Sandwich Love.

shapeimage_2_3Today I discovered that, to my great delight, a small niche has been filled here in Minneapolis: the niche of a pizza/sub shop owned by a swarthy man.  In Boston, there’s a pizza/sub shop owned by a swarthy man every ten feet, so you are never too far from a meatball sub or a gyros or a slice of pepperoni handed to you on a red plastic tray held aloft by a pair of hairy arms.  There are many things I love about this city, but the pizza is not one of them.  Apologies, but, honestly, there aren’t enough Italian immigrants or surly small business owners with Nona’s secret sauce recipe for there to be outstanding pizza here.  Which is fine by me, because I’m more of a sandwich girl anyway.

I make it my business to know where I can find the closest and most toothsome meat sandwich at all times.  I have a handful of favorites throughout the city.  I’m like a sailor and my sandwich spots are my favorite whores in every port.  I may not visit often, but when I do I’m hungry and ready for action.  At the top of my list: a Goloony’s steak and cheese sub with everything on it.  Don’t ask questions – order it just like that – 6 inch or 12 inch is your choice.  I’m usually the only one in the place who is neither a United States postal worker nor a twenty-two year old hungover slacker.  The tatooed guys behind the counter are super attentive to me and my brood, always offering to slice the pizza into long witch fingers (my term, not theirs).  One caveat:  apparently the pizza is not that great, but I could care less.  It’s all about the steak and cheese baby!  (23rd and Hennepin)

Next on my list is the Longhorn sandwich at Blackbird Cafe.  If you’ve got the hungah and want a quiet lunch in a funky neighborhood restaurant aside all the old betties in their sensible shoes, this is where you need to go.  I can’t vouch for everything on the menu, but I would bet my incisors (note: critical for sandwich eating) on the fact that the Longhorn will leave you humming and smiling and rubbing your belly and maybe burping a little bit, but in a good way.  It’s a beautiful beef brisket sandwich in focaccia, drunkenly slathered with caramelized onions, tomatoes, provolone and horseradish mayo.  Die.  (50th and Bryant)

I have to give a shout out to the Reuben at Brother’s Deli downtown.  I had the good fortune of working in a rarefied glass rat cage high above this place and honestly, the Reuben, which I always wolfed down at my desk, was my staple and my standby and my savior.  When I was feeling healthy, I’d opt for the creamy, cheesy tuna melt, but don’t even go there.  These guys source all their meat and bread and God knows what else from New York, and if this isn’t the best grilled Reuben you’ve ever had in Minneapolis, I’ll give you my molars.  (50 South Sixth Street)

Next comes the bahn mi sandwich at Jasmine Deli on Eat Street.  I don’t speak Vietnamese, so it’s entirely possible thatbahn mi sandwich is redundant . . . like Club Sandwich sandwich.  In any event, this little gem is comprised of marinated pork or beef with onion, grated carrots, cilantro, jalapeño and a little mayo carefully tucked between two halves of a crisp baguette.  It’s fresh and colorful, spicy and sweet, crunchy and chewy, tidy and satisfying – overall, one very tasty byproduct of French imperialism.  (25th and Nicollet)

Of course you can’t talk about meat sandwiches without talking about burgers.  I love and adore the Kobe beef burger at The Bulldog and the Shaw Burger at Shaws Bar and Grill – both in Northeast.  (respectively, 401 East Hennepin Ave. and 16th and University Ave.)  The Shaw Burger is my favorite – thin patty, lettuce, tomato, bacon, cheese, fried onions and a “special” saucy saucaliciousness deliciousness sauce.  Oof!  Ridiculously good.  It’s a quality dive burger in a quality dive bar.  I also intend to try the Juicy Lucy at Matt’s Bar post haste.  And I have Wagner’s Drive-in in St. Louis Park in my crosshairs.  

Drop me a line if there’s a meat sandwich out there that would make me happy.  I need a good pulled-pork sandwich, some kind of sausage (hold the perverted messages please), and something Mexican – like a carnitas taco – to round out my list.  Share the wealth people!

Back to the pizza/sub shop I discovered.  It is called Ramy’s which is, coincidentally, the name of a very dear friend* of ours from medical school and a huge part of why I stepped into this dingy little hole-in-the-wall to begin with.  My new friend Ramy comes from the Boston area (go figure) and presides over his little shop with the fluttery energy of an anxious, well-intentioned new beau.  I ordered the lamb gyros and Ramy made it so carefully and lovingly that I was five minutes late to pick up Devil Baby from preschool.  I literally watched him pick out the best pieces of lamb from the sizzling pan he pulled out of the pizza oven and arrange them just so with a pair of tongs.  It was delicious and fresh and bore no resemblance to the monstrous football-size sandwiches that often pass for gyros.  The place is completely bare bones and the menu is simply taped to the counter.  As far as I can tell, the only patrons are some straggly kids from Southwest High School.  But I’ll be back because if we don’t support people like Ramy, who has everything staked in this little sub shop and is trying to make a go of it, then shame on us.  Who are we to complain as our options continue to dwindle leaving us with nothing but dreadfully insipid chains whose food is not real food . . . not love food, but money food? It’s hard to feel sated with money.  I’ll be back because I learned a few things about Morocco as I sat on the stool waiting for my gyros.  I’ll be back because Ramy’s sidekick, a bespectacled guy in a v-neck sweater whose only job was to ring me up, tried valiantly to keep the conversation going as I waited.  I’ll be back because there’s a chicken parm sub I need to try.  I’ll be back because it’s only a matter of time before I get a hankering for another gyros . . . (just east of 50th and France)


* Our friend Ramy lives in Boston and has been petulantly demanding that I provide him with a monicker that pops him some serious street cred but also highlights what a lovable fellow he is.  I am holding his monicker hostage until he comes to visit – out-of-towners do not typically get monickers on this blog because the chances of getting them into trouble with anything I write are slimmish.

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