Having tasted the classics – the cubano, the croque monsier, the banh mi - Sharon and I decided to see what is happening on the cutting edge of sandwich making. But how to get a handle on such a broad topic? Every neighborhood has a couple of sandwich shops. Our solution – we picked one street in Chicago – Milwaukee Avenue- and visited four shops which have highly rated sandwiches. We tasted eight sandwiches. Our top two were the Master Blaster from Reno, and the Shrimp Po Boy from Analogue. Here are the details.
Reno, 2607 N. Milwaukee
This shop was home to our favorite sandwich: The Master Blaster ($9).It consists of pork carnitas, pickled red onion, provolone, Dijon mustard, on ciabatta bread. To paraphrase Sharon, "almost perfect". There was a massive amount of pork and it was delicious. We learned that Reno bakes its own bread. It is good.The second sandwich that we tasted there was the Logan ($9):roasted turkey, tomato, spinach, red onion, white cheddar, pepita-chipotle-basil pesto on multigrain bread. I thought it was moist, had just the right amount of spice, and the bread was quite tasty. It didn't knock our socks off, like the Master Blaster, but was a solid sandwich, nonetheless.
Analogue, 2523 N. Milwaukee
You could easily drive by this spot and not know that it was there. It has a super-low key sign and is more of a dinner place/bar, than a lunch spot. We were told that the chef comes from New Orleans and uses family recipes. They've been serving lunch for about six months and there were only a few other diners when we were there.But if you like shrimp po boys ($13), you should check this place out. The Po Boy has Gulf shrimp, mayo, hot sauce, tomato, iceberg lettuce, and pickles.The bread is from Damato's.We both loved this sandwich, and overall it was our second favorite of the eight we tasted.The shrimp were tasty, not greasy, and the sandwich had a nice crunch. The other sandwich that we tasted, Fried Chicken Sandwich ($11), was also good. It tasted just like fried chicken! It is described as "buttermilk-fried Slagel Farms chicken breast with crunchy slaw, LA mayo and house pickles". The bread is from Red Hen. If you like deep fried stuff (and who doesn't!), this is the place for you.
Gaslight Coffee Roaster, 2385 N. Milwaukee
This is a coffee house that also serves food. When we arrived around noon, it was entirely filled with singles sitting at two tops, working on their laptops and sipping coffee. The staff was super friendly and the barista was especially helpful. (The latte I ordered was delicious.) There is nothing fancy about their sandwiches, but the ingredients are top-notch. We tried the Classic Ham ($10) and the Grilled Cheese ($8).The grilled cheese had a tangy cheese (summer white cheddar and butterkase), tomatoes was served on a dense bread from Floriole (www.floriole.com/). Very tasty.The classic ham had large chunks of ham, a house aioli, mustard, and aged white cheddar.Again, it was a good, solid offering.
Pork and Mindy's, 1623 N. Milwaukee
Sharon and I were excited to try this relatively new spot. The menu was developed by Food Network star, Jeff Mauro, and they clearly want to franchise the concept. We were disappointed. The sandwiches sound delicious on paper and they didn't deliver much of a pop. We first tried their "Bao to the Pork" ($8): pulled pork, plum sauce, pickled daikon and carrots, fresh cucumber and jalpeno, on a bao bun. In concept it is similar to a banh mi, but it didn't have nearly as much flavor as the best banh mi sandwiches that we tasted. I guess the classics are classic for a reason.I didn't like the sweetness of the plum sauce, which overpowered the tartness of the shredded daikon and carrots. We also ordered the "Pig Candy BLT" ($8): pig candy bacon, lettuce, Roma tomato, mayo, balsamic carmelized onions, served on a brioche bun. Neither Sharon nor I liked the bacon, which is candied and slow smoked until brittle. It was way too sweet, and so thick that it was hard to chew.We did like the brioche bun though. All in all, we thought that the concept of this shop was good, but the recipes and the execution need further work.