strikes, I’d rather try something badass like a whole goddamn lobster, killed/cooked with my own two hands.

Overall rating: 6.5 out of 10 sandwiches!

*because the Pope owns Long John Silvers.

The Sandwich Chronicles: BFD

WEEK FIVE:  BIG FRONT DOOR

After the past few weeks of exploring uncharted territory, I felt the need to eat something comfortable and familiar.  Big Front Door is one of the places already in my rotation and is, in my humble opinion, the perfect sandwich shop.  The reasons are as follows:

1.  They have a bunch of fun, interesting ingredients (roast beef, broccoli rabe sandwich?  Smoked potato and whipped avocado?  How did the world never think of that?)

2.  Their name automatically brings to mind my second favorite Roald Dahl book, The BFG, and infuses the place with a magical air.

and

3. It has a very San Diego feel to it–clean, open, sunny, and with a lot of little crafty touches.

One of the oh so San Diego things about it is their institution of a seasonal sandwich.  It rotates from time to time and uses ingredients that are, well, in season (go figure).  I got one last Winter and came with hopes that it was still their seasonal sandwich this year.  I was lucky.

Ladies and gentlemen, feast your eyes on the Season’s Past.

She's so gorgeous.
She melts my heart.

It consists of blackened chicken, brie, roasted brussel sprouts, honey-dijon mustard, garlic aioli, and is served on ciabatta bread.  The sandwich may seem a little pricey at $10.50, but let me assure you, it is worth every red cent.  Here are a sample of the notes I wrote during my tasting:

“Lots of craft sodas.”

“God I love it here.”

“Sandwich takes a long time to make.  10 minutes?”

“It’s hot though, makes sense.”

“So good.”

OMG sososososo fucking good.”

That basically sums it up.  Everything is so perfectly balanced–the salty, peppery chicken is mellowed out by the creamy, gooey brie, is brightened and sweetened by the honey-dijon.  The earthiness of the brussel sprouts (which are cooked perfectly, by the way) add a good rustic element.  It’s pretty filling so I had half there and saved the other half for later which, honestly, is just as good cold.  Since it’s more of a meal than most sandwiches, it actually benefits from the flavors sitting and mingling together over a little bit of time, and the ciabatta is hearty so it holds up well to a little moisture and doesn’t get all soggy.

BFD also has some great sides to choose from.  I usually stick to the chipotle potato salad because how could I not, but they have a red quinoa salad, regular potato salad, macaroni, thai cucumber salad, and a handful of others that all look amazing.  I got a small size and can’t remember exactly how big it was but it only cost $1.50 and serves about two people.  As I hinted earlier, they also have a great selection of craft sodas.  I’m trying to cut out my soda intake, but mostly Coke and Dr. Pepper.  I keep seeing people post videos about how Coke will eat through metal or how it does something horrifying when boiled.  I don’t ever watch these mostly because they always have captions like “She thought Coke was okay.  Then she boiled it.  You’ll never guess what happens next!” and I think all videos promoted in such a style should be wiped off the face of the earth; also, I really like Coke and sometimes (ahem, when hungover), I just need it.  That being said, I do understand how horrible it probably is for my delicate innards and have being trying to make the switch to things less destructive.  This is why I really like craft soda–I choose which one to get based on the amount of normal ingredients they have.  The one I settled on this week is Black Cherry from the Boylan Bottling Company and it had only one ingredient that sounded a little confusing.  Compared to the all of them in Coke, it seemed like a safer option.

So much variety.
Okay, I’ll just have one of each.

But wait.  What’s that on the top shelf?  Is it–?  Could it be?

Dang, Gina!
Dang, Gina!

Dang! soda strikes again!  I expect this won’t be the last I see of it.

THIS ONE WAS REALLY FUNNY, I HOPE YOU READ THE WHOLE THING:

Price: The sandwiches are all around $10, but their ingredients are a little fancy so that is to be expected.  I spent $15 for my sandwich, soda, and side.

Menu:  A great variety of hot, cold, and vegetarian options.  Also have some intriguing salads (duck cranberry is on my To Eat list).

Ambiance:  Very open, bright, and with a little dab of hipster.

Sides:  Great variety with healthy, house-made options.  In addition to their sodas, they have some great brewed iced teas.

Second Trip Worthy?  100th trip worthy.

Overall rating: 10 out of 10 sandwiches!

The Sandwich Chronicles: Classic Rock Sandwich Shoppe

WEEK FOUR:

I entered Classic Rock Sandwich Shoppe with some low expectations.  Back when I was a North Parker, I used to pass this place on a weekly basis.  It’s in a strange location–on a dead block of North Park Way next to Lucky’s, a breakfast joint/front for a drug cartel.  While Lucky’s is only open three hours a day but constantly has its lights on and door ajar with the metal screen door bolted to better obscure whatever funny business is occurring within, Classic Rock Sandwich Shoppe is open all day, but remains dark and lifeless.  Lo and behold, it is still in business and had some pretty solid Yelps, so I decided to give it a go.  Honestly, with a goal of 52 sandwich shops by the end of the year, I have lowered any possible standard I may have had: if the place sells something edible in between two pieces of bread, I will eat there (let’s be real though, that isn’t too far from my everyday requirements).

