Some strip malls, no matter how well located, seem to have problems keeping long-term tenants. Today there's a parakeet groomer, tomorrow there's a spatula sharpener in their old spot. Despite plenty of cars in the parking lot, few of those little storefronts stay long. The strip mall on Eureka Way, once anchored by Safeway and now by Ace Hardware, has been one of those places where someone's hopes and dreams for a successful little business bloom and then fade and disappear.
But The Best Little Sandwich Shop has been sitting pretty for well over a year in that little shopping center. When Femme de Joie first saw the marquee change, she figured it was just another little enterprise she shouldn't get attached to because it would be gone soon. After all, it's a recession, and who is foolish enough to start a sandwich shop when times are hard? Who's going to buy sandwiches when you can make them at home?
As it turned out, plenty of people are buying at TBLSS. They offer up something different from the standard deli sandwich and far more options than the mega-Hoagie-chain. Though there's no hiding the young hipster vibe of the staff and many customers, M. de Joie has seen numerous non-hip customers waiting for their sandwiches too. It doesn't matter if you're for the waltz or for Lady Gaga; TBLSS has something for everyone.
TBLSS is very small: in the entrance are a couple of small tables (on a winter day, you're likely to get frequent icy drafts from the doors opening constantly). There's a small counter with a few barstools inside, but it really isn't a place to stay to eat. Best to get your food to go.
Rainer's Reuben ($9.00, including a bag of chips, a bottle of water, and tax) was the most elaborate Reuben sandwich Femme de Joie has ever come across. In addition to the pastrami (what, no corned beef?), sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and 1000 Island dressing on rye, "everything" included lettuce, tomato, onion, pepperoncini, avocado, and their "Silly Sauce" (a blend of mustard, mayonnaise, and a couple of secret ingredients). Although this wasn't a Reuben for purists, it was incredibly delicious with multi-layered flavors and textures. The rye bread, however, didn't have the strength to hold everything together and eventually collapsed into a soggy heap.
Military Pride was served as a submarine on a roll - a good idea, since ordinary bread could never have stuck together as long as the roll did under the onslaught of juicy fillings. Meatballs, marinara sauce, Jalapenos (which got lost amid all the other ingredients) and jack cheese combined to make one of the messiest sandwiches ever created. If there's a criticism, it's that the basic meatballs, sauce, etc. were competing with the lettuce & co. for attention. This might be better served as is, without the usual sandwich toppings.
Macaroni salad on the side was nothing special to write home about - while the macaroni was not overcooked, the dressing was one-note sweet with only a few random dice of red bell pepper to give it any character.
Miss Mercy, a vegetarian combination with sprouts plus cheese, instantly took M. de Joie back to her college days, when students believed that you could easily live on ramen, doughnuts, and chips, as long as now and then you had an avocado sandwich with sprouts - you know, for balance. This was a taste of the 1970s that may have gotten lost for a while when foodies got obsessed with artisinal cheeses and home-cured meat on kamut & farro bread. If you think this sandwich looks messy now, it's nothing compared to how it looked after a few bites. Femme de Joie loved it and would definitely go back for another one.
Alongside was a cup of butternut squash soup, a thick, smooth puree accented with curry flavors - a sophisticated flavor you wouldn't expect to find in a small sandwich shop. The cole slaw was one of the better ones M. de Joie has found around town - the cabbage was still crisp and the dressing didn't puddle down in the bottom of the cup.
The Best Little Sandwich Shop is one of Femme de Joie's favorite very small businesses around town. They're filling in a couple of culinary thin spots in Redding by offering not only gluten-free breads but a vegan menu including vegan turkey and soy cheese. That may not be important to most people, but local celiac sufferers and vegans can attest it's very difficult to find that kind of food available in restaurants. Their regular menu has something for any taste - if you don't see what you like, they'll make a special sandwich for you. They'll text your bill to your cell phone (which is something M. de Joie has never seen). And they often have specials such as any sandwich for 50% off.
There is, however, one drawback. TBLSS is SLOW. They do encourage customers to call or fax in their orders ahead, especially during lunch, but it's M. de Joie's experience that they are slow even when business is slow. Each sandwich is made to order, and it appears that each sandwich-maker is making several sandwiches at once, which may account for the delay. So if you're in a hurry, take this into consideration - call or fax in your order ahead. WAY ahead.
The Best Little Sandwich Shop, 2255 Eureka Way (between Magnolia and Orange), Redding, CA 96001. Phone 530-227-6590; fax 1-888-382-0882. Open Monday-Saturday, 9;30 AM - 12:30 AM, Sunday 11:00 AM - 4:00 PM. Cash, cards. No alcohol. Ample on-site parking. Vegan and vegetarian options; gluten-free bread. Website and menu here.
Femme de Joie's first culinary masterpiece was at age 4, when she made the perfect fried bologna sandwich on white bread. Since then she has dined on horse Bourguignon in France, stir-fried eel in London, and mystery meat in her college cafeteria, but firmly draws the line at eating rattlesnake, peppermint and Hamburger Helper. She lives in Shasta County at her country estate, Butterscotch Acres West. She is nearly always hungry. Visit MenuPlease for more or send her an email at email@example.com.
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