I secretly want to be Dagwood Bumpstead. Seriously — he sleeps on the couch, he’s got those crazy-ass bangs that stand up seemingly without product or any other help, and he makes the most juicily extravagant sandwiches that are only complete when they’ve been crowned with a pimento-stuffed olive wearing a toothpick as a hatpin.
Sandwiches are my comfort food. Yes, I love the banks of thick mashed potatoes with gilded rivulets of burnished butter running down their carbilicious sides, and I frequently want to rub myself down with the Stouffer’s mac and cheese, but there’s just something about the sandwiches. They’re sort of snacky yet they’re also a meal. They can have layer upon layer of flavors — a little chewy meat here, some tangy pickle there…oops, there’s a sexy smidge of thyme mayo up top, contrasting fiercely with those clean, crunchy greens! — and if they are made right, each bite is more interesting than the last.
As a kid I was totally addicted to grilled cheese sandwiches and didn’t eat much else, but as an adult I’ve managed to broaden my sandwich horizons. In Cambridge, Mass, we had several favorite sandwich places to visit. Darwin’s stacked their sandwiches thick and high and named them for the neighborhood streets (I usually went in for The Longfellow with ham, sliced apple, aged cheddar, lettuce, and tomato). Montrose Spa held my attention with their crispy grilled Cubanos, and a dreamy chicken sandwich called The Lady Grey that saturated tissue-thin slices of chicken breast with a creamy cucumber-dill dressing. When I got a craving (and I always got a craving when on a Television Without Pity deadline, or when it was late at night, or the middle of the day…or the morning…or an o’clock), I knew I had about two dozen sandwiches to choose from.
Replacing those sacred sandwiches has been an uphill battle since we moved to the Bay Area. I mean, there’s great food, like, EVERYWHERE, but I have yet to find a neighborhood spot that can fill the stomach-growling gap of those sandwiches. I am, however, making great strides and I have recently made a point of stumbling repeatedly upon Arlequin To Go in Hayes Valley. Connected to both Absinthe Brasserie and Bar and Arlequin Wine Merchant, Arlequin To Go is a wonderfully warm little cafe that plates tasty mediterranean fare in the form of salads, sugar-crusted baked goods, and sandwiches. The roasted turkey sandwich with corn and tomato chutney is a winner, but I’m currently trading off addictions with the grilled pear, bacon, and white cheddar, and the grilled chicken breast with a glossy spiced onion compote, fresh greens, and aioli on focaccia.
You can take your minted lentil-quinoa salad and freshly built sandwiches home, (which is personally my choice because I get a hedonistic thrill out of unwrapping food that is all white-paper-packages-tied-up-with-string) or bare your skin and soul in the sun-soaked and surprisingly large patio out back.
Well played, Arlequin. Well, played.
Arlequin to Go
384B Hayes Street (at Gough)
San Francisco, CA 94102