Food & Grocery: From classic to experimental, Ann Arbor is full of excellent sandwich destinations
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
My friend and WEMU colleague Michael Jewett is always talking about his favorite comic book heroes. It seems there’s a big divide between the followers of Marvel and D.C. comics. I wouldn’t know much about that; my favorite character from the comic pages is a hero of a very different sort: my guy is Dagwood Bumstead.
Yes, Dagwood is clumsy, always running late and more than a little lazy. But where our cowlicked hero shines is in the kitchen. He can balance most of the contents of his refrigerator on his outstretched arms and pile them together into a delicious-looking — now eponymous — sandwich. That’s my idea of a superhero.
That was my approach when left to my own devices as a teenager. I concocted elaborate sandwiches made up of anything I could find — leftovers, pickles, vegetables, salad dressing, meats and any kind of cheese I could find.
As an adult, my sandwich obsession has not abated. But now, instead of piling everything in the fridge onto two slices of bread, my approach is a little more nuanced... and far more likely to make it from plate to mouth without disintegrating.
Dagwood and I are certainly not the only ones with our sandwich loving ways. Food Network star Jeff Mauro has dubbed himself “The Sandwich King” and has a whole show dedicated to making “any meal into a sandwich, and any sandwich into a meal.” Likewise my friend Max, whose blog “Alone With The Sandwich” documents his many sandwich interactions.
Ann Arbor isn’t a horrible place to live if you love a good sandwich. There’s the obvious destination — Zingerman’s Deli — where piles of perfectly sliced and carefully sourced meats and cheeses nestle nicely between slices of freshly-baked artisanal bread. There’s Maize and Blue deli and Breadbasket, both of whom offer towering deli sandwiches that can — and I’m barely exaggerating here — easily feed a family of four.
Sometimes that is exactly what I am looking for. Pastrami and a slick of mustard on rye, or maybe a turkey Reuben. But sometimes I’m looking for something a little different. A little creativity. An experiment. I like finding a sandwich that was crafted by someone who spent some time finding the perfect mix of ingredients.
Morgan & York on Packard Street is my current favorite sandwich destination. Known best for their wine and cheese selection, Morgan & York has been beefing up their prepared foods of late. Weekends find them serving a heavenly pulled pork or brisket sandwich that conjures up memories of Mr. Ribs’s Soul On a Roll. But it’s their boccata — tasty sandwiches crafted on crusty Café Japon baguettes — that keep me coming back all week long.
Boccata literally translates from the Italian as “a mouthful” or a “a gulp.” And compared to a classic deli sandwich, I suppose these do seem small. But it’s clear that for Morgan & York, the focus is more on flavor and less on quantity.
My favorite sandwich on their boccata menu is a bresaola (air dried beef), fontina and long-stemmed Italian artichoke concoction that makes my mouth water just thinking about it. I’m also partial to their simple caprese sandwich, made with housemade mozzarella, local tomatoes and Italian pesto.
And that’s just what Morgan & York has on the menu. They are also happy to build you a sandwich from anything you dream up. Cheesemonger Karl recently made me a boccata with coconut Gouda (yes, this exists and it’s ridiculously delicious), roast beef and mango chutney. Mmmmm
Babo on Washington Street employs a similar sandwich philosophy. The market offers a selection of seven to 10 premade sandwiches every day, but they are more than happy to build you a custom sandwich from any of their 20 meats and 60 cheeses in the deli case. The bread is sourced from Detroit’s Avalon bakery or from Assimacopoulos Bakery in Lincoln Park. It’s quick and tasty, and I haven’t had a bad one yet.
What’s your favorite local sandwich destination? Comment below or drop me a line at JessicaWebster@AnnArbor.com and I’ll give it a try. If I get enough suggestions, I’ll write a follow-up column in October.