Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Great Sandwiches of the GTA #3 : The Original California Sandwiches

Here's one of my top ten sandwiches. I don't eat one very often - I don't think my constitution could take it. I usually have to have a nap afterwards. I suppose if one were a construction worker or a firefighter this puppy would stoke your engine for an afternoon of heavy work; but for a ceramic restorer it's a little bit much.

That being said, this sandwich rates high on both categories of my secret rating system. First, food of any sort - and it doesn't have to be spicy or very warm - will make my nose run if I ABSOLUTELY LOVE it. I don't know what that means - perhaps I am weeping at the beauty of it all. Secondly, if a food really turns me on, I really BOLT it down - I can't help myself - I snuffle the thing down so fast I almost gag...I barely have time to breathe. Not many foods do both of these things but this sandwich is right up there with childhood guilty pleasures like perogies and good shrimp fried rice.

Of course, there's always getting it sliced in half and sharing it with a friend - but somehow I always want the whole thing. There are signs in the sandwich shop asking that you notify them in advance if you wish to have it cut - but I was told by an old Italian sandwich expert that keeping it in one piece is a guarantee that you can manage to eat it with less of a mess. As you can see from the picture, they assumed I wanted it cut. The three guys ahead of me in line asked for a cut, and when the lady at the counter took one look at the little female customer, I think the deal was sealed.

Now, I'm talking about the original California Sandwiches in downtown Toronto at the corner of Claremont and Treford Place, in a maze of one way residential streets between College and Dundas, Bathurst and Ossington. Even finding the door is difficult. In the picture above it's hidden behind the pickup truck.

There's a bit of seating in the front but the main action is at the counter where the sandwiches are ordered and dealt out - usually for take out.

Parking is usually easy on the streets around and you'll know you're close to the right place when the percentage of vehicles turns to panel vans and trucks. Yesterday, a front-end loader pulled up behind me - the guy was getting his lunch.

And, it's all about the veal here - tons of freshly breaded and fried up veal that really tastes like VEAL in a couple of layers in a huge kaiser roll. The sauce is perfect, goopy and excessive - and I can sometimes be spotted in my MINI looking like a lion at the kill. If you ask for hot peppers, they really tend to add them - but not in a crazy abundance. There used to be a time when one ordered in a sort of verbal 'code', but the lady there drew a blank when I asked for a hot veal with grinders (maybe she's new).

All I can say is - "YIKES! That's a sandwich!". I'm not sure what the connection is with the fancy California Sandwich shops in the suburbs. I've tried them various times - but it's never the same as the true original. May it never change!

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