Tag Archives: restaurants

Honey Ain’t Always Sweet

Honey Hole SignOne of the best parts of living in Seattle is that if you happen to be a bit of a lazypuss like myself, and you already live in a pretty good neighborhood, like I like to think I do, you’re really not required to travel much. Add our lousy traffic and complicated topography filled with bridges and water at every turn, and leaving one’s cozy little hamlet begins to seem less and less attractive. Which is why you can easily say things like, “Capitol Hill, I haven’t been there in months.” And it will be true.

I used to live on Capitol Hill. A hundred years ago I might even have passed as a hipster. Probably not, but I’d like to think so. I definitely had little black glasses and wore lots of plaid. Today, venturing there usually means I’m having dinner or drinks with other middle-aged folks. We have confirmed reservations, we’re probably paying for parking, and we’re all safely tucked into our beds by midnight.

Promising not to be lame in the pursuit of sandwich perfection, I decided to venture out of my comfort zone to the Hill for what had been described as a delicious sandwich experience: the Honey Hole. I do love the name, and the menu promised some great looking stuff. Cleverly named sandwiches like The Corleone (Painted Hills pastrami, sauerkraut, swiss) and the Buford T. Justice (pulled pork, house-made bbq sauce, coleslaw) successfully beckoned me forward.

ChachiOnce “in the club”, so to speak, I decided it was my duty as a die-hard Scott Baio fan to hone in on Chachi’s Favorite. I was excited about the ranch sauce, as well as the natural turkey breast roasted in-house.

Truth be told, I was pretty disappointed by a few things. First, the ambiance of Honey Hole. I get that you’re a divey Capitol Hill space and that’s your jam, but I’m just going to say, you are not very clean. Sticky floors, dirty tables, and the restroom scared me. If I see stuff like that in the front of the house, I’m very much wondering what’s going on behind the counter.

Second, my friend and I seemed to get an extra side of attitude with our sandwiches that I don’t recall ordering. This is not a coffee shop. You are not a barista. You sling sandwiches for a living, and while I’m sure you’re much wittier, smarter and more erudite than your current gig would lead us to believe, all you really have to do with sandwiches is get the order right and try to be nice. Easy!

Chachi's FavoriteSadly, my biggest issue with the Hole was with the sandwich itself. It’s kind of odd to heat up chunks of white-meat turkey breast with a bunch of white sauce and serve the whole thing with white cheese on white bread. If you’re going to do that, at least make the mixture more of a “salad” situation, throw in some celery, onion, black pepper, pickles?  It desperately needed something to jazz it up. The ranch – which I think I already mentioned I was so excited for – had no tang or kick to it at all. This is a crime.

All in all, it wasn’t horrible, but it also wasn’t great. I’ll definitely give it another try, because I’m hoping this visit was just an odd combo of ordering the wrong thing and a grumpy staff day. Honey, you probably deserve a second look.

Appraising Adam, with All Due Respect

Let me begin by saying that I liked Adam Richman before liking Adam Richman was cool. I’m not certain at all whether it is cool to this day, because that’s how uncool I am, but I do find Adam likable. I used to eagerly watch his show Man Versus Food Nation not for its sort of dumb eating challenges that were pretty disgusting and seemed to make even Adam cringe a bit, but for his witty banter with popular regional food purveyors. He was respectful, he could be funny without being obnoxious, he was a super cute teddy bear of a guy from Brooklyn and the kind of person it would be fun to grab a bite with, thumb ring aside.

Then came the re-boot of his show, in which Adam traveled to different cities, met said purveyors, hung out in their kitchens as they did their thing, then had some shmo end up doing the food challenge. I’m not sure if Adam got tired, got sick, or was just over it, but the formula of the new show just didn’t work. Who cares if some random guy can or can’t eat 27 hot dogs? So, the re-boot was booted.

Finally, Adam 2.0, in what I can only hope was his original idea: Best Sandwich in America. The concept: travel the country sampling the most popular sandwiches from ten US regions, run them through something called the “BITE Scale”™ (B – Bread; I – Interior; T – Taste; E – Experience), then pit them against each other in a sandwich death match in which there can be only one national champion–a sandwich “to rule them all”.

First problem, pitting regional specialties against each other is like asking the Seattle Sounders play the New York Yankees. Yes, they are both games played with balls. But an oyster po’ boy should never, ever, be compared to a tuna on rye. They are two different food concepts in terms of ingredients, execution, and taste. It’s insulting to the makers of these gifts to compare them. Would you compare the Mona Lisa to Munch’s Scream? You would not.

