Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Which Came First? (Part 1)

Hello again dear readers!

This week's blog is the first of a DANGERous two part story.

As you may know, I've started to compare different cheesesteak restaurants as I discover more and more in my sandwich journeys. Inspired by this, I wanted to take on a rivalry that is very well known in Los Angeles: Which is the better french dip place? Philippe's or Cole's?

French dip sandwiches are incredibly popular in Los Angeles, and there is a restaurant serving them in every neighborhood in the LA Metro area, but these two downtown LA locations are the most popular, and for good reason.

Both Phillipe's and Cole's argue back and forth as to which was the first french dip place in Los Angeles. Whether or not you have proof to either side of the story, or even care which is the original, each place has their own diehard fans.

Before tackling the French Dip in Los Angeles, I had only eaten at Cole's.

So to see what the other side is talking about, I decided to take on a French Dip sandwich at Phillipe's and compare the two sandwiches. Phillipe's this week, Cole's next week.

Showing up at 6pm on a Saturday night, I was greeted with 4 lines to the front counter, each one stretched to the back wall. A cafeteria style setting with wood chips on the floor, this place looked like it hadn't been updated in 80 years.

But the decor is not the sandwich, and for this sandwich I ordered the Lamb French Dip with bleu cheese.

The lamb was delicious. Roughly chopped into delicious, flavorful, and moist chunks, this sandwich is packed with meat, and definitely will fill you up.

The bleu cheese isn't used sparingly either. My first bite filled my mouth with about half of a block of cheese. They top the meat with two thick slices of bleu cheese. As I've mentioned before, Bleu ranks highly with me just like feta and goat because of the texture and taste. It was an excellent choice for this sandwich. Pungent, dry, and creamy, it is the perfect choice for the succulent chunks of lamb.

The home-made mustard is an excellent condiment to use with this sandwich. Prepared in-house, it is blended with horseradish and is quite a kick if you use too much.

The roll was light, flaky on the outside, and doughy on the inside, a great combination for a french dip sandwich.

And speaking of which, here comes my one complaint.

Phillipe's dips the sandwich for you.

Yeah, that's right.

You don't get a separate cup of au jus to dip your sandwich in, and decide how much should be dipped, or not dipped.

A few problems arise from this.

1.) it could be dipped more than you want, creating too soggy of bread.
2.) it could be dry by the time you sit down if it's not dipped enough
3.) you can't choose how much you'd like to dip it.

Is this really a huge problem with the sandwich? Not entirely. I feel like I would enjoy the sandwich even if it wasn't French Dip, as the meat and cheese paired perfectly. But I do enjoy a French dip sandwich now and then, and I do like to dip and then not dip, depending on my mood.

Overall, this is truly a DANGERously delicious sandwich that should be on the list of any sandwich fans checklist.

But the eternal question: Is it better than Cole's?

Well dear reader, for that answer, you'll have to check back here next week.

Until then...

**** Stars
Phillipe The Original Restaurant
1001 N Alameda St
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

An Oasis in the City

Welcome back dear readers! Was your weekend as DANGERous as mine?

While combing through the Mummies exhibit with an oncoming sickness this weekend, I found a new oasis of Sandwichery on the USC Campus.

Following the directions to Sandwich Island, I must admit, I was lost for some time.

I stood outside of the address listed for Sandwich Island, but could only see an Asian Food stand. After pacing back and forth, and becoming increasingly worried that this highly recommended shop was no longer here, I looked inside and realized that Sandwich Island was truly an island: A small stand inside of a large cafeteria.

I am not one to make snap judgments, but I have to admit that at first I was a bit skeptical as to how DANGERous a sandwich in a campus cafeteria could be.

But how soon I was proven wrong.

My first sign that this was truly an amazing find? The Sandwichologist who worked here was incredible.

Without even thinking when asked which sandwich I should try, she sold me on the Turkey Avocado Sandwich, and watching her make it was quite fun. You could tell that not only had she been making sandwiches for awhile, but she enjoyed it and took pride in her creations.

Before she had even put the top half of the roll onto the sandwich, the contents stacked about 4 inches high, and were then beautifully pressed together into a nicely compact sandwich.

The sandwich is really dependent on what you want inside of it, since the only basics are turkey and avocado. I decided to go all out though and had pickles, onions, lettuce, and sprouts with spicy mustard.

I don't normally like tomatoes on my sandwich. I'm not sure how you feel dear readers, but I find that a lot of sandwich places tend to offer very mealy tomatoes of low quality. So I tend to pass on these.

The turkey was very fresh and full of flavor that is still very noticeable even with all of the extras on the sandwich.

