Monday, August 3, 2015

For the Love of a Sandwich

I’ve written longingly about a good sub sandwich.  I grew up in Massachusetts at a time where it seemed every corner had a spot for a good Italian Grinder.  Now they seem to have disappeared, usurped by bland Subways.  South and west of Philadelphia it appears a good sub sandwich or hoagie never existed.  But I haven’t given up hope.  Over the years I’ve tried many.  Collier’s Deli in Ballwin, Missouri does a damn good job (, best I’ve had outside of the Northeast.  But I live in California now.  Metro St. Louis is a long way to go for a sandwich.

But I am happy to report on two recent West Coast discoveries, Jersey Mike’s ( and Bertucelli’s La Villa in Willow Glen (  I stumbled upon Jersey Mike’s while vacationing in San Diego.  I had seen billboards touting the chains’ support of local charities.  Then a friend suggested it as a good spot to stop for a sandwich and told us a bit of the backstory of Jersey Mike.  A single location purchased by a high school kid with a loan from his coach turns into a nationwide 600 outlet chain. One afternoon after a strip mall errand the kids mentioned their hunger.  So of course I glanced up and there was a Jersey Mike’s across the parking lot.  Bingo.

Any place claiming to have great sub sandwiches must have three things – great cold cuts, crisp, crunchy bread and a killer Italian sub made with olive oil, vinegar, tangy, spicy peppers and no mayo.  Jersey Mike’s measured up.  Meats are cut thin as sandwiches are ordered.  Sandwiches come in three sizes, the largest of which I would have only barely been able to consume when I was 18!  The bread had a real crust that crunched and crumbled when bitten.  And while the menu lacked a couple dozen creatively named standards and certainly no lobster or crab salad, nor a meatball and sausage, it did feature at the very top, #13, a standard Italian sub, which I promptly ordered without needing to read any further.  

I have since found out that Jersey Mike’s is a national chain.  Look for it and you will never need a subterranean public transit system again. 
Back up north in San Jose I recently had the occasion to need to snag dinner out on 8 consecutive Wednesday nights.  I took it as an opportunity to explore.  One evening I was craving a sandwich.  Some quick research led me directly to Bertucelli’s La Villa on Lincoln.  The moment I entered I fell in love.  It’s a small market of cheeses, meats, prepared meals, wine, olive oil and a nice variety of other Italian goods.  The meat cooler dominates and made me salivate.  Word online is that the sandwich everyone MUST get is the Chris Combo.  But as I mentioned, to me the measuring stick for a sandwich joint is their Italian.  La Villa’s rocks!!!  The bread was beautiful, crunchy, messy…the meats were cut just right…had the right balance of tangy, spicy, sweet, chewy and bready that all together makes it all melt in your mouth.  A soda and a bag of chips and dinner in the car (La Villa has outdoor seating, but it was closing time and I had a class to get to) made me feel like a ten year old again.  Sadly I was rushed and did not have the moments to savor this as it deserved.  I will find an excuse to get back here soon.  You should too. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Best Buns

Major food discovery….Le Boulanger in the Bay Area sells New England-style flat bottom, top-loading hot dog buns…but only wholesale.  This must change!  New Englanders in the Bay Area and those who appreciate superior engineering…a bun that will hold a hot dog upright without falling over or breaking apart.  You need this… for crab rolls, “lobstah” rolls, hot dogs, brats, etc.  Call them today and tell them to bring this to us retail. 

Le Boulanger, Inc. Corporate Headquarters
305 North Mathilda
Sunnyvale, CA 94085
Phone: 408-774-9000
Fax: 408-523-9810

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Passage to Mongolia

When I was little kid just beginning to read, I fell in love with an old book of my mother’s, Around the World in 2,000 Pictures (1955 - and it was old when I read it, thank you).  It was loaded with small black and white pictures and simple, brief captions from every country of the world.  I never tired of flipping through it and dreaming of all the places I could go.  When I was older I came across an article or quote someplace that said that reading a book was the cheapest way to travel.  I like that idea…you can see the world without leaving your couch.  Granted, reading about it is very different than experiencing it, but costs a lot less money.  

In recent months I have been reminded of another way to travel the world close to home….eating.  I am becoming a bit of a taqueria addict, while my stepdaughter will always ask for sushi and stepson yearns for pasta.  When we go out to eat, my wife and I simply look for something different.  Lately we have eaten Vietnamese, Italian and Thai.  However, the other night we stepped well out of the normally-available foods and tried a Mongolian restaurant.  We had no idea what to expect.  I had been in a Mongolian BBQ place but knew that wasn’t authentic (I doubt they have shrimp and garlic in Mongolia). Next to a movie theater we were headed to (review to come at Let's Improve Schools Now) we dropped in at Oyunaa's.  Very simple dĂ©cor, soft music that sounded like throat singing and a happy smile greeted us. Only two other tables were seated, so it was a quiet evening. Our server came over to answer any questions and explain that all the food is strictly prepared to order so it might be nice to have a drink and relax.  A glass of wine and a beer from their limited selection and we did just that. It felt like a complete escape – no way was Monterey Bay only a half mile away.  We looked over the short menu and settled on a bowl of kim chee followed by two dumpling entrees – buuz and khushuur.  When we ordered our cheerful server said, “Ok, well she will start roiling the dough for your dumplings now. Your meals will be out in about 25 minutes.” It was so refreshing to know that there was no rush and the food was being prepared just for us. A few minutes later the kim chee arrived.  Cool, but spicy, it was delicious on a cold, rainy evening.  Then the dumplings arrived – they looked beautiful!  The buuz was a steamed ball of meat perfectly wrapped in the thinnest, lightest dough.  Khuushuur was a fried, flat dumpling filled with beef.  Each was delicious! The buuz was light and fell apart in your mouth.  The khuushuur was like a flattened burger, but light and flavorful. The accompanying sides were delicious and the portion sizes were perfect. I think it was all even more delicious knowing that it was all hand-made while we savored the atmosphere and unwound. Our server dropped by a couple times to check on us obviously delighting in our satisfaction. 

Located on the north side of the Seabright neighborhood (one of my favorite neighborhoods) and a couple doors down from The Rio on Soquel, this place should be doing a great business.  I see people in it all the time, but it does appear there is never a wait. If you have the inkling to travel, but lack the funds or time, do yourself a favor and get over to Oyunaa’s for a quick jaunt to Mongolia.