Friday, February 05, 2010


The best sandwich on the planet

I had a sandwich for lunch, the other day, that reminds me of what I’ve long considered the best sandwich on the planet. But this is going to be a story, a bit of a ramble, before I get to that, specifically.

There’s a great sandwich place in Gaithersburg, MD, called Roy’s Place; the eponymous Roy just died last May, sadly. I was introduced to Roy’s Place as one of the first things, when I moved to Gaithersburg in 1977. Over 200 sandwiches there, with all sorts of crazy ingredient combinations, and some not so crazy. They have sandwiches with crab salad, sandwiches with baked beans, and sandwiches with fried oysters. And the sandwiches all have silly names, and many have silly stories to go with them. The five-decker “Bender Schmendertm” comes with “a psychiatric appointment.” It can take an hour to look at the menu.

They used to sell souvenir menus for a dollar (“If you stop stealing our menus, we’ll stop slashing your tires!”), and I see they’re $3.75 now. And, of course, the menu is online these days. “The Dirty Tom Glentm” (number 79) and the “Mother’s Ruintm” (number 34) were two of my favourites, but I used to get all different ones, from visit to visit.

I had a friend who didn’t, though. Charlie was something of a picky eater, and after poring over the menu for what seemed longer than anyone had before, he decided on “The Count Jampolskitm” He liked it, and that was the end of it: every time after that, without even consulting the menu, Charlie would order The Count Jampolski. He knew he liked it, and why play with success? Too limiting, I thought, but it worked for him.

One time, long before the menu was online, I put all the sandwiches and all the ingredients into a database on my computer (reading from one of the menus I stole bought for a buck). I could search for all the sandwiches with "roast pork" and "golden sauce", for example. Fun.

They have a sandwich called “The Concupiscent Carlatm” (number 102), and one day when a group of us from work went there for lunch, one of my colleagues wrote “concupiscent” on his blackboard when he got back to the office, intending to look the word up. Before he had a chance to, another colleague wrote under it, “adj: horny”. Yes, that works.

The first time my parents came to visit after I moved there, I wanted to take them to Roy’s for dinner. My dad, though, said he didn’t want sandwiches for dinner, and insisted on going to a chain “family” restaurant instead. I took them to Roy’s for lunch later in their visit, and he was very impressed. He said, "We could have come here for dinner." Right.

Anyway, with all those silly/fancy/involved/huge sandwiches, it turns out that everything above was a digression, because none of them qualifies as the best sandwich on the planet.

For that, we go to a tiny health-food shop in McLean, VA, which I suspect is long gone now: Mother Nature’s. They had a sandwich made with avocado, American muenster cheese, hummus, tomato, and alfalfa sprouts, on light, but hearty, multi-grain bread. Simple. But, damn, that was so good. Didn’t need crab salad, didn’t need fried oysters, didn’t need baked beans nor chicken bosom nor golden sauce.

And, so, the other day I had avocado, cheddar, hummus, tomato, and lettuce on light, but hearty, multi-grain bread. It took me back, in my mind, twenty-five years. The muenster (instead of cheddar) and the sprouts (instead of lettuce) really do make it better, but one uses what one has to hand.


Michelle said...

Sounds pretty awesome.. and it's veggie too. I have to try it, of course that means making my own. I might have to substitute the cheese for one that's obtainable here, but it might still be ok..

thom said...

My favorite sandwich of all time was from a place in Jamaica Plain called, I think, the Blackbird Cafe (this was around 25 years ago; I can't find any mention of it on the Internet now, so it may no longer exist). They also had a traveling cart they would bring over to the campus of Harvard Medical School, and I would walk over from work at lunch to get their pita bread stuffed full of fresh curried hummus, grapes and walnuts.