The salad on top of the meat was also very fresh, especially the sprouts. I am a fan of earthy tasting raw vegetables in general, but specifically like them very much in a sandwich where they can add a nice contrast. If you've never had sprouts on a sandwich, you should consider adding them.

The avocado was also very fresh, creamy, and buttery. It actually might be one of the best avocados I've ever had, and there was plenty of it in the sandwich. The problem with an avocado is that with even the slightest period of exposure to air, it begins to oxidize and turn brown, making even the freshest avocado lose some of its subtle flavor in a short period of time. Not the case here though.

Before I could fully stand up from the table, my Sandwichologist asked me numerous questions about the taste of the sandwich, told me what she made daily, and what sides she handmade (the potato salad is made daily and is delicious). Truly a respectable lover of the Sandwich.

In conclusion, if you can make it down to the USC campus and find this hidden gem, you absolutely should. Reader beware though! During normal school hours, Sandwich Island, is packed more than a Sandwich Continent.

**** Stars
Sandwich Island
3333 S Hoover St # B,
Los Angeles, CA

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Flashback to Past Deliciousness

Gather around dear readers, because this week's DANGERous entry comes with a story.

Wanting to try another delicious sandwich, I decided that I would try out Spitz, a Doner Kebab shop in Eagle Rock.
For those not in the know, Doner Kebab is a Middle Eastern style meal in which lamb meat is roasted on a spit, then shaved off, combined with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, lettuce, and sauces in a sandwich, or more commonly a wrap or pita.

Before I review this sandwich at Spitz though, I should tell you of a most DANGERous story in order to show you how high my standards are for this type of sandwich.

Back in 2006, while studying in Prague, I took off for a week in Berlin with a friend of mine. Our first afternoon there, we found a Doner Kebab place and that was my first time with this delicious gift of DANGER.

We liked it so much that we ate Doner Kebab more often than authentic German food.

The wraps combined all of the above ingredients, plus your choice of mild or hot pepper mash, and I have to say that either mash was an excellent addition to an already amazing offering from the Middle East by way of Berlin.
The meat was flavorful, tender, and perfectly cooked. The salad combined to offer an excellent crunch and add a vibrant and light counterpoint to the meat. Top it off with the pepper sauce in a warm pita, and you've found one of my new favorite foods.

In fact, we became such fans of the sandwich that our nearby shop was our last stop before almost missing our bus back to Prague.

We hadn't remembered that it was Daylight Savings Time and that we were actually behind by an hour. No worries though. We still got our sandwiches for the ride home and said Goodbye to Berlin with a mouthful of DANGER.
Returning to Prague, and then eventually the States, I never was able to find a comparable, or even passable, place to find Doner.

But now I believe I have.

Spitz has locations both Downtown and in Eagle Rock. And both are excellent destinations, though I do prefer the atmosphere of the Downtown location much more.

The meat is delicious and succulent. It falls apart in your mouth, is cooked evenly and not burnt, and is just a powerhouse of lamb-y goodness.

The salad is so fresh and crisp, I'd be surprised if it hadn't been harvested yesterday. The lettuce and onions add a nice crunch, while the cucumber and tomatoes and a brisk refreshing flavor to the sandwich.

Lastly, the bread: two slices of golden Focaccia bread, both warm and fluffy on the inside.

Combine these DANGERous ingredients together, and I swear I felt like I was back in Germany, being served a delicious sandwich from Turkish immigrants.

Do not hesitate to try this.

Even if you're not in LA, check out local listings for great places in your area serving Doner. You seriously will not be disappointed.

Until next week...


**** 1/2 Stars
2506 Colorado Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90041


371 E 2nd St
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Five Freeway Adventure

Welcome back DANGER fans for another exciting adventure.

Lately, as you may know, I have not had much good luck with sandwiches.

They've been subpar at best, and for this I apologize to both you and my tastebuds.

While deciding on my next entry for this most delicious of blogs, I felt the best way to get back on track would be to again sample something from LA Magazine's 17 Best Sandwiches of Los Angeles.

It just so happens that one of these sandwiches was recommended to me awhile ago, and now I know why.

This week, I tried a Pork Banh Mi sandwich from Banh Mi My-Tho in Alhambra.

Truly an adventure into the dark recesses of Los Angeles, it took my five different freeways to reach the tiny corner strip mall that housed this mecca of Vietnamese sandwiches. Starting on the 405s, I traversed the 101s, 134e, 5s, and finally the 10e. It may sound like a lot there dear readers, but continue reading because I think you may be interested in taking this pilgrimage into the San Gabriel valley as well.

One thing I've learned since moving to Los Angeles is that food made in strip malls tends to be quite excellent. Tacos, falafel, sushi, whatever. It all provides a delicious dose of DANGER, and this Pork Banh Mi sandwich was no different.