When I entered the shop, it was empty as predicted, save the music of Led Zeppelin and a middle-aged man and woman, both employees.  They both greeted me with genuine smiles and the woman swiftly grabbed a binder and asked if I had been there before.  I responded that it was my first time, but that I had looked at their menu online.

“Did you see the one with pictures, or without them?” she asked.

“With the pictures?  I guess?”

“Okay,” she said, opening the binder.  “There are two menus online–one with pictures and one without.  The one you saw doesn’t have all of the sandwiches.  We have fifty to choose from,” she says casually, turning page after page, “turkey, beef, ham, veggie, spicy ones,” she looks up, with a warm smile, head slightly tilted, “and we have 15 more coming soon.”

Alright.  So they have variety.

I wanted a spicy one since that seemed to be their thang, and was grateful that she warned me of their heat scale–the first one listed is a one, the last one listed is a 10-20, depending on the sandwich artist.  Just kidding, only Subway is douchy enough to call a deli worker a sandwich artist.  For real though, they get that hot, not that I should be surprised considering it contains spicy chicken, habanero mayonnaise, and habanero/jalapeno/cayenne cheddar cheese.  Yeah.  That exists.  I went with the Sultry Stevie, which still packs a punch, but a less abusive one, like an angry girl done wrong as opposed to a drunk Marine in PB.  When she asked what bread I wanted, I asked for the roll.

“Yeeeeaah, that’s one that I wouldn’t recommend with this sandwich.”

“Oh?”  I was slightly taken aback.

“It’s a little too much bread.  The sandwich is better on these,” she pointed to the first few breads listed.

I was thankful for her input.  It’s not every day someone will tell you in what ways their sandwich isn’t good.

Seeing as how I was the only customer, Middle-Aged Man began my order as soon as I decided on it, and rather than just stand there awkwardly sneaking pictures of their shop (though I did that too), I had a little time to chat with the woman, Cheryl, who turned out to be the owner.  She asked me what made me try the place and when I mentioned my noble sandwich quest, she told me she really didn’t like sandwiches for most of her life.  I didn’t realize that was a thing.  She said she had just gotten to a point where she was sick of roast beef and ham (again, I didn’t really understand what she was saying here), and didn’t think there were many other exciting options available.  That’s why she made her shop, complete with a bunch of vegetarian and white meat sandwiches for those in the world who felt as she did.  Simply put, she wants something for everyone and wants every customer to leave happy.  Her bright smile, passion, and genuine interest were enough to do that for me.  Oh, and look at all them posters.

hahaa
Fun fact: that plate on the counter has those orange-colored peanut butter sandwich crackers from the 90’s on sale for a $1.

Yes, I did take these while pretending to watch a video on my phone.  Yes, I fake-smiled and laughed to appear convincing.

jfjf
Cheryl pointed Stevie out to me.  I felt obligated to take a picture.  Secretly.

And yes, I am the most awkward girl in America.  Now, on to my Stevie.

So sultry.
So sultry.

This bad boy (or more appropriately, little lady) is comprised of rotisserie chicken, avocado, provolone cheese, pineapple-habanero sauce, lettuce, tomato, red onion, sprouts, and habanero mayonnaise.  I got the sandwich to go and in the fifteen minutes it took to get from the shop to my home, the bread had already become a little mushy. I blame the sauce, which could have benefited from being thicker and not so runny.  Despite this, the flavors were pretty good.  The chicken was nicely seasoned with a bit of a cajun vibe, and the habanero mayonnaise had a nice bite.  The first few bites were pretty solid.  A little hot, but manageable.  It was with the fourth that I began regretting my decision to drink a cream soda rather than a milk.  I’ve never really had a sandwich that clears my sinuses and makes me wish I were genetically better predisposed to tolerating heat.  That made me like it though.  It was a little fun, a bit more adventurous than your typical deli sandwich.  While eating it however, I kept thinking of slight tweaks that would improve the sandwich.  Maybe nix the pineapple habanero sauce and make a pineapple habanero mayo?  Add a slice of pineapple even.  I would have liked another few (seven to ten) slices of chicken to bulk up the sandwich and make it good on any bread choice, rather than just the plain wheat.  And maybe throw some arugula in there for a peppery touch?  Overall, it was good, but there is a better sandwich within this Stevie.   I think what we see here is too strong a focus on the quantity and, in turn, the quality suffers.  The menu is a little confusing honestly, with their long, obscure names for toppings (it’s technically called the “spicy wouldn’t you love to love her pineapple habanero” sauce) and there are just too many sandwiches that are too similar.  If not for Cheryl to walk me through the menu, I may have been a little too overwhelmed to choose.

