March 12, 2013

The Sandwich Smith

Folks, there's a new sandwich shop in Little Tokyo, and its name is The Sandwich Smith.  Their motto? “We promise to craft the very best sandwich and baked goods for our patrons each time and every time. Using only the best of the seasons to show the natural beauty of what Mother Nature gave us.”

Located on the corner of 1st and Central, the Sandwich Smith shares a space with its nighttime counterpart, Fickle.  Although I've yet to see what Asian-inspired small plates Fickle serves for dinner, I checked out what Sandwich Smith has to offer for lunch.  Here's a quick snapshot.

The concept is very similar to Chipotle, The Counter, and 800 Degrees.  Just as you would build-your-own burrito, burger, or pizza, at Sandwich Smith, you build your own sandwich.  Just pick up a small clipboard when you enter the restaurant and let your creativity loose.

Although it takes a minute to figure things out, the ordering process is straight-forward.

1) You pick your protein from choices ranging from Prime Angus to Egg Salad.
2) Pick your bread or make it a salad (but you have to pay an extra buck to make it a salad -- why do I have to pay more to not get bread?  I don't get it either).
3) Choose a dressing to add to your sandwich.  I suggest getting it on the side because otherwise, the dressing will drench your sandwich, thus creating a huge mess.  However, even if you circle "yes" for "on the side," you may get dressing in your sandwich.  That's what happened to me anyway.
4) Choose 1 cheese.
5) Choose 3 toppings (mostly veggies).
6) Print your name (real or fake).
7) Choose grilled or non-grilled.
8) Submit the form to someone standing near the kitchen.  (This part was also a little confusing).

In case you didn't get the message, don't forget about their homemade pastries.

Kitchen area

Sandwich chefs, hard at work.

Indoor seating.

Some of their homemade pastries. 

Triangular donuts?!

Buttermilk fried chicken with spinach, Swiss cheese, pickled red onion, and tomato on a French roll.
Classic sandwich that can't go wrong.

Vegan bread, vegan mayo, kale, with... buttermilk fried chicken?!
Confused sandwich eaten by a confused sandwich-creator. :)

Buttermilk fried chicken with avocado, lettuce, blue cheese, garlic aioli on walnut cranberry bread. 
The creator loved this one!

Prime Angus with cheddar cheese, S&S (sweet and sour) coleslaw, picked red onions, and tomato on a French roll.

Buttermilk fried chicken with bacon coleslaw, spinach, tomato, pepper jack cheese, on a doughnut bun.
I got chimichurri dressing on the side.

Here are my initial thoughts:

1) Grab your napkins because your meal is going to be messy!  If you're not a fan of eating a sandwich that disintegrates in your hands and turns into a quasi-salad, I'd suggest ordering your sandwich grilled. The melted cheese will help keep the sandwich together.  If you don't like your sandwiches grilled, then grab a fork and good luck.

2) The buttermilk fried chicken is not only a popular protein choice, it's a good one.  The batter is not very crispy, but it's not overly salty or bland either.

3) Unfortunately, I wasn't too impressed with the bread (not with my doughnut bun and most certainly not with the vegan bread).  While all the ingredients in between the bread play a key role in determining the deliciousness of a sandwich, I believe it's the quality of the bread that makes or breaks it all.  I can't say the quality here is so horrible that I'd never return again, however, I really wish they baked their own bread.  (Freshly-baked bread makes a huge difference!)  Instead, you're stuck with somewhat disappointing bread that's still fresh, but not memorable.

4) Props to their interior designer!  The modern-rustic vibe of the space is welcoming.

5) There are two entrances to the shop -- one on Central and the other on 1st.  You fill out your order on either side of the shop, hand it to someone, and wait.  But suddenly, the two "lines" (if you can even call it that) converge and it becomes a bit chaotic around the cash registers.  It's manageable, but it disrupts the flow of the p(l)ace.

6) They don't provide sample sandwich pairings or suggestions, so if you end up building a sandwich that's mediocre, it's as much your own fault as it is theirs.  Part of me thinks that's ingenious because while you're eating your sub-par sandwich, you'll most likely be thinking of what would make a better combo for your next visit (I see what you're doing there because that's exactly what I did).  But part of me thinks that still leaves unsatisfied customers who will eat only for the sake of finishing their $10+ sandwich.  To help clueless folks out, it'd be great to have a "Sandwich of the Day" or have a sandwich-creating contest where the local community can submit what they believe should be a featured sandwich.

7) It's not cheap.  If you're looking for a bang for your buck, there's another sandwich store down the street for you.  The Sandwich Shop is an artisan sandwich shop that boasts higher quality and fresher ingredients.  Fair enough.  But if you're wanted higher quality and fresh ingredients, also be willing to front a few extra bucks, too.  Also, like with any build-your-own places, be mindful of what you decide to put in your sandwich.  There's nothing like getting to the cashier and realizing that you just ordered a $20 meal.

Overall, the Sandwich Smith does a solid job of serving sandwiches.  But I think they still need a few more weeks to find its footing and really refine their concept.  Nevertheless, go show your support!  I'll certainly be back.

Open daily from 11 AM - 4:30 PM.

They deliver!

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The Sandwich Smith on Urbanspoon

cuisine: American (sandwiches)
location: Little Tokyo
hours: 11 AM - 4:30 PM, Daily
websites: { SS | yelp | facebook }
attire: Casual
parking: Street meters or nearby public lots
notes: Sandwich Smith by day, Fickle by night.  Fickle serves Asian-inspired small plates.