For those that don't know, Banh Mi is a Vietnamese sandwich on a french baguette, with roasted pork, and pickled vegetables, typically cilantro, shredded carrots, onions, and jalapenos.

Let's start with the bread, shall we DANGERites?

Flaky. Slightly crisp. Delicious. It's deliciously golden and almost melts in your mouth with each bite. A terrific match for the enticing insides.

The pork is served hot, and is slightly sweet, as if it were slow roasted in honey. Not only is it sweet, it's incredibly tender. The meat easily pulls apart and is really one of the best pieces of pork I have ever tasted.

The pickled vegetables add a nice crunch to the sandwich. Even though they've been pickled in vinegar, the flavor isn't as pungent as one would think. In fact, the pickled crunch is a nice complement to the sweet pork and soft bread.

The jalapenos were the final piece to this delicious puzzle.

Jalapenos are one of my favorite peppers, and for two reasons: 1.) they have one heck of a kick. I love them when they're hot. 2.) remove the white membrane inside and they're not so hot anymore, just smoky and delicious. The Pork Banh Mi's jalapenos fall into category two. Crunchy, slightly smoky, and just a slight bit of heat, these peppers perfectly counterbalances the sweet roasted pork, while adding more crunch to the sandwich.

Despite its relative distance to most of Los Angeles, this sandwich is definitely worth the trip. Even better, the sandwich and a drink only costs $4 total! I couldn't believe it when I was rung up. That is truly an unheard of price for such a delicious sandwich.

If you're in the Los Angeles area, and up for trying out a well hidden Vietnamese sandwich, you'd definitely be in store for some serious DANGER.

Lastly, with the past weekend being a holiday weekend, I of course attended a BBQ. And I wanted to give a shoutout to Chris Reiser, who crafted this delicious smoked brisket sandwich (smoked for 10 hours, topped with barbecue sauce and a soft hamburger bun). Tender and full of flavor, this is truly a DANGERous treat.

Until next week, DANGERites.

Pork Banh Mi Sandwich
**** 1/2 Stars
Banh Mi My-Tho
304 W. Valley Blvd
Alhambra, CA 91803

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Maybe I should try something....healthier.

Good morning and salutations, DANGERites.

Welcome to another edition of The Danger Sandwich.

Before beginning the usual dangerousness, I must say I have come upon a realization over the past few months of writing this blog. Something that may help you in your own search for your Danger Sandwich.

Even though this search for a Sandwich that will take my life because of its amazingness is a personal journey that I alone must embark on, I have found that having company along with you for a sandwich excursion can always make the experience that much more enjoyable.

Good talk, good food, and of course, people asking for your opinion while you're eating (and sometimes even staring at you until you give your initial opinion) can be incredibly enjoyable and add to the overall experience.

But is this anything new? Have I not known that good company can always improve the atmosphere and overall experience of eating? Of course I'm not that dense, but it never hurts to be reminded of this fact...especially if the sandwich is delicious.

For this week's review, I headed to Barney's Beanery in Santa Monica with a few very close people (maybe too close for how DANGERously I tend to live.

Barney's is a great place. A very cool sports bar on the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica, you can't go wrong with one of their burgers here. I've tried many, and have never been let down.

This time though, I've decided to try something new, something potentially more DANGERous.

I tried the Avocado Melt.

Prepare for DANGER.

The Avocado Melt contains half of a sliced avocado, loads of Jack Cheese, grilled onions, tomatoes, all on grilled marble rye.

I am a huge fan of avocado, and can never have enough on a sandwich. It was perfect here, very flavorful, thinly cut, and with a perfect ripe texture that was very creamy yet a little firm.

The marble rye, while normally it would be a very good choice for this sandwich, was grilled just a little too long. The bread in for this melt should have some toasting to it, but I feel like it was just overdone in this case. The bread became a little too hard and tough.

The tomatoes and grilled onions also seemed to take a bit away from the sandwich. They were cooked too long and most of their favor had disappeared, leaving a very bland addition from two vegetables that can normally add a nice punch up to any sandwich.

Despite this though, the sandwich was still enjoyable. The only downside being that I know it's potential was so much higher than it ended up being. So, if you happen to make it out to Barney's Beanery, I'd suggest you just stick with a burger, especially if it's your first time.

Next week, I will be tackling some more recommendations from readers. My last few weeks have been a slight letdown, so I need to have a great experience or dear readers, I will be in DANGER of becoming lost in Sandwich Limbo!

It's like real limbo, just a bit more delicious.

Until Next Week!

*** Stars
Barney's Beanery
1351 3rd Street Promenade
Santa Monica, CA 90401