There are few better places to be a hungry sandwich lover right now than Washington, D.C. The trickle-down from the city’s burgeoning fine dining scene has brought with it a demand for better, fresher ingredients and more daring combinations of texture and flavor. Thanks to the district’s international diversity, a stunning range of ethnic variations are within easy reach. Although the relics of our less evolved age persist — downtown, for example, remains peppered with characterless chain shops — sandwich lovers in our nation’s capital are increasingly spoiled for choice. Continue reading
Tag Archives: SUNdeVICH
I have a few theories on the factors limiting the popularity of meat-free sandwiches. Chief among them is the sandwiches’ lack of an easily-identifiable showcase ingredient. Don’t know what the hell I’m talking about? Ask yourself: What is a hamburger? In the most basic sense, a hamburger is a ground-beef patty on a bun, with fixings, right? Likewise, a Cuban sandwich is roasted pork on Cuban bread, with fixings. A cheesesteak is shaved grilled steak on an Amoroso roll, with fixings. You get the idea.
Anyone accustomed to this dynamic of sandwich composition could easily perceive the Cairo from SUNdeVICH as a sandwich composed entirely of “fixings.” And I’ll admit, among the Cairo’s combination of hummus, cucumber, brined vegetables, walnuts and fresh herbs, it is tough to identify a star player. But the absence of an obvious focal point is exactly what makes the Cairo so impressive. Fresh, thick-sliced cucumbers provide a crunchy backbone. A combination of brined carrots, celery and cauliflower introduces a salty tang to the mix, leafy herbs add a subtly aromatic note, and a generous smear of hummus and crushed walnuts balances everything out. It’s a brilliant synergy; like many of the vegetarian-friendly sandwiches we’ll feature this month, the whole of the Cairo is something beyond the sum of its parts.
The mantra at SUNdeVICH, where each of the 20 sandwiches is named for a different world city, is “Local Ingredients, Global Flavors.” Of the largely meat-free cuisine of Egypt, many of whose most prominent dishes achieve a similar harmony of disparate flavors, the Cairo is a fitting representative. For sandwiches lacking a single dominant component, meat or otherwise, perfecting the interplay of flavors and textures is a deceptively complex and delicate task. Balance is tantamount. Success requires thought. The Cairo’s greatest accomplishment is making it all look easy.
There are two prominent claimants to the title of Home of the Cuban Sandwich in the U.S., and neither is the District of Columbia. Naturally, one is Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood. The other is Ybor City, a historic district located just north of downtown Tampa, Florida, notable for its roots as a cigar-producing company town and as a first stop for immigrants arriving from Cuba and elsewhere. Ignoring the obvious disagreement over the true birthplace of the sandwich itself, the rival locales agree on these base ingredients: roasted pork, ham, pickles and mustard on Cuban bread. Otherwise, Ybor’s inclusion of salami, a result of the presence of Italian immigrants in the area, would seem to be the lone sandwich-related point of contention.
Although we’ve done an unhealthy amount of reportage on the Cubano on this blog, it has all been courtesy of my brother Chris, a Tampa resident and author of our Gulf Coasting column. We have yet to spotlight any of the fantastic versions available here in Our Nation’s Capital, meaning that until this week I had no excuse to eat numerous heavy, pork-laden sandwiches in a single weekend. This situation has now been happily resolved, and so, with some help from our resident Cuban sandwich expert and without further ado, here is a somewhat random sampling of a few of our favorite Cuban sandwiches in D.C. Continue reading
I believe in breakfast. Always have. And though I have no idea whether it’s is the most important meal of the day, it’s questionably the most often neglected. As I wrote in my introduction to the September Sunrise Sandwich Spree, a month-long stunt I undertook to eat a different breakfast sandwich every morning of September, the practicalities and obligations of adulthood can present significant obstacles to a wholesome, pleasurable breakfast. Even when we can afford ourselves the rare luxury of early-day nourishment, we are too often limited in the time we can take, the money we can spend or the distance we can travel. An ideal breakfast is leisurely, indulgent and fulfilling; a more realistic breakfast is quick, cheap and convenient. It was therefore inevitable that the humble sandwich, in virtually limitless variation, would become a ubiquitous staple of the workingman’s breakfast. Or so I thought… Continue reading
SUNdeVICH opened its doors in an alley near the Convention Center in July 2011 and immediately became, unquestionably, one of the best two or three sandwich shops in the city. Set in the middle of the block bordered by N, O, 9th and 10th Streets NW, the shop’s extensive menu of globally-inspired sandwiches showcases a level of creativity and depth of ingredients that is simply unparalleled in the District. Visits to SUNdeVICH have inspired some of my most significant sandwich-related revelations: There’s a difference between expensive and overpriced. Every great sandwich starts with great bread. Et cetera. Despite an obscure location in a neighborhood just beyond the range of all but the most committed of the downtown lunch hordes, SUNdeVICH has made plenty of noise in its first year and change, cheered on the whole way by an adoring fanbase. This summer, after a brief residency at New York Avenue Beach Bar, the SUNdeVICH food truck hit the streets with trimmed-down renditions of the in-shop sandwiches. Around the same time, to my great personal delight, news arrived that SUNdeVICH would be adding a breakfast section to its menu. Of the four breakfast sandwiches offered, my interest was most piqued by the Milan, the most recent entry in our month-long September Sunrise Sandwich Spree, which features crispy pancetta, an over-medium fried egg, creamy gorgonzola, fresh arugula and garlic mayo on one of the shop’s specially crafted baguettes. The verdict: as long as you’re OK with truly heinous post-meal breath, it’s fucking excellent. The catch: Breakfast is served all day, with the exception of actual breakfast hours—despite the addition of a breakfast menu, the shop has maintained its noon opening time. But if it’s this same refusal to play by the rules that enables SUNdeVICH to turn out the city’s very finest sandwiches, we won’t complain.