Chew On It
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By Andrew Kochirka GoErie.com staff blogger
Food has been an integral part of Andrew's life from a young age; from cooking with his mother and grandmother to creating recipes in his own kitchen. Now he scours the area's non-chain restaurant scene to find the best of the best of local food from chicken wings to French cuisine.   Read more about this blog.
 Phone: 814-878-2230

Sandwiches

Places where the Beard ate Sandwiches
Posted: April 12th, 2011

This sandwich tour of Erie marks my one year anniversary and I am going to switch some things up a little.  The first change will be the cost.  I am going to try and spend no more than $20 for two people to eat out (not including tip).  That is saving only $3 a day for a meal out for two people.  The second change involves you.  My tours typically have been eight weeks long.  Now, the first seven weeks will be the normal restaurant visit. The eighth week, however, will involve you.  All you have to do is enter (starting next week) for a chance to come eat with me.  I typically eat on Monday nights so make sure you are available before you enter.  I will draw a name from the list of entries and contact the winner for the eighth week.  I am very excited about this chance to eat with some readers and I hope that you are as well.  Now, on to this week’s review.

Papa Joe’s has been one of my favorite places to get subs and sandwiches in Erie since I moved here in 2003.

I had an idea of what I wanted when we got there, but still wanted to look at the menu.  Amanda glanced through the menu at the counter as well.  I absolutely love the Winger sub, but I felt like I should mix it up from what I normally get.  I asked one of the employees what he recommended and which sandwiches were popular.  He told me that the Chuck Norris, which happens to be Amanda’s favorite, was probably their best seller.  He also recommended any of the deli subs and said that their pastrami was awesome.  Amanda went with the Chuck Norris with a side salad and I ordered the No Joke Pastrami with a cup of black bean soup.

The food came out in good time.  Both sandwiches looked delicious and I couldn’t wait to eat.  The No Joke Pastrami was a little on the funny side.  It was a pretty plain as far as pastrami sandwiches go.  The pastrami itself had really great flavor, but it was heated a little too long which made it tough.  The toppings on it also gave it more of a burger taste than a pastrami sandwich.  The mayo and yellow mustard could be replaced with a good thousand island or Russian dressing and it would really lose that burger feel.  It was a decent sandwich, but I don’t think I would order it again.

The Chuck Norris sub is always a winner.  I am not too sure why it is called the Chuck Norris, but it is delicious.  With a very Mediterranean feel, it is loaded with spinach, feta, tomato, mushrooms, mozzarella, black olives and turkey.  This sandwich has a huge depth of flavor.  Spinach and feta always go together and are especially delicious with all of these other ingredients melted together.  Black olives tend to be a little over powering, but they really blended well and came through with a subtle olive taste.  This is easily one of the best sandwiches on the menu.

My total bill for the two sandwiches, salad and cup of soup was $16.17 plus tip.  Papa Joe’s is a great easy way to have a good meal out at a good price.  You will see me back for more soon.

Until next time,

Andrew – Beard vs. Food

Papa Joe's Pepperoni Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Posted: April 19th, 2011

Busy with a pretty good-sized lunch crowd, I was surprised to be seated immediately at the Summer House Cafe.  Lunchtime didn’t start well seeing as how it was snowing on our walk inside.  Our server told us about the specials, none of which were sandwiches (but all still sounded amazing), and grabbed us some drinks. Every sandwich on the menu sounded appetizing to me; I knew this was going to be a tough decision.  When Amanda made her choice of the Hot Cuban, that eliminated one of my two finalist options.  Now I had the chance to try both of the sandwiches I wanted.  The server returned and Amanda ordered the Cuban and I went with the Bub’s Dread.

Amanda got a cup of Tuscan chicken soup which came out first.  Large chunks of tomatoes, onions, asparagus and chicken were in a Mediterranean chicken broth.  Though extremely hot, the flavors were delicious (once the burning stopped).  The sandwiches arrived next and both looked tasty.  The Bub’s Dread is hickory smoked turkey breast and corned beef topped with bleu cheese coleslaw & 1000 Island dressing.  All of this is served on a buttered and toasted hoagie roll and covered in melted Provolone cheese.   The sandwich drips with the combination of coleslaw and dressing, but it’s worth the mess.  The bleu cheese slaw has caraway seeds and that combined with the rye taste really adds a depth of flavor to the meat.  With a feel very similar to a Reuben, this sandwich is a winner in my book.

The Hot Cuban was also incredible.  Fresh roasted pork loin is topped with hard salami and Virginia ham on a rosemary focaccia roll.  A thick slice of Swiss cheese is melted on top with a few Kosher dill chips and whole grain Dijon mustard. Everything melts together in such a perfect way when it gets toasted.  The mustard and Swiss melted down through the meat and into the bread.  The rosemary focaccia was my favorite part.  It added just the right amount of herb flavor.  It was not as messy as the Bub’s Dread, but every bit as delicious, if not more so.