I REALLY HOPE YOU READ EVERYTHING I JUST WROTE AND DIDN’T SKIP IT ALL:

Price: $9.25 for a sandwich the size of which I can easily make at home.  Definitely needs more meat to warrant this price.

Menu:  Massive, with 65 unique sandwiches and the ability to create your own.

Ambiance:  Very warm and hospitable.  You can tell these people care.  A bit vacant inside though–enjoy a nice chat with Cheryl, then take your sandwich to go.

Sides:  I didn’t see any chips, though there were individually wrapped cookies and cracker packs randomly on a plate for sale.

Second Trip Worthy?  There are 64 more sandwiches to try and they offer a club card that gives you your 10th sandwich for free.  So obviously.

Overall rating: 6 out of 10 sandwiches!

Sandwich Chronicles: BMH Italian

Week Three:

I had never heard of BMH Italian before my sandwich quest began.  I found it via Yelp as a best rated local spot and after seeing a review by a woman who said her grandma recommended the place to her, I was sold.  If an 80 year old woman thinks it is worth spending what precious little time she has left eating this food, I feel obligated to take this place seriously.

BMH is located at the mouth of El Cajon Boulevard.  Now there are pockets where El Cajon Blvd is really kind of cool with some great restaurants and bars (Ould Sod, I’m looking at you).  This is not one of them.  This is exactly how you picture El Cajon Boulevard to be–seedy and the possible location of a stabbing.  On their to-go menus, BMH lists their location being “just West of Saint Martin’s church.”  I would have said “across the street from Paradise Auto and Random Boat Engine Sales” or “next to the guy on the corner wearing a hoodie and drinking out of a paper bag.”  However, once I got past the exterior and located the health department’s A-rating in their window, I was so very happy I came.  The place reminded me of Satriale’s from the Sopranos, which is fitting seeing as how they has a signed Sopranos poster for sale in the foyer.

But really, can we talk about how the show ended real quick?
But really, can we just talk about how the show ended real quick?

They have a mini dining room to the left of the entrance and some dry goods and homemade, frozen pasta dinners for sale in the deli area.  When I entered, there were a couple Italian women sitting at a table, gossiping.  For whatever reason, I found this incredibly comforting.  I was still studying the menu when a man walked out from a back room, heartily greeted me, then turned to yell, “Come on!  Whaddaya doing?” to one of the women chatting.  The bleach blonde, tattooed lady got up slowly, still talking, and sauntered around the counter to take my order.  I was with my brother, and when he requested the torpedo, she asked if he wanted the regular price or the $5 one.

“Is it smaller?”  I asked.

“No.”

“Sooooo, it’s 12 inches.”

“Yeah.”

“For $5?”

(I clearly wasn’t getting it.)

“Yeah, it just has a little less meat.”

Ooooooh, okay.  We wanted the full experience in order to fairly judge them, so we just went with the regular torpedo as it was only $6.75–still incredibly cheap for a full-sized sandwich.  I myself ordered the Southside.  She asked for my name for the order and when I gave it to her she responded, “OH!  That’s my name!  But I go by Gigi.”  Of course you do, Gigi.  Of course you do.

Alright.  These sandwiches.

The torpedo, in all its meaty glory.
The torpedo, in all its meaty glory.

Brian’s was ham, provolone, cotto, and genoa salami.

Don't worry, mine was a foot long too.
Don’t worry, mine was a foot long too.

Mine was ham, cotto salami, genoa salami, capicolla, provolone, and hot girdinera.

They were SO.  GOOD.  I’d never had girdinera before, but it’s basically just spicy, pickled peppers and is a great substitution to pickles or peperoncini’s.  They had a depth in their flavor that was a really nice addition.  Brian and I both got them with the works which is just mayonnaise, mustard, shredded lettuce, tomato, paper-thin red onion slices, and their house dressing.  What really stood out to me about this sandwich–besides the freshness of ingredients–was that dressing.  It was really herby and aromatic and had more of a balsamic richness than a typical vinegar I come to expect from an Italian dressing.  Also, I swear there was a hint of rosemary.

They had so many delicious-sounding sandwiches and the shop possessed such a homey, familial comfort, that I know I will be back.  Honestly, places like BMH Italian are the reason I am doing the blog.  I never would have tried it otherwise, and I know this will now become a staple in my sandwich repertoire.

OVERVIEW FOR THE LAZY:

Price: $7.75 for a 12 inch torpedo

Menu:

It was so hard to choose.
It was so hard to choose.

So many options, such good prices.

Ambiance:  I felt like I was walking on set in a Scorsese film.  A+.