Another instance where I take issue with Adam’s shows is that I can’t figure out who exactly encompasses the Richman demographic. I can only gather that it’s young college dudes and huge stoners, because never have I seen larger, more gloppy, giant sandwiches. The one smothered with a layer of french fries really stood out. Attention Food Network: not everything has to be huge all the time. Wouldn’t it be nice to show a normal-sized sandwich served with fresh ingredients, maybe even…vegetables? Roasted pork with broccoli rabe and giardinere doesn’t count (although that was my favorite, and coincidentally – spoiler alert! – the winner of the competition).

What’s still good about any  show with Adam is Adam himself, his easygoing repartee with chefs and patrons and his enthusiastic introduction of these passionate artists to the world. I will definitely seek out almost every sandwich on his list when traveling (splitting it with a partner, hopefully), just to see what all the fuss is about and to meet characters who have in many cases devoted their lives to doing one thing really well.

Which brings me to Adam 3.0. Not for nothing Adam, simply an idea for the future. Try not to make it a competition about who’s bigger, better, etc. Travel around, meet great chefs, and talk about the infinite variety of delicious food we have everywhere in this country. Keep focusing on local dishes that make people rhapsodize and wait in line for hours. Take a page from your chef friends: do one thing really well. And for the love of god, man, lose the thumb ring already.

Jersey Meets Aurora, In A Non-Snooki Way

Grinders on Aurora Avenue North, conveniently located across the street from Costco at the Seattle/Shoreline border, has long been my white whale of sandwich shops.

Long before I devoted this blog to the sandwich arts, I endured the rhapsodic musings, the lore, the rhetoric, the downright fanaticism of the loyal Grinder’s patron. The meatballs, the marinara sauce, the peppers, the rolls. This place had people taking off work early, driving in from the Eastside, I even knew one guy who’d taken a sick day just to enjoy one of these bad boys.

I’ll admit, I was skeptical. Technically speaking, Grinder’s is a haul. And while I do go to Costco a fair amount, I’ve never been in the mood for a grinder after shopping there, because I’ve obviously just eaten some really bad pizza. Also, until recently I’ve not been sure what a “grinder” is, exactly? Other than some vaguely East Coast/mobster thing.

The Grinder’s Hot Sands website actually has a nice description of what a grinder is and isn’t, as well as the WWII origins of the word, and helpfully lets people know that their establishment is not a strip club. Which is nice, because the name could be confusing to the regular Aurora denizen.

My pursuit of a grinder education led me to try the offerings at a lesser known Seattle establishment, which for the purposes of providing fair and balanced journalism must remain nameless for the time being. I decided I needed to comparison-shop.

So, off I went. With all the outside ambiance of a mini-mart, but a convenient parking lot, I expected Grinder’s Hot Sands to be a no-frills, New York-style deli with lots of yelling and synchronized line-waiting. When I went in with loins girded, however, I was greeted with a large, light-filled space complete with plenty of tables and chairs, and even a few leather armchairs surrounding, wait, hold on…is that a fireplace?

After consulting the staff on my order, I think the management at Grinders must be doing something right. Both times I went there, the staff could not be nicer. They are friendly, patient, and they are really proud of their sandwiches. Always a good sign.

For my first time I tried the meatball, thinking I should go classic. At a cost of $14 with tip, I also decided it must be huge, and/or really good, preferably both.

I was not disappointed on either score. My sandwich was brought to me by the aforementioned charming staff member, on a large platter accompanied by a knife and fork. Which is good, because there is no other way to eat these things.

Soon after, a box appeared, which was also good, because, please, a family of four would be stuffed after sharing one sandwich here. Typically I’m not a fan of giant portions, but at Grinder’s, it just felt right.

On my second visit, I tried the Gilbano, their take on a Philly cheesesteak. Steak, spicy peppers, gorgonzola, and carmelized onions. This sandwich was also fantastic, but a bit too spicy for me, a self-confessed heat wimp.

Moral of this white whale tale: leave work early, come hungry, bring a hungry sandwich buddy or prepare to eat leftovers all week, but make the trek. You’ll be glad you did.

Grinders Hot Sands
Shoreline
19811 Aurora Ave. N
206.542.0627
Check website for hours