As of now, there is no Guinness World Record for sandwich with the most ridiculous number of fillings—at least none I could find—but I wonder about those kinds of limits as I scan Seattle menus these days, looking at the occasional sandwich creation with a combination of ingredients so daunting that I want to hide under my bed with a roll of Tums. Can there ever be too much party in your sandwich?
It's not that I fear all types of abundance. Bless those Italian American sub shops with their endless list of cured meats and cheeses you can stuff into a hero roll in endless variations—mortadella, prosciutto, sopressata, hot capicola, sweet capicola. Who knew there were so many damn capicolas? Or magical New York Jewish delis with that pile of pastrami delicately balanced between two slices of rye. Too much at once? Whatever: second sandwich.
What I fear is more like the much-written-about Predator sandwich at Mammoth in Eastlake, about which our own Angela Garbes declared: "The combination of the pork belly and a fried chicken leg is more than anyone needs." There is something about the piling of meat fat upon deep-fried meat fat that feels like gilding the lily, if the lily was left to soak in a deep fryer for a week.
And yet, beyond the gimmicky, shock-factor appeal, there was another idea that I was curious to explore—the possibility that one of these sandwiches could be a winner. That perhaps there was one that had strayed so far from logic and good sense that it had come upon a previously undiscovered and unexpected level of awesome. A fourth dimension of sandwich.
It's a lot to hope for from extra pork belly. But I went to try out some ill-advised possibilities, just in case.
The Bad Lieutenant at Valhalla Sandwiches
Pulled pork, bacon, ham, provolone, chipotle barbecue sauce, apple jalapeño slaw
Open since September, Valhalla is the brick-and-mortar Greenwood sandwich shop version of the popular food truck Now Make Me a Sandwich, specializing in hangover-helper dreams like the Beastie, a spicy roast beef sandwich with hot peppers, or the best-selling El Duderino, a chicken breast sandwich with chorizo and avocado.
I came for the Bad Lieutenant, their standard pork sandwich with pulled pork, chipotle barbecue sauce, and apple jalapeño slaw made even heftier with the addition of bacon, ham, and provolone. Like the movie it is named after, the controversial 1992 crime drama featuring dirty cop, aka "bad lieutenant," Harvey Keitel, the sandwich pushes the envelope of taste. Three types of pork, does it need to happen? Naked Harvey Keitel, does it need to happen?
Like its namesake, however, the Bad Lieutenant prevails. The crisp bacon played nicely texture-wise with the soft pulled pork, and the melted provolone brought together the sweet barbecue sauce and creamy, spicy slaw. The list of ingredients felt considerably less overwhelming once confronted with the actual deal—maybe because Valhalla uses a smaller grilled Telera roll from La Brea Bakery, the kind used to make smaller tortas, instead of a 12-inch hero roll. Rest assured, Seattle, your gluttony is contained. This sandwich would not have played out like this in Texas, Jersey, or the Viking warrior afterlife.
The only filling that seemed extraneous was the ham. Funny how the rules of fashion accessorizing extend to a big pork sandwich. Thinking back upon that 10-napkin lunch, my mouth slathered in barbecue sauce and spitting up cabbage shreds, a quote from Coco Chanel sprang to mind: "Before leaving the house, a lady should look into the mirror and remove at least one accessory." That ham was the unnecessary rhinestone bangle on a perfect sandwich outfit.
I would come back for that sandwich minus the ham, or the El Duderino—the chicken made it feel lighter, and some days I need to be told sweet meat lies.
Swinery Spectacular at the Swinery
Pulled pork, cured and smoked ham, crispy pork belly, Swiss cheese, Dijon aioli, and house pickles
"I feel the meat tingles coming over me," my friend said, as we dove into our lard feast from the Swinery, the West Seattle butcher shop that features a grill menu of pig-heavy sandwiches, from Cubanos to a pork-belly take on the BLT. Ignoring the wise suggestion of the butcher behind the counter who said the Swinery Spectacular and Danger Fries were more than enough for two people, we tacked on the BBQ Pulled Pork sandwich.
Flavor-wise, the Swinery Spectacular was true to its name. The house pickles added a nice acidity to cut through the cheese, aioli, and meat; it was a more complex and interesting sandwich than the barbecue one. But there's just going to be a fair amount of meat grease in something that has pulled pork, ham, and pork belly in it, no matter how it's prepared, and a mixture of that plus the aioli ran down my hands and weighed down the Macrina roll.
"I'm fine with it," said my friend across the table, shrugging as he threw back a few fries, "but then again, I'm a gluttonous pig."
Don't ask me why I thought the Swinery Spectacular was too much while the Danger Fries—pork-fat-fried fries topped with a blue-cheese béchamel sauce, chunks of bacon, and green onions—were a perfectly fine indulgence that should be ordered each and every time one alights on the Swinery. After the meal, I had to do that 2-a.m.-at-Dick's thing where you toss the evidence and pretend like the whole thing never happened. Only the inside of my car was the wiser, the air heavy with the delicious smell of bacon and blue cheese. I wish it came as air freshener.
The Voldemortadella at Cheese Wizards
Provolone, mozzarella, cream cheese, mortadella, salami, Black Forest ham, herbed olive muffaletta spread
I grew up in a highly Cajun region of Texas, and every Wednesday at my high school cafeteria was muffaletta day. We were dumb kids who didn't know how good we had it—that great Italian American gift from New Orleans of crusty Italian bread layered with olive salad, ham, salami, and melted provolone simply showed up once a week.
Alas, the Voldemortadella is not this. Extra points, though, for combining the Dark Lord's name with a cold cut. (Each of the grilled cheese sandwiches at the Cheese Wizards truck and their Interbay sandwich shop come with charming wizard-inspired names.) The Voldemortadella at Cheese Wizards was once a mortadella and smoked Gouda combo, but the revamped version comes with three types of meat and cheese and the olive salad, thus truly earning the tag line "Eat what the Death Eaters eat."
It won't transform you into a Death Eater, but it may make you wish for a real muffaletta. I was wary of melted cream cheese, but it lends a nice creaminess. A muffaletta just doesn't make a good thin grilled cheese sandwich. The strong, herby black olive spread needs the balance of a thicker, heftier bread to go with it, not a grilled slice of white Pullman.
The Forest-Lord, on the other hand, made me feel like I had just skipped through the forest, with its earthy combination of fresh basil, pesto aioli, and dill Havarti cheese, and a little sprinkling of fresh tomatoes to lighten it up. It was like a lot of the sandwiches I tried this past week: a tasty reminder that experimentation can be rewarded—but also that a little less can be so much more.