Sides:  Lots of chips and sodas, and even some pasta salad sides available as well.

Second Trip Worthy?  Most definitely.  And you’ll get to virtually come along with me!

Overall rating: 11 out of 10 sandwiches!  Really, it was that good.

The Sandwich Chronicles: Gaglione Brothers

I’ve been watching a lot of Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern lately (not to be confused with George Zimmerman, Brian).  This week I saw one where he traveled to the exotic land of Philadelphia.  He tried some old cheeses, scrapple (trust me, it’s not as cute as it sounds), and the coveted cheesesteak.  He went to a place called John’s Roast Pork and watching him devour that sandwich, heaping mounds of meat and cheese being stuffed into his fat, disgusting face really made me crave one for myself.  I have been lucky enough to have a cheesesteak from Pennsylvania in the past; though it was years ago, I still remember the flavors.  Salty meat, rich cheese, soft bread.  A warm feeling of happiness blanketing my core with each bite.  Or maybe that was the feeling of fat trickling through my ventricles.  Regardless, it was extraordinary, good enough to stay with me all these years later.  That being said, I was well overdue for a cheesesteak and decided now was the prime time to satisfy that craving.

WEEK TWO: GAGLIONE BROTHERS

I’ve driven by the Gaglione brothers a few times in the past, and it always seemed like a chain to me.  Maybe it’s the shopping center where it is located (a little strip mall on Mission Gorge), maybe it’s the font they chose for the sign.  Either way, when searching for a good cheesesteak on Yelp it received some pretty rave reviews.  Those reviews, and the fact that their mission statement is to ” serve delicious, fulfilling cheesesteaks and subs,” won me over.  Anyone who describes food as fulfilling understands who I am on a spiritual level and deserves my business.  As it turns out the Gaglione brothers are California natives who have lived in San Diego for years.  They have only two sandwich shops: the flagship location in Point Loma and the one on Mission Gorge.  I went to the latter as it’s closer to home.  Inside, it had a slightly industrial vibe–think brushed steel and brick–but with a homey touch of framed photos of the brothers on the wall.

Awwwwww.  Okay, I'll give you my money.
Awwwwww. Okay, I’ll give you my money.

They had a few variations, but I decided to go with a 12-inch traditional cheesesteak with onions and a side of garlic fries.

Something's off.
Something’s off.

Okay, now by this point you should be able to tell that something is wrong.  You see that?  There, on both ends of the sandwich?

Something's missing...
Let’s take a closer look…
...closer...
…closer…
...cloooooser...
…cloooooser…
(gasp!)  J'accuse!
(gasp!) J’accuse!

That’s bread.  You should not be able to see that bread.  Bread should only be visible on the outside of the sandwich.  It should play the same roll as a sausage casing–to hold in the meat.  I would have liked to believe this a fluke, but sadly my brother got the same sandwich and had the same disappointment–they were both completely under-filled.

“Um, Gina?  It’s probably healthier this way.  Do you really need that much more meat?”, you might be thinking.  And to you I say YES, YES I DO.  I have abnormally low levels of B-12, but THANKS for judging me.  Also, one does not order a philly cheesesteak with health in mind.  I understand I am about to do something really terrible to my body when I decide to eat it–I consent to cutting a few months off of my life with the first bite. But enough about me–let’s get back to the sandwich.

Now I admit that I am prone to hyperbole, but I am being 100% honest when I say the cheesesteak I had in Pennsylvania had at least three times the amount of meat.   To be fair, the meat at Gaglione was well seasoned.  The bread was crusty yet soft.  It tasted pretty good, there was just not nearly enough of it.  I also had a problem with the onions–they were overcooked and almost melted into the rest of the sandwich.  I was expected a heap of stringy, caramelized goodness and got more of a sprinkling of blandness.

One cool thing about Gaglione’s is their pepper bar.  They have eight or so different kinds of peppers for you to top your sandwich with, from jalapenos to banana peppers to–my personal favorite–peperoncinis.  I loaded these onto my sandwich but they somehow kept getting lost in the flavor.  In the end, I piled on about half a cup and only then did they really announce their presence.

As for the fries, they were pretty good.  I love garlic and I love fries, but sometimes the mixing of them together can be overwhelming.  These had a good balance of garlic to fry, and the garlic was cooked up a little before, making it lose that acidic bite raw garlic leaves behind.  They were a nice, heart-clogging side to this sandwich.

RECAP FOR THE IMPATIENT:

Price: $10.29 for a 12 inch

Menu: A handful of different cheesesteaks and some classic deli subs too.

Ambiance: The childhood pictures added a personal touch to an otherwise standard decor.

Sides: Garlic fries were pretty remarkable.

Second Trip Worthy? Perhaps to try a different sandwich.  I would like to see if the original Point Loma location had the same meager serving size.

Overall rating: 6 out of 10 sandwiches