5345 Canal Rd
Valley View, OH 44125
by Reuben Dagwood
Every morning for the last five or six months, I have started my day with a trip to Gourmand’s for coffee. It started out when my neighbor’s daughter was preggers. She was coming right along, and I decided that I needed to get a cigar or two to celebrate the birth with Frank when the time came. Once upon a time, I was a wannabe cigar snob, so I knew I wanted something good.
I stopped by Gourmand’s expecting to find nothing worthy of the situation, being that it’s tucked away in the food desert of Canal Road. But, when I examined the selection, I was blown away. There was so much to choose from. But, more importantly, the owner, Frank, was so entirely helpful and really steered me into a great selection. Later in the week, we celebrated the birth, and I was shocked at how much I enjoyed the cigar. I thought I was over that little phase in my life. As it turns out, I was wrong.
So, I started going there pretty regularly to buy cigars. Upon closer inspection, I realized that the coffee he served there was Phoenix Coffee, which completely threw me back to the days of living on Superior when Phoenix was my number one morning spot. Instantly, I was off Starbucks. I’d like to say that I’m still buying cigars from Frank, but I can’t. After buying quite a few from him, he started giving me some free ones here and there. And, after some more time, he finally gave me the catalog that he actually buys the cigars from, telling me to just go right to the source. I told him that was not good business, and he replied, “I’ve never really been a good businessman.”
Now, my co-worker, Frank, is a Gourmand’s addict as well, but he goes not for the morning wake up call but for all his lunchtime sandwich needs. Despite his repeated moans of ecstasy, floating to my cubicle many times a week, and despite my morning loyalty to the shop, until today, I’d never ordered food from there. I did know going in that I loved their French Fries, because I’ve stolen an incredibly large amount of them from Frank in the past. But, that’s the extent of my Gourmand’s food experience. Today it was time for that to change.
Walking in, I received confused looks from all the employees, and Frank asked me what the hell I was doing there. I looked up at the menu, containing 50 different sandwiches (I just counted) as well as salads, soups, wraps, pastries, sides, and frozen drinks, and said, “I’m going to need a minute.”
After considerably more than one minute, I decided on the Bueno Puerco. It’s hot charcoal roasted pork with a homemade Cubano sauce, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, onions and Monterrey Jack cheese on a toasted sub bun. I ordered a side of the French Fries as well, although I felt as though I was letting myself down, in that I was actually going to pay for these ones.
Fast forward ten minutes. I ate my food while back at the office, watching the newest episode of True Blood. The sandwich was incredible. I took a little too long getting back to the office and getting the sandwich opened, so the bottom bun had caught a lot of juice and was dancing right on the border of soggy. I worried that this was going to ruin the sandwich. My worry was misplaced.
From the first bite, I knew that this sandwich was a winner. I actually liked that the bottom had gotten softer. The mix of texture just made the whole thing more interesting. The Cubano sauce, of which I know nothing about, was a flavor explosion. The pork was pulled, and I kept thinking about how the sandwich reminded me of the pork sandwiches they sold at the concession stand to the city pool when I grew up, if only the cook there had been a graduate of a culinary institute. I promised myself I was only eating half, and then moved to the fries.
It was no surprise to me, but those damned fries are so good. I say this with frustration, because I do not want to be the guy that gets a giant order of fried potatoes and then proceeds to aggressively manhandle the whole thing. But, aggressively manhandle them I did. To make matters worse, I then returned to the fridge, unwrapped my sandwich and crushed the last half as well. The marvelous food just threw me into an outright feeding frenzy.
Back to Gourmand's, ten minutes prior. I sat down and started thinking. Would I focus on the food? Would I focus on the quality of the coffee? How about the service? Is it fair to bring up the freebies? Should I act as though this whole thing is new to me and I’ve never heard of Gourmand’s? What is the right move?
Before I could come to a decision, my order was up. I went to pay and had a little chat with Frank. We joked about the sandwich name, and I did my best bad Spanish accent and, oh, we laughed. He then looked at me, said the coffee was on him today, threw in an extra pickle and told me he’d see me tomorrow.