Reviewing the last week or so's worth of posts gives the impression that rather than cooking or eating, I hunch in front of my laptop clad only in Depends, hitting refresh on the Grinder and the Eater, and subsisting on smoothies from Jamba Juice. In fact, there are no Jamba Juices near my house.
That said, there has been food eaten. A stop at the Magnolia Grill produced a cromulent repast, but the room seemed to have a whisper of nostalgia for its Wall Street-era heyday that, in its ever so slightly long in the toothness, reminded me a tiny bit of the hotel in the Comedians. When the server checks in with you, you can't really say "yes, the food is fine, but I fear that the party you seat at the table next to me will include a woman wearing a garnet-colored blazer with giant shoulderpads." But that was precisely what I feared.
In contrast to fancy restaurants that still somehow feel like the check comes with mints labeled "Memento Mori," the cinetrix and I also visited a sandwich place that manages to triumph over sin and death, but more on that part later. A valliant effort to visit All Star Sandwich Bar at Christmas 06 was thwarted by Gary Turismo, but I vowed to make it happen in 07. Very happy I did. There are so many things this place does right, I was
practically moved to sing Dayenu. If they only offered 'Gansett on tap, that would have been enough. If they only had spicy deviled eggs at 3 for 99 cents, that would have been enough. If they only had the only remotely plausible poutine I've eaten in the United States, that would have been enough. And they will even cook you a Pearl's Kountry Klub Hot Dog, saving you a trip to the Summer Shack.
But the place is called the "All Star Sandwich Bar," so you figure that's their, uh, bread and butter. The menu reveals the tricky premise inherent in the name -- they will make a variety of sandwiches associated with specific contexts -- Buffalo, Miami, New Orleans, the past,* and make them all well. I had the Reuben, and cinetrix had the Cubano, in spite of the raves we'd heard from Rose's Lime about the Beef on weck. The sandwiches were very satisfying, though our eagerness to try the deviled eggs and poutine did take the edge off our appetite.
If I were writing this place up for the Phoenix or some such rag, my editor would probably see the phrase "comfort food for hipsters" I just used and title the review "comfortably hip," but that would suggest a degree of smugness that was absent here. I felt well taken care of, even though a tight schedule meant we had to eat at tables in the entrance with our asses hanging in the breeze. Jim Economides is the name on the business card I grabbed, but this is also part of the Chris Schlesinger empire. I found our stop here more satisfying by far than the last few East Coast Grill brunches I've had next door. They also have a rotating weekly sandwich special, and I'd be delighted to try them all.
But to return to the question of triumphing over sin and death. We looked in on Sunday around noon, on the way to the airport. Recalling a nightmarish effort to escape Baton Rouge that was redeemed by a muffaletta from Central Grocery, we decided to grab an All Star muffaletta for later. Thanks to the good graces of American Airlines, "later" turned out to be about 26 hours later. In my rage at American Airlines, I'd forgotten the mufuletta had been with us, unrefrigerated, in carryon luggage, all along. I found the slightly oily bag as I shifted dirty laundry out of the Baileyworks to make room for Fessering supplies. I was famished, but skepitcal. Certainly, no sandwich could survive the sort of abuse this one had endured. I took a tentative bite -- the scali bread had held up, and the cold cuts, olive salad and provolone had matured into a more intimate relationship. In contrast to the sub place that will deliver inedibly soggy sandwiches to my office, this muffuletta simply transcended conditions that would kill most sandwiches. If you must travel by air, I urge you to keep some of these sandwiches on your person, and ASSB is the only reliable purveyor I've ever seen outside of the 504.
*The Past: If nothing else was right about this place, they would still get big props from me for resurrecting the Elisie's Roast Beef -- a staple of a long-gone Harvard Square institution swept away in the insatiable demand for more ATM kiosks and wrap places.