If asked to name the most popular food in America, many people would suggest the sandwich. It’s a no-brainer: The sandwich is a paragon of portability and customization, two hallmarks of our fast-paced, self-centered times.
The sandwich—or “sammie,” in Rachael Ray parlance—can’t be beat for convenience and versatility. There is no one set “sandwich” per se, although in 2009 a Boston court ruled that a sandwich must consist of two pieces of bread with filling(s), thereby edging out the pesky burrito and its ilk. We do ask that the filling stays put and the bread doesn’t scratch the roof of the mouth; a dry sandwich is a bummer. Other than that, a sandwich just needs to be yummy. And there are lots of yummy ones in the southwest metro.
“Street food” is all the rage. It’s inexpensive, tasty fare that’s easy to walk around with. The arepa, a Venezuelan street food, first hit our area with the Hola Arepa food truck in the cities. We may suffer from food truck-envy here on the fringes of the metropolis but we got lucky with Teque Arepa, a new Venezuelan eatery in Eden Prairie. The “bread” of an arepa is a soft-centered, crispy-edged grilled corn cake, split like a hot dog bun and filled with all kinds of delectables.
We ordered the pabellon, which combines key elements of the typical Venezuelan diet: black beans, slow-cooked shredded beef, crumbly white cheese and fried sweet plantains. The spice-adverse can relax: Venezuelan cuisine, unlike that of some of its neighboring countries, is quite mild. That is not to say bland; this arepa is a flavor bomb of earth, cream, sweet and salt. Miraculously, it stays in one piece when you pick it up for a bite. $6.25.
7733 Flying Cloud Drive, Eden Prairie; 952.405.8092
Roulette’s constructs mind-blowing, gut-busting submarine sandwiches that are a challenge to wrap your maw around but well worth the effort. Give your jaws a righteous workout with the iconic Italian hoagie, so full of meat that we think of it as the Italian stallion. Top-quality pepperoni, ham and salami are layered with fresh lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cheese, mayonnaise and a judicious spritz of herbaceous Italian dressing. It’s a good idea to stock up on extra napkins for that occasional flying pepperoni slice. $6.99.
1550 Arboretum Blvd; Victoria; 952.443.4644; roulettespizza.com
TURKEY BACON CLUB
Tommy’s Malt Shop
Tommy’s is an ideal place to eat one of the shining stars of the sandwich pantheon, the turkey/bacon club, a version of which appears on almost every café menu in the country. It’s a wining formula: sliced turkey teams up with delightfully crispy, smoky applewood bacon strips and a pop of fresh lettuce and tomato all of which is stacked on unassuming toasted bread. Mayo is served on the side. You can add onions, pickles and mustard at your discretion; cheese is an extra $0.75. Other options like waffle or sweet potato fries set you back a buck. $7.55.
Connected to the Best Western, 2 River Bend Place, Chaska; 952.227.0263; tommysmaltshop.com
CUBAN CHICKEN PANINI
JJ’S Wine and Coffee
JJ’s website explains that the establishment’s experience is based on the beverage. You pick your drink first, be it coffee, wine or beer, and the perfect food match will follow. We like the idea, but were equally satisfied choosing food first. The Cuban chicken panini is a masterpiece of sliced ham, chicken breast, provolone, pickles, pepperoncini and mustard. It’s got zing, tang, salt and cream, and for good measure it’s flattened in a grill to emerge as a solid brick of stratified flavor. It’s made on the spot with good ingredients. It comes with a salad. For three bucks extra, make it a caprese (mozzarella and tomato). $7.50.
7942 Mitchell Road, Eden Prairie; 952.974.1000; jjscoffeecompany.com
This oasis of art (all dishware is made by ceramicist and café owner John Schmidt) peddles superb coffee drinks and noshes; it’s a chill spot to while away an afternoon on your laptop. The simple fare includes a list of focaccia and ciabatta sandwiches. Focaccia is a slab-like Italian flatbread that’s great for a sandwich; it’s sturdy and amenable to many flavors. We chose the veggie for the health factor and ended up licking our fingers in pleasure. The multigrain focaccia is lovingly piled with roasted red peppers, artichokes and a garlicky, herbaceous pesto. The whole shebang goes through a panini press for a killer hot smash of flavors, which also makes a handy dandy seal so you won’t ooze panini juice all over your keyboard. $6.15.
115 S. Olive St.; 952.442.2853; themochamonkey.com
CORK CORNED BEEF SANDWICH
Lola’s Lake House
No, this doesn’t contain cork. This is “Cork” as in the county in Ireland where corned beef is a beloved specialty of the region. Corned beef is one of those foods that garners either hate or love: put us in the “love” group.
Lola’s makes their own in house; the salt-curing process softens the beef a bit—this is no filet mignon, but a hearty haunch of muscle—yet the meat retains its distinctive shaggy texture and plenty of beefy flavor. Fat slices go well with the sweet onions and grainy textured mustard. The affair sits on a chewy pretzel roll and is a perfectly tasteful guest at the dinner table. $11.95.
318 E. Lake St., Waconia; 952.442.4954; lolaslakehouse.com
Crumb Gourmet Deli
All you need to hear is “dip” and you know what it is: a pile of sliced meat on a nice bun with a side of meat juice (au jus) for dipping. The French Dip sandwich, or “Dip,” as its called at Crumb, is a simple combination with winning results: fat beefy juiciness, simple bread and good meat with or without cheese. The specifics at Crumb include thinly sliced marinated sirloin with melted provolone cheese on toasted “country Italian bread,” which is white and pillow-y, an ideal soaker-upper. The warm au jus, natch, is on the side. The menu declares it “practically a whole meal in one sandwich,” but that’s wrong. One sandwich is definitely a whole meal. You’ll walk out of the joint rubbing your belly fondly. $7.25.
7910 Mitchell Road, Eden Prairie; 952.934.1717; crumbgourmetdeli.com
Sometimes all you need is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Oddly, they’re kinda hard to find. Until Which Wich that is. The ordering process at this chain restaurant may seem daunting; forge ahead. Grab a paper bag and a pen, check off your bag number (the Elvis is under “Classics” in bag number nine) and write your instructions regarding size (7, 10 or 14 inch), bread choice (white or wheat) and extras (in this case, maybe extra bacon?).
We went for the straightforward version as Elvis would have preferred, and fell into a swoon of pleasure. The banana is free of any brown or mushy stuff, and the creamy peanut butter is thickly laid. Thank you, thank-you-very-much. $5.90 for a small with no extras.
8353 Crystal View Road, Eden Prairie; 952.944.9424; whichwich.com
You’ve probably heard of New Orleans’s famous muffaletta sandwich. If you haven’t tried one, Bullchicks is a great place to do so. And devotees of the muffaletta will not be disappointed either. This sandwich, originating from Italian immigrants in Louisiana, ranks among the classics, meaning it’s thoroughly crave-worthy. Turkey, ham, salami and onion form the bulk of the ‘wich, but it’s the distinctive salty-oily olive dressing that makes it a muffaletta. At Bullchicks, the olive dressing is akin to a chunky tapenade spread with both green and black olives. You can add extras, though anything else would be superfluous—this muffaletta holds its own, as is. $5.99.
62 Pioneer Trail, Chaska; 952.856.2567; bullchicks.com //