Humans Love Sandwiches
Examining Three Acclaimed Sandwich Meccas
About five years ago, when all this internet 2.0 stuff caught on, one thing became abundantly clear: Everyone hates everyone else. If you've ever read a comments string on a blog that isn't about cats, you can probably clearly recall the vitriol that anonymous commenting can inspire. Likewise, if you've ever read a product recommendation argument on Amazon.com, you understand that the one thing that human beings know is that the other guy is dead fucking wrong, and we'll call them as many nasty names as we can muster until they admit it. In fact, there are only two things that I've seen the entire internet come together in agreement on. The first is that even diehard fans of his films can admit that Michael Moore is kind of a douche, and the second is that sandwiches are pretty goddamned fantastic, and maybe the greatest invention in the history of the world.
The sandwich restaurant reviews on The Stranger's Restaurant Guide are almost entirely glowing, with three places in particular getting mostly five-star reviews. I set out to see if this hype was justified, or if the internet sandwich blind spot had extended to even The Stranger's independent and hard-to-please readership.
Take, for instance, Writer22's effusive review of Smarty Pants (6017 Airport Way S, 762-4777), wherein s/he says that "this happenin' little joint has THE BEST SANDWICHES in town. Period." As many other reviews point out, Smarty Pants' Troublemaker sandwich ($8.25), a chicken and bacon monstrosity covered with fried onions and the house's special Troublemaker Sauce (think McDonald's special sauce, but with real mayo and a spicy chipotle kick), is a pretty phenomenal thing both to witness and to eat. The brunch version of this, the Troublemaker Pile-Up ($7.95), which adds scrambled eggs to the mess, is even better.
In fact, it's as a brunch restaurant that Smarty Pants really shines, especially if you can finagle a seat on the back porch. The Hustler ($7.95), a roll topped with fried ham, poached eggs, and a thick, creamy hollan-daise sauce, is a Sunday-morning hangover's best friend, even if the eggs turned out more hard-boiled than poached. But the rolls aren't house-made, or even particularly great bread, so forgive me if I tone down the excitement offered up by ButtermilkBiscuits when s/he says that "the B.E.L.T. changed my life"—a life changed by a $8.25 bacon, egg, lettuce, and tomato sandwich is probably a fickle one to begin with—and instead say that Smarty Pants is merely an excellent, divey restaurant and an outstanding brunch place.
Baguette Box (626 N 34th St, 632-1511; 1203 Pine St, 332-0220) inspires weird poetry from its online fans: Nix dee writes, "Soft yet crispy baguette, fresh greens, cilantro, wow! Don't miss it." And JohnOnTheHill volunteers, "Add to this a side of cold sliced beets sprinkled with feta cheese and walnut oil AND French fries with truffle oil and sea salt and OH MY WORD!!" I have to say, those truffle fries ($4.80) threaten to bring out the E. E. Cummings in me: It's hard to conceptualize more addictive, delicious French fries. They're light and rich at the same time; something that every Seattleite should try at least once.
Baguette Box has a bit of a sauce problem, though: The roast leg of lamb with cucumber yogurt ($7.50) didn't have nearly enough tzatziki sauce to counter the dryness of the lamb, and the braised pork shoulder with red wine ($6.25) had a little too much sauce, which made the crispy baguette turn gooey. As all the reviews suggest, though, it's impossible to go wrong with the crispy drunken chicken ($6.50), a baguette with cilantro and sweet-and-sour battered orange chicken. And the green-bean salad with Danish blue cheese ($4) is the freshest, most vibrant salad I've eaten all summer; it tastes alive, the way a good farmer's market smells.
All the reviews for Paseo (4225 Fremont Ave N, 545-7440) are giddy lovefests; reviewers claim that the stand is "my favorite sandwich spot in the city" (OffConstantly) and "the messiest sandwiches I've eaten, but worth every bite" (lana) and demand that "if you have never been, make plans to go in the next seven days. Go!!! NOW!!!" (Porky conundrum).
The problem with the reviews for Paseo is that they're not hyperbolic enough. The sautéed prawns sandwich ($6.75) is a goopy delight, doused in Paseo's homemade mayonnaise, and the Midnight Cuban Press ($7.50), a roast pork sandwich covered with cheese and sliced ham, is worth the extra wait. The sides, too, like the corn on the cob that accompanies each sandwich and the somehow-meaty vegetarian black beans that come with every entrée, are the kind of food that make you wonder how something so simple can taste so friggin' good. The corn dissolves on the tongue as though it were soaked in butter, and the beans couldn't taste as good as they do without hours of attentive simmering.
But the best thing about Paseo is the grilled pork sandwich ($6.75), number one on the menu and in reviewer's hearts. It's a tangy, basted slab of pork slathered in their delicious caramelized onions. It's like crack; I couldn't imagine a side dish good enough to match the grilled pork sandwich, unless that side dish was another pork sandwich, and I immediately wanted a grilled pork sandwich for dessert. This is a sandwich so perfectly good that it could bring the internet to its knees with its deliciousness. No hyperbole necessary.