Sandwiches are sandwiches, but of course some are better than others. At the shitty end of the spectrum is, as you might imagine, Subway. I hate Subway. I can’t stand the weird toppings, as if anyone really wants canned black olives on a sandwich, and I hate Jared and his weird smirking fish face, and I hate the bread that smells like elementary school cafeteria bread, and I hate how fucking cheap those dickwads are, suspiciously dispensing ONE FUCKING NAPKIN to you with your sandwich purchase, as if the profit-and-loss statement of a Subway franchise rests solely on the price of paper. Then again, you know what they say about sandwiches: like a night with your mom, if you only need one napkin afterwards, it wasn’t worth it anyway.
Subway’s sandwiches are most assuredly NOT as sloppy as your mom. Subway’s legendary stinginess isn’t restricted solely to its ungenerous napkin policy: the ham is sliced seemingly by laser into paper-thin sheaves precisely one pig muscle cell thick. You might think that thinly sliced meat isn’t a bad thing: thinly sliced meat is a hallmark of a great sandwich, because no one wants a big thick slab of pork leg, looking pink and sweaty and strangely iridescent, protruding obscenely from the side of one’s sandwich. But thin slices only work if you put MORE THAN ONE FUCKING PIECE OF HAM ON THE FUCKING BREAD. And that, of course, is exactly what Subway’s cheapskate corporate overlords order their sad minimum-wagers to do: one transparent, surgically dissected slice of ham on an enormous loaf of bread that’s way too yeasty smelling for its own good.
At the OTHER end of the sandwich shop continuum, however: is Vancouver’s Meat and Bread. As the name might indicate, it’s a minimalist sandwich shop, though the minimalism applies pretty much only to the décor. Napkins are always abundant and free, and good thing, too: these sandwiches are sloppy as fuck.
A meatball sub ($9, and all prices here are listed in Canadian dollars. Because it’s Canadia, remember?) featured the kind of meatballs that everybody claims their Italian grandmother makes but nobody’s actually does. And I know: my grandmother was Sicilian and her meatballs were a study in granular globes of ground beef, cooked into desiccated golf balls, and splashed in a crimson Ragu bloodbath. But the meatballs on this sandwich were intense: silken and luscious inside, they were more like spherical terrines. Seriously, these meatballs were so delicious I wish I could cut open my scrotum and replace my testicles with these meatballs. Then I would finally be a real man. The meatballs were doused in an unapologetically spicy marinara and topped with a few melted shreds of grana. The menu promised gremolata but I think they were lying.
The most vaunted sandwich on Meat and Bread’s menu is the porchetta ($9). When the chick working at the counter told us it was their most popular sandwich, she wasn’t lying: there were only two of these left to purchase, but I resisted the impish urge to buy both. I’m actually glad I didn’t because the porchetta was a bit of a letdown. I expected the pork to be unctuous and intensely seasoned, like any good porchetta, but it was actually dry and bland, though the fennel seed flavor was at least apparent. Rather than slice the porchetta into thin sheets, so that each sandwich becomes a dense pile of meaty pinwheels suitable for Prince Meatyass, they instead chose to dice the porchetta into a porky gravel pile. The skin was crisp. Finely diced and tossed in with the meat, it was like a crouton of sorts. The salsa verde was a dizzying, lush green and had just enough acid.
The special of the day was a roast beef sandwich ($9.5). While it was more of a shredded pot roast than a proper English roast beef, I’ll forgive them because they’re Canadian and since they can’t even get bacon right, how could they possibly master roast beef? Still, the “roast beef” was superb. The meat was as tender as a child cuddling a puppy, and it was studded with a lot of black pepper. A little bird’s nest of red cabbage slaw contributed the requisite crunch. And a smear of shallot jam managed to walk the edge, like a snail crawling across a razor blade, between sweet and savory. This sandwich was a master’s thesis in sandwichology. The bread itself, curiously, was the same across the board for all the sandwiches: small neat rectangular loaves with an open, bubbly crumb, sort of like mini ciabatta, but not quite.
Meat and Bread is solid as fuck. We were befuddled by the fancy Canadian credit card reader which taunts you with a fake rail on the side of it, along which you think you must slide your card, but SURPRISE STUPID AMERICAN! you have to stick your card into the bottom of the thingy. The waitress noticed our card reader confusion, then asked if we were from the USA. When we admitted that yes, we were visiting from Seattle, she cheerfully informed me that Meat and Bread is coming to Capitol Hill’s Central Agency Building in March. Finally, Canada is paying us back for inflicting the Crash Test Dummies and Mike Myers and ketchup flavored potato chips upon America. U! S! A! U! S! A!
Rating: 8.5 Canadian dollars out of 10
Meat and Bread is located in Canada. Unless you are planning to go to Canada, you don’t need to know the address.