The sandwich is the perfect American food because it appeals to our sense of independence and individuality. You can put anything you want between two pieces of bread -- from peanut butter and bananas like Elvis, to rigatoni and marinara sauce like my college buddy, Patrick.
And although the sandwich is the perfect American food, finding the perfect sandwich isn’t easy. I’ve had four that I can remember off the top of my head: the Pep-mush pizza sandwich served by the Hot Truck in Ithaca, New York; the Sherman’s Deli Beef ‘n’ Latkes, which is corned beef or pastrami or brisket between two giant potato pancakes instead of bread, in Palm Springs, California; the Thanksgiving or “Pilgrim Sandwich” at Uncle Sammy’s in Chicago (not because of their version of the sandwich itself, but because of the door it opened for me into the world of turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce on a roll); and the #24 turkey and avocado at Togo’s in Santa Cruz, California (circa 1990; the chain isn’t nearly as good as it used to be).
Others have come close, like the gooey ham, egg and cheese sandwiches served by a no-name, walk-up breakfast joint on G Street in Washington, D.C.; the addictive smokehouse beef brisket bomb at Quiznos; the tortas as El Alamo on 38th Avenue in northwest Denver; the meatball sub at Deli Zone, near my office.
August, as you undoubtedly know, is National Sandwich Month (at least according to Texas A&M University). So, beginning this week and continuing until National Sandwich Month in 2009, I plan to eat a sandwich a week, preferably from a different place each time, and then write about it.
Will I find another perfect sandwich to add to my list? Only time and local sandwich makers know for sure. For this week's sandwich, see below.
All-V’s All Variety 4326 East Eighth Avenue, 303-377-0401 Steak Bomb Steak, provolone, peppers, mushrooms, tomato sauce, lettuce, mayonaisse, mustard, red pepper flakes, oregano, oil. Small $4.29
Before there was Subway, before there was Quiznos, before there was Spicy Pickle or Heidi’s Deli, there was All-V’s. How old is All-V’s? “It’s been here since before I was born,” said the guy working the counter, “at least 25 years.”
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As a kid, I used to go to All-V’s with my dad, who worked across Eighth Avenue at the University of Colorado medical school. It was always exciting going in there because of the fast pace and the crowd: doctors with stethoscopes still around their necks, lab techs in green scrubs, cute nurses. And also because after they make your sandwich, they place it on wax paper on the counter and let you add your own toppings: parmesan, red pepper flakes, oregano, oil and vinegar. Then they wrap it up for you and send you on your way.
I used to get the large Pepper Steak ($5.59) because that’s what my dad got (and please don’t tell him I went there without him; he’d be furious), but now that I’m older, I feel like I can handle the more complex Steak Bomb (pictured; and it tastes better than it looks).
Although the bread doesn’t hold up well to all the sauce and disintegrates, the mushrooms and peppers add the perfect flavor to the copious quantity of steak on the Bomb.
The counter guys says All-V’s plans to stick around even after the hospital and medical center are torn down. I hope so, because I think it’s time to take my own son there. – Jonathan Shikes