Tag Archives: Seattle

Sammies Squared

Where the magic happens.
Where the magic happens.

Itching for a new sandwich venue, I suggested Rain Shadow Meats Squared, a butcher-shop-cum-sandwich-eatery in Pioneer Square.

This latest foray by the owners of the original Rain Shadow Meats, located in that trendy foodie mecca known as Melrose Market in Capitol Hill (home to cheese shoppe The Calf and Kid, oyster outlet Taylor Shellfish Farms, and Matt Dillon’s amazing farm-to-table restaurant, Sitka & Spruce, among others) has been a bright spot in the burgeoning food scene happening in Pioneer Square, and a relief to the folks who work nearby who enjoy good food but might not have time for an elaborate lunch.

When Rain Shadow opened, I worked near the Pioneer Square location, but my job never allowed for the time to head down there, so I decided to save it up. The hubs, who is finally enjoying working Square adjacent now that so many interesting food and drink places have made the neighborhood their new home, had of course already been, and declared it “meh,” but, giving in to my love of the sandwich arts, he acquiesced.

Rain Shadow Meats Counter
Score a spot and watch the sandwich makers in action.

When we arrived I was cheered by the hand-written request outside the door to take a menu and hop in line. I do love an orderly system. The decor is spare brick and concrete with gleaming glass butcher cases full of delectable looking meat products, as well as shelves of accompanying condiments that tempt you while you wait to order.

Around noon the spot was hopping busy, but the line moved quickly. There’s a marble counter in the back with about five stools overlooking the kitchen, if you’re lucky enough to grab a spot you can watch the action. Sadly, were not.

Hungry as usual, we decided to each get a full sandwich of our own and share. Being a roast-beef lover, I opted for the Romesco: chevre, house-made beef, arugula, goat cheese, and of course, that wonderful spicy sauce.

jwaiting.jpg
Enjoying a refreshing celery soda and checkin’ out the meat!

The hubs went with my second favorite-sounding option, the Rain Shadow Press, a combination of homemade mortadella (is there anything they don’t make here?), roast beef, sopprasata, Mama Lil’s peppers, provolone, cucumber and arugula, all served panini-style on ciabatta.

Given our newfound love of fermented beverages (I’m talkin’ to you, kombucha) we decided to accompany our meal with an intriguing-sounding celery soda. Effervescent and vegetal, it turned out to be a perfectly tangy accompaniment to all that rich meat and cheese.

After ordering, we were given a number and found a couple of open seats at a communal table, only to be quickly whisked away to a just-opened two-top by a very efficient server, who astutely observed that we were feeling a little hemmed in. Our sandwiches arrived quickly, and they were a pleasure to behold.

Romesco Sandwich
The Romesco: a saucy meat and cheese delight.

Starting with mine, I enjoyed that although the Romesco’s flavors were huge, the sandwich was decently, even delicately, proportioned. I particularly loved the use of goat cheese accompanied with the nuttiness of the romesco sauce, and thought the roast beef was beyond delicious. My only (minor) complaint would be the baguette. While it was perfectly toasted, that made it a little too pointy and pokey.

Rain Shadow Press
The Rain Shadow Press: a beautifully appointed panini.

Moving on to the Rain Shadow Press, the ciabatta was a whole lot softer, and the flavors of the mortadella, provolone, and beef blended perfectly. Overall, I thought it was delicious, and at $12 per sandwich, we felt we got our money’s worth. I will definitely be back to try the Parisian (three words: double-smoked ham) and the Morty: house-made mortadella, provolone, olive tapenade and Mama Lil’s pepper again on (yes!) sourdough.

romescopress.jpg
I can’t wait to come back!

Rain Shadow even serves a couple of french inspired sandwiches the traditional way, avec butter. Although I’ve previously noted that adding butter to a sandwich is one of my biggest personal pet peeves, it is a new year, which might make this the time to come out of the shadows and start enjoying new sandwich styles. I am all for getting my mind changed.

Rain Shadow Meats Squared
404 Occidental Avenue South
(between King & Jackson)
Seattle, WA 98104
(206) 467-4854
Mon – Fri 11am – 6pm
Sat – Sun 11am – 5pm

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.

5 Surefire Ways to Ruin a Perfectly Good Sandwich

As a highly experienced sandwich eater, I’ll admit I’ve developed my own set of tastes and proclivities. I also freely admit that I require a fair amount of maintenance to make certain my experience will be enjoyable. That’s why it’s an extra-big bummer when I do try something new, only to find myself thwarted by one of these culprits. I know these pet peeves are particular to me, so please, add your own list of irritations, I’d love to see!

1. Too Much “Stuff”

Yes, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Although I like a big sammie as much as the next gal, some places get really out of control with the size, height and width of their sandwiches, making the entire experience a challenge in eating. Don’t make eating your food difficult, it’s counter-intuitive. Related side note: offering a half-sandwich option encourages people who would rather not take an afternoon nap to try your products, and gives people a fun option that I call “sharesies”, i.e. getting a couple of sandwiches and splitting them.

2. Stale Bread

You would be very surprised by the number of places in our foodie, upscale town that serve their sandwiches on bread so stale, it makes cardboard blush. I refuse to name names here, but come on, there’s really no excuse. It’s one of your main ingredients, so make sure it’s fresh.

3. Soggy Bread

Don’t let your sandwiches get soggy, there is nothing grosser than a soggy sandwich, except maybe soggy lettuce on a soggy sandwich. Usually the result of too many condiments, or a sandwich made earlier that’s been sitting out. Or possibly, bread that can’t stand up to a sauce. In any case, don’t let it happen. Keep it crisp, people.

