It never ceases to amaze me when I find one visit to a restaurant thoroughly disappointing, and yet find the return trip satisfying. But it happens more frequently than you might expect. A prime example is a relatively new sandwich shop called Great American Food.
I had high hopes for this place. It’s owned by the same folks who operate the Italian restaurant Café Chloe. That spot has been in operation for 15 years. I first reviewed it positively in print nearly a decade ago, and it spent several years as one of my go-to local spots. When I heard the owners had opened a sandwich place, I was excited to see what they’d do.
Great American Food is a pretty straightforward sandwich shop. It has counter service, an open kitchen, a menu on the wall and a fairly nondescript dining area. There’s a selection of 19 hot and cold sandwiches and 10 salads. There are also a few breakfast offerings, as well as the occasional pasta special, which was ravioli on both of my visits. Nearly all of the items are priced exactly the same, coming in at $8.50. But most of the sandwiches are shareable, thanks to hearty breads by chefs who don’t skimp on the fillings.
My visits were dedicated purely to the sandwiches, which are a dangerous food in which to specialize. They’re deceptively simple, but if not treated with respect, they can be horrifyingly bad (e.g. the baloney and Wonder Bread mom occasionally put in your school lunch, or anything that’s ever come out of a Subway). To me, a good sandwich starts with high-end ingredients—first and foremost, the bread. But the combination of those ingredients needs to be well thought-out, and the chef needs to prepare them properly.
Unfortunately, on my first visit, the concept failed completely on one of my sandwiches, while the execution on the second was a disaster. The first was a Cuban, which I was surprised to see listed on the cold menu. Like most people, I think of a Cuban as a hot sandwich in which the meats are warm and the cheese is melted. Here, while my ciabatta roll was lightly grilled, the pork loin, ham, Swiss and pickles were as cold as when they’d come out of the fridge. Moreover, the flavor from a large helping of sharp Swiss cheese completely overpowered everything else.
That same visit I also had a steak sandwich, which also disappointed. The meat was overcooked and tough, while the peppers, mushrooms and onions were drowning in oil. Combined with a helping of marinara sauce, the liquids drenched the otherwise hearty roll until it was literally falling apart.
With two misses under my belt, I wasn’t terribly excited about returning. But I soldiered on, and was pleasantly surprised by three wonderful sandwiches. The Great American Sub came packed with cotto ham, salami, mortadella and provolone, topped with a beautiful mixture of mixed greens, tomatoes, red onions and hot cherry peppers. It was a sophisticated take on an Italian sub that offered just the right amount of spicy kick. I also loved a panino made with grilled chicken breast, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and pesto that was vaguely reminiscent of a Caprese salad. And my Reuben was made with tasty corned beef, Gruyère, house-made Russian dressing and sauerkraut on a rye that was grilled to perfection.
I’m not sure whether my drastically different experiences were based on luckier menu picks on one visit, or a better cook in the kitchen. But given the quality on my second visit, I’m hopeful that the third time will be the charm.
Al’s Menu Picks
- Great American Sub ($8.50)
- grilled chicken breast
- panini ($8.50)
- and reuben ($8.50)
Great American Food
7790 S. Jones Blvd., 702-868-1448. Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner,10:30 a.m.–9 p.m. Lunch for two, $10–$25.