Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sandwich Delites

1 Berea Commons
Berea, OH 44017
(440) 234-3322

By Earl S. Wich

In the mid 1970's I wondered what an Earth Shoe was. As a child it seemed as though that would be a shoe made, somehow, out of earth. Given that this was the 70's that did not seem like such a strange idea. The reason that this would even enter my mind is that the downtown area of Berea had been mostly (somewhat? partially?) demolished to make way for a new shopping center to be call the Berea Commons. At the time, it was a grand vision to build a reasonably sized mall in the middle of a small college town. In retrospect, building this during the period of great expansion in very large suburban malls like Great Northern looks like folly. And, indeed, that is exactly what it turned out to be.

However, to a ten year old, the most important part of this retail development was that they placed a large, loud bell in the central area. This bell was able to be reached by a ten year old and it was rung loudly and enthusiastically. Important to this story, this bell was located beneath the sign of the aforementioned Kalso Earth Shoe store. As it turns out, my childhood confusion over the origin and usefulness of something called an "earth shoe" was prescient. The shoe store was gone with in a short period of time.

In the now vacant space, a sandwich shop quickly sprung up. It was known as Grum's Sandwich Shop. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to eat at Grum's since my parents could not see the logic in buying a sandwich when cold cuts from Rego's (or indeed, chipped chopped ham from Lawson's) were far more economical. Eventually, I outgrew this gastronomically careless thrift, got a job, and began eating sandwiches that were not made by an immediate family member.

By this time, Grum's had been sold and its name changed to Sandwich Delites. The menu, however, stayed largely the same. In the 25 to 30 years since, the Turkey Ridge sandwich has sustained me whenever the urge struck and I was in Berea.

To be honest, it appears to be a simple sandwich; simplistic, even. It is comprised of turkey, provolone, lettuce, onions, tomato, mayo and seasonings (mostly oregano.) It overcomes its humble ingredients, however, and is more than the sum of its parts. The turkey itself is good. It isn't great, but it is moist and sliced fairly thinly, which I prefer for deli meats. I believe that thin slices always makes a better eating experience, whether it is deli meat, cheese or most other forms of food. (I know that you, the reader, will come up with many foods that contradict this but stay with me here.) The cheese is also decent. It's not dry and it has a good flavor. The lettuce is crisp and shredded medium-fine (again with the thin cut,) and the white onions are also sliced quite thin (again.) Ditto for the tomatoes. The bread is a fairly normal roll of the type that subs are usually made of. It is soft and holds up well to the moisture.

The mayo and the seasoning are what really set this sandwich apart. The seasoning is mostly oregano as best as I can tell, and dramatically adds to the flavor. The mayo, however, is different than any other that I have had. It is very mild and quite thin, almost watery. I know that sounds bad but it isn't. It adds moisture (which almost any turkey sandwich could use) and mixes with the thinly sliced lettuce and onions to create a sort of very mild slaw. I have no idea if that is what the creator of this intended but it is what makes it great. You have to eat it over the paper it is wrapped in because it will drip. Wonderfully mayo-y drips of goodness.

Other sandwiches are good there as well. The Cold Steer is mostly the same thing but with roast beef and horseradish instead of turkey and mayo. The horseradish has a similar mild thinness that really works. For my money, however, the Turkey Ridge can’t be beat. I really don't get anything else.

There are a few caveats. It is a pricey sandwich at about $10.50. At about 16 inches it is, however, large enough to justify this price (they make a half that costs about half). Also, the staff is really not very inclined towards good customer service. I believe that the same woman has owned the shop since it became Sandwich Delites and she remains surly and occasionally combative. Despite being within walking distance of 1800 college students, she has effectively driven off that crowd through the shrewd combination of high prices and what appears to be an active disdain for customers in general and "the kids" specifically. Of course, it is when she is there that the food is best. Get any of the older women and your sandwich will be awesome. Get one of the kids at the end of the shift and it will be a somewhat lifeless experience. This can be said for most businesses.

Don't, however, let the drawbacks stop you from getting what I consider to be one of the top three sandwiches in my pantheon of bread and meat. I bought one just today. If I were in Berea and I did not bring one back to share with my co-worker there would be hell to pay.

Also, there is still an original Grum's in Coventry on the east side. Although they have not technically been related for 30 years, the Turkey Ridge is still the same (within reason) at both. This is somewhat amazing. I ate at Grum's for the first time ever recently and had a great sandwich that was immediately identifiable as the same Turkey Ridge. The service was better too, but as they are quite far apart, I don't imagine that one loses any business to the other.

It’s not as good as What About Bob’s in Willoughby, but it is good and it’s worth going out of my way for. There are days when I don’t want anything else.

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