Ok, so if you read this food blog at all, you might have picked up that I enjoy a sandwich, but almost never, ever from a chain sandwich shop. Specifically, a nationwide sandwich shop. I try them, because I am not only a glutton, but a glutton for punishment, alas, it never goes well. The meat is gross or the bread tastes like recycled cardboard. Nasty. Granted, I live in the Capital of Sandwichland (aka Philly) and we do it right. But still, I keep looking. Hope, it spring eternal, or something.
That’s why I was knocked for a loop when I tried Potbelly Sandwiches.
Potbelly is a company out of Chicago (a sister glutton city of Philly). They toast their bread before they make your sandwich. Actually, it isn’t so much toasted as it is thoroughly warmed through. This makes an unbelievable difference in the bread. Ever put your socks in the microwave? It’s like that. A warm hug. (Try it). It’s not toasted like a grinder, where you take a bite of literally toasted bread and it all falls apart and you scratch the roof of your mouth so bad that all you can eat is milkshakes for a few days and you get that one piece of roof skin that drives you nuts (I hate it when that happens. This is why I had to stop eating Captain Crunch.)
Anywho, there is a Potbelly close to my work, and the other day I ventured in. The place is kind of neat, with mismatched table sizes and they had a sign saying they even have local musicians come and play. I thought that was supportive for a chain restaurant. They have a hanging menu for all to peruse. They have 3 sizes for the sandwiches: Original, Skinny (less meat and cheese on thin cut bread) and the Big (with 30% more meat and cheese). You can even get the sandwiches on “thin cut” bread, which is a nice wink to people watching thier carb intake. They will even make their sandwiches on a salad for you if you’d like. I didn’t try one but I saw a lady walk out with one and it was the size of a medium sized soccer ball.
Ordering is interesting. You walk up to the counter and tell them what sandwich you want, what size and what kind of roll (multigrain or regular). Then you scoot down, maybe pick up some chips and tell the next person how you’d like it: condiments, bacon, whatevs. Then they hand it to you and you get a fountain drink or just pay for what you have. They have plenty of snacky stuff too like brownies and cookies and whatnot.
A very cool thing this place has is in it’s fountain drink offerings. Usually, a chain will make a deal for either Coke products or Pepsi products. Very rarely will the two meet. I know people who will go to specific places and avoid others, just to be able to get the fountain drink of thier choice. I am happy to say that Potbelly gets you and your craving for fizzy beverages by offering BOTH. And also Dr. Pepper! And sugar free Minute Maid Lemonade! Two thumbs up for choices!
But seriously, let’s get down to business. We all know I got the biggest thing on the menu. In this case, it’s called A Wreck. It comes with: Salami, Roast Beef, Turkey, Ham & Swiss Cheese. I also got lettuce, tomato, onion (it’s almost a salad!) and sweet peppers along with extra mayo. And yes, in a Big size (please note the straw on the sandwich wrap for scale). This thing isn’t a monster but it’s warm and snuggly and delicious.
Sometimes you order extra mayo and all you get is a head nod from whoever is making the thing. The girl who made mine knew what extra mayo is and gave it to me, like a Christmas present I hoped for all year (I can almost hear my cardiologist planning his next European getaway). As you can see here, even with the Big size, they aren’t crazy with the meat and cheese. In fact, the salami is kind of lost in there. They do give you the option of ordering extra meat and cheese, but the drink and the sandwich cost about 9 bucks total and that’s about as high as I’ll go for lunch. Ok, maybe 10 bucks. Still, this is it.
The bread is the real star here. Like I had said earlier, it is very close to amazing. With a hoagie roll, you want a chewy inside with a slightly more done outside. It also has to have depth of flavor or you end up with crap (I’m looking at you, Jimmy Johns). This bread made me do a little dance in my chair. It soaked up some of that mayo and sweet pepper juice with ease. You know you have a winner when you get to that last bite and it has soaked up all those things and has just a little bit of meat and cheese left with like 2 pieces of lettuce hanging on…and it is the absolute best bite ever.
The funny part is that I do not want to know the details of this bread. They say it’s a secret and I am ok with that. It’s an amazingly, delicious secret and Potbelly has made me think that perhaps someone outside of Sandwichland might have a sandwich clue.
Keep it up Potbelly! I can’t wait to go back!
I went back and had the exact same delicious Wreck a few days later. So good! And the staff at the Potbelly on 17th between Market and JFK are super nice.
My friend Matt recently got a sweet new computer. I went over to take a look at it (it is sweet and…shiny) and, after much deciding we decided to go get some lunch (Johanna’a idea, good call!). Off to Paesano’s we went.
Paesano’s is a sandwich shop owned by the guys who own Modo Mio, an Italian place that everyone I know who has been there loves. I had never been there before and Matt described it as a closet that sells awesome food. I was in!
Paesano’s is, indeed, an extremely small place. A small sandwich shop like you might remember from when you were a kid. Old guys smoking Lucky’s would hang out and talk about Roosevelt and you could come in and buy a water ice in the middle of the summertime heat. Well, there is no water ice and there are no Lucky’s, but there is a pretty good menu. At least, what we had anyway.
Wading thru the hipsters, we decided on a Daddy Wad for me and a Paesano for him. The guy behind the counter doesn’t particularly speak very good english and I am half deaf so it was fun ordering, and once I ecplained to him I wanted mayo on my sandwich, all was well (it does not come with mayo, but I wanted it. Must. Have. Mayo.). The wait was not too bad, about 15 minutes, then we got our sandwiches of gold and escaped to Matt’s air conditioned living room to stuff our faces with sandwiches, cokes and Patton Oswalt on the Roku Box.
I got the Daddy Wad, which is a classic Italian Hoagie with sharp provolone, hot and sweet peppers, arugula, lettuce, tomato and onion. When you order hoagies, the lunchmeat is usually very thick cut and laid on thick. These guys cut the meat pretty thin so that it’s not like biting into a loaf of bologna. The roll is fresh but not too chewy and even the arugula works nicely, giving it a fresh bite and separating it from the Wawa special (altho I love that too!).
Here is an inside shot:
They also use cheap mayo, of which I am a great big fan. Capicola, soppresata, mortadella and mayo. Yeah, I’m a fan.
What I didn’t mention was that Matt and I traded halves to I got to try the Paesano.
The Paesano is a hoagie with Beef Brisket, Cheese (sometimes provolone, sometimes ricotta, I guess it depends on the day), horseradish mayo (which I want to put on everything), a fried egg and a roasted tomato. I haven’t had meat that juicy on a sandwich in forever. Check it out!
This thing is a heart clogger, but you’ll go out smiling! Fried eggs on things is a new fad (“it’s the good morning burger!”) but I am all for it. The egg gives it that little extra bit so that you don’t feel so bad eating this fantastic bit of juicy goodness. As much as I liked the Daddy Wad, I think I liked the Paesano better.
What I liked about this place was the reasonable rate you pay for these sandwiches ($7), which might not look giant but will be with you the rest of the day, trust me. The place is very tiny (it was so small I couldn’t really take a pic, it was crowded) but they move along at a decent pace. I’d hate to be standing outside in the winter, but you can call in and then pick up, which is cool.
Will I go back? Surely! Will the parking get seriously crappy once the giant Pathmark next door opens? Oh yes. Will that stop me? Nah. Once a fat kid, always a fat kid. Eat up!