Dave’s Cosmic Subs
1842 Coventry Road
Cleveland Hts, OH 44118
Congin's Italian Drive Thru
18812 Nottingham Rd.
Cleveland, Ohio 44110
By Beau Cadiyo
Dave’s Cosmic Subs is a sub chain that conspicuously associates itself with the 1960s, or at least popular misconceptions of the 1960s. I have nothing new to add to recent attacks on the ’60s, or on the infantile, self-centered, vain, materialistic, hypocritical baby-boomer generation, other than to add that, for the most part, I agree with the widespread condemnation of what they short-sightedly forced upon the world. The ’60s marked the beginning of a long decline of American society that now, with the retirement of these “flower children”, is hopefully reaching its trough. I have no tolerance for those who romanticize this period, or who argue that they were halcyon years; their selective memory, or mis-memory, fills me with the same distaste I feel for 1939 Germany. Everything in Dave’s Cosmic Subs (DCS), from the paintings and record sleeves on the walls to the stylized logo, feels like an opportunistic attempt to link it to tie-dye, the Beatles, peace, love and rock’n’roll. (For an idea of what it looks like, check out the cult-like images of the DCS leader on their website.) The girl who took my order fit in perfectly: she stood behind the counter, took orders, chatted with us in a high-pitched voice and seemed very, very high. She served no other function.
Frank Hoxha told me that the first and only sandwich she got at DCS was horrible; it was made with very, very old bread and completely tasteless filling. I thought she was being unnecessarily critical, but the Tuna Melt that I got was close. Sure, it looked impressive, all tightly wrapped and put in a paper bag for takeout. In reality, though, it was packed high with tasteless, watery lettuce, pink tomatoes, pungent onions, gummy tuna that stuck to my teeth, and what they said was cheddar cheese but, due to its total lack of flavor, I suspected was American. The bread was overly toasted, a few steps shy of crouton status, and when I bit in, it crumbled into tiny pieces. Like the ’60s, the sandwich offered so much promise but, when tested, it didn’t deliver. In the end, it fell apart in my hands and I was forced to scrape it off the wax-paper wrapping, piece by tiny, crappy piece.
I’m not a huge fan of the ’80s, either, but I have nothing against people who spent their youth in acid-washed jeans, corner-tied crop tops, neon and scrunchies. I think most people just feel pity for how those young adults looked; it will take a lot of time for people to be able to face the fact that they once thought high-rise jeans were sexy. Most of the criticisms of the 1980s, really, are criticisms of the youth of the 1960s; it was those youth who came into power during the '80s, taking control of banks, the military, business and government (and who, of course, speculated wildly on stocks in the 1990s and real estate in the 2000s during their prime earning years, destroying their own retirement funds).
Congin’s, according to the girl who took my order, was founded at some point between 1982 and 1984. They wisely decided not to erect a memorial to the Great Communicator or establish a shrine to Gordon Gekko; instead, there’s a ragged child’s drawing on which is written, “When I grow up I want to be a pizza lady.” The girl who took my order was stocky and strong, bordering on butch; after she handed me my change, she made herself useful by loading boxes and racks in the back room, moving with the wide stance that comes from a lifetime of sports and self-assurance.
When I ordered the eggplant parmigiana sub at Congin’s, I expected to be out the door in maybe five minutes. Instead, I waited for 18 minutes before they handed me a brown paper bag with a Styrofoam container inside. (I’m pretty sure the reason it took so long was that they were cooking the eggplant fresh.) Famished, I pulled the container out as soon as I got in my car and lifted the sandwich up for my first, glorious bite, only to jerk my hand away in pain. It was hot – far too hot to touch, and far, far too hot to eat. Seven more minutes passed before I could even taste it.
When I could, the sandwich was heavy with oil, the eggplant was perfectly tender, and the breading was crisp and almost grainy. My mother hates marinara sauce with too much sugar, preferring to allow the tomato flavor to dominate; Corbin’s delicious marinara would have met with her approval. The cheese stretched out from my mouth in long strings before I started shearing it off with my teeth. The bread was moist and dense and, while it didn’t bear grill marks, appeared to have been crushed down in the toaster. The sandwich was also thin enough to allow me to bite into it without stretching my mouth wide open – an unusual trait in our thickness-obsessed times, when sandwiches seem to be made according to some sort of wager about how long it will take for customers to band together and revolt at being served constructions that look more like skyscrapers than lunchtime sustenance. (I hear Dubai is making dubious progress in this field.)
It took me five minutes to eat the first half; by the time I reached the second half, it had cooled down to the perfect temperature. Then it hit me: this is an intelligently managed drive-thru restaurant (Congin’s does not offer seating), fine-tuned for people eating at home. They deliberately serve the food too hot, so that it cools down on the ten-minute drive home.
Having come of age in the 1990s and early 2000s, the writers of the Cleveland Sandwich Board are in a unique position to accurately and objectively judge what our predecessors in Sandwich Science™ have left us. We are truly thankful for our rightful place as the real “Greatest Generation,” and we are also thankful for our finely developed sense of taste, our brilliantly creative writing, our top-notch editing, our prime health, rugged good looks, enduring style, animal magnetism, vital sexuality and the immense choice of sandwiches which face us at every turn. Some of them – like Congin’s – are good. Some of them – like Dave’s Cosmic Sucks, as Frank Hoxha calls it – are bad. What we can all agree on, however, is that members of these lesser generations have at least tried to create something of substance, however slight.
The 1970s, though - what a waste.