4. Discourteous Staff

I get it, you went to Cornish on a dance scholarship, and now you work at a cafe slinging sandwiches. It’s time to get over your broken dreams, embrace a new path, and treat customers with a little respect. You might even get a little extra spending money in ye olde tip jar. Owners, this goes for you, too. Yes, running a small business is a ton of work and totally stressful, but treat your employees well and I promise it will reflect on the overall experience. You own a repeat business and have a chance to create a loyal customer base. Don’t blow it!

5. Butter

Last but not least, the grossest thing you can do to any cold sandwich is add butter. I believe this style originated with the French on baguettes, but I’ve seen it other places, and it’s disgusting. Do you know who likes French stuff? Nobody, that’s who.

I could go on all day here, from chaotic lines/ordering systems to dirty bathrooms to having to wait forever, but I’ll save those for another day. In the meantime, I hope you’ll add your comments and enlighten me with your thoughts.

Grown Locally With Love

Ever since Homegrown opened in Fremont a couple of years ago, this sustainable sandwich shop has, well, grown on me.

Usually, I try to avoid what I would term “fancy” sandwiches. And occasionally, when people begin throwing around terms like “green” and “sustainable” related to food, I tend to think “overrated” and “expensive”. This becomes a bit of a quandary when I try the food and love it.

Homegrown has never disappointed me in this regard. While their sandwiches are admittedly pricey (approximately $6-8 for a half sandwich, $10-12 for a whole), the lovely flavors and fresh ingredients persuasively outline the “you get what you pay for” argument. They also do something I love, which is offer a half-sandwich option. Their half sandwiches are the perfect portion size, and then you can add one of their great sides, or the divine pickles, and not feel like you’re walking around in an overstuffed food coma for the rest of the day.

They even have a fairly reasonable selection of kids sammies, which makes me feel like a halfway decent parent while getting to sneak a bite or two of delicious peanut butter and honey on freshly made, whole-wheat bread.

On my last visit, I tried the Reuben, having never given it a go before. A creature of habit, I usually stick to the turkey, bacon, avocado, which is just so damn good. This Reuben, featuring Carlton Farms pastrami, from-scratch dressing and Beecher’s cheese, was, dare I say…delicate? I’ve never experienced a delicate Reuben before, since they are usually a gut-punch-and-a-half, so I was pleasantly thrown for a loop.

My friend opted for the veggie, which, while she admitted was delicious for the first several bites, unfortunately quickly disintegrated into a soggy mess, making it a bit difficult to eat, let alone enjoy. However, the green side salad with homemade vinaigrette was a great save. I also find the beet and feta salad consistently good.

So, a perfect experience? Well….I wouldn’t go that far. One issue: timing. These sandwiches take a while, so come prepared to wait, don’t expect to grab and go. Another thing to know going in, while the folks who work at Homegrown are always extremely friendly, sometimes I suspect that many of them might also be…herb-friendly. This can mean that they sometimes get a little…confused. At least, that’s been my experience. Enunciate and speak sloooowly and you should be fine.

All in all, Homegrown offers a great sandwich you can feel good about eating, and that’s nothing to take for granted.

Homegrown, three locations: Fremont, Queen Anne, Capitol Hill

Uncovering an Ancient Chinese/Vietnamese/American Sandwich Secret in the ID

Sub-Sand is housed in an unassuming brick building between Jackson and Jefferson on 6th Avenue South in the I.D. Good luck finding parking around here, you’ll need it. Or you might be lucky enough to work nearby. Just remember that if you do need to pay, it’ll be worth your while.

Don’t let the outside fool you. Once inside, you’ll be transported to a delightful mash-up of Asian and American sandwich delights. The very personable proprietor, Tom Dang, is of Vietnamese and Chinese descent, and his menu reflects this. He and his family/staff work feverishly behind their spotless counter to painstakingly create fresh, interesting takes on the bahn mi slash sub hybrid.

On the day of my visit, the sandwich Special of the Day was Seaweed and Tofu. Right? Not brave enough to go there, I decided to try a basic barbequed chicken. Fresh, glazed chicken breast meat, crunchy lettuce, tomatoes and special sauce. My sandwich buddy went with the barbequed pork. I’d love to tell you about it, but I didn’t get a single bite.

My sandwich was a wonderful mixture of crunchy vegetables, creamy sauce, delicious fresh chicken, and a kick of heat from fresh jalapenos. The toothsome bread is an ode to french bread everywhere, certainly baked that morning or close to it. Have I mentioned the best part? All this for, I am not joking, $3.99(!)

Despite the delicious cuisine, another really great quality of Sub-Sand is the neighborhood-y ambiance. Mr. Dang chats with you, serves your sandwich on a plate, and asks you how you liked it. Did I mention this sandwich is $3.99?

A couple of caveats, and they are minor. One: eating space is limited. A rumour is afoot that they will be doubling their space soon, which would be a good thing, unless you enjoy eavesdropping on your table-mates/new best friends.

Two: my issue with any bahn mi-sized sandwich. One sometimes isn’t quite filling enough, and two is just too much food. I suggest supplementing with a little side snack, like the delicious, freshly prepared spring rolls, or something else small and snacky. Luckily, Sub Sand has an extensive menu of non-sandwich options to help you.

It’s obvious from the lunch crowd that Sub-Sand is a neighborhood fixture, and popular with everyone from young Asian students, start-up folks, and local government workers. I knew I’d hit paydirt when the neighborhood beat cops came in for a chat.

In fact, eating at Sub-Sand is a little like being in a musical right before everyone breaks into song. Definitely a throwback to what I sometimes think of as a bygone, locally-owned, sandwich shoppe era. I left satisfied, with a song in my heart, and plans to come back soon for the barbequed pork.

Sub Sand
419 6th Ave S
Seattle, WA 98104
(206) 682-1267