Though we just ordered water, our meal came in at $18.76 and made for a quick and affordable lunch.  Dinners are slightly higher priced, but a $20 meal is easily doable.  Thank you again to everyone at Summer House Cafe.  I always leave satisfied.

To enter for a chance to eat with me, send me an email with your name, address and telephone number to Akochirka@goerie.com.

Until next time,

Andrew – Beard vs. Food

The Summer House Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Posted: April 26th, 2011

The Vermont Tavern, previously known as Nelson’s Tavern,  is located at the corner of 11th Street and State Street.  The decor inside has gone through a minor redesign, but overall, it still feels the same.  Besides the two lone gentlemen drinking at the bar, Amanda and I were the only table there for dinner.  Our server, Lindsey, got us some drinks, told us about the specials and left us to the menu.  Only having four non-burger sandwiches, we didn’t have a lot to choose from.  The four sandwiches were a B.E.L.T., an Ox Roast sandwich, a Chicken Caprese sandwich and an Italian sausage grinder.  A reader recommended the chicken Caprese to me so I decided to go with that and Amanda, with a recommendation from Lindsey, ordered the B.E.L.T.

Since it was pretty empty, the service was quick.  Both sandwiches were large and the sides of fries were also huge.  My chicken Caprese sandwich was delicious.  A Kaiser roll was topped with a large grilled, seasoned chicken breast, thick fresh pesto, a halved, roasted Roma tomato and thick mozzarella cheese. Coming from someone who hates tomatoes, the Roma halves on this sandwich were perfect, so that’s saying something.  The pesto really added a great depth of flavor that was sealed in with cheese.  I would have liked this to be on roll with a little more body, but it was still really good.

Amanda’s B.E.L.T. wasn’t quite as good.  The description sounded like it had a ton of potential.  Hickory smoked bacon topped with mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato and a fried egg, all on thick-sliced Asiago bread.  Lindsey recommended this because she said that she liked the bread so much.  The first thing that Amanda noticed about the bread was not only was it not toasted, it was actually cold, as if it had been removed from the refrigerator only a little before the sandwich was made.  The amount of bread really took away from the taste of the sandwich.  Besides the bread sticking to our teeth and the roof of our mouths, the bread really lacked the Asiago taste, which is typically very distinctive.  The tomato on this sandwich was a little underripe and the mayo was nonexistent.  The bacon was easily the best thing on the sandwich, but when isn’t that the case with bacon?  With a better bread, (preferably toasted), and a little more mayo, this sandwich could be a winner.  For now, I think we will get our B.E.L.T. sandwiches from Tim Hortons.

For the two sandwiches and two waters, the total bill was just over $16 without tip. So, it’s definitely doable to pick items from their menu that will feed two people for under $20. We loved the food so much when Nelson’s first opened and unfortunately, the food we had this week under the Vermont Tavern just didn’t live up to what it used to be.

Thank you Lindsey for the great service.

Until next time,

Andrew – Beard vs. Food

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Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: May 3rd, 2011

After getting a suggestion to try the food at Bistro 26 and a quick look at the menu online, I was excited to eat some of their sandwiches.  Amanda and I headed up to 3557 West 26th St. around 6:15 Monday night.  There were a few tables, but it was far from crowded.  Some of them seemed to be regulars from the way the waitresses interacted with them. Just inside the door was the specials board with the daily lunch and dinner specials.  The lunch special was a smoked ham and havarti sandwich on a pretzel roll and the dinner special was beef skewers with a few sides.  Both sounded good.

We were seated at a table in the back and our server, Laurie, got us our drinks as we looked at the menu.  When she returned, she informed us of the dinner special and I also asked her for a few suggestions.  She told me she liked the turkey and Gouda  Panini, but she gets it without the garlic aioli.  I didn’t want to order a sandwich with a sauce that a server didn’t like herself.  The sandwich selection was a good size, but the Paninis sounded the best.  Amanda decided on the grilled chicken with feta and spinach and I ordered the grilled chicken with cheddar-jack and caramelized onion. We got both with a side of French fries.  While we were waiting for our meal, we noticed a person at the table behind us had ordered the lunch special for dinner.  Since I was only told the dinner special, I assumed the lunch special was not available.  I was a little disappointed.

Our food arrived and smelled fantastic.  My sandwich was a ciabatta roll with chipotle mayo, grilled chicken, caramelized onions,  Monterey  jack and cheddar cheese.  The mixture of the chipotle mayo, the creamy melted cheese and the onions was incredible.  It was a delicious flavor explosion.  I had one small problem with the sandwich.  For a $9 Panini, I would have liked some fresh grilled chicken.  Instead, they use pre-sliced, frozen, grilled chicken strips.  The grill marks were visibly not fresh and the cuts were too perfect.  The taste of the overall sandwich was there, but the quality of the chicken was not.

Amanda’s grilled chicken with feta and spinach Panini was very similar.  The overall taste was awesome.  The same ciabatta bread was used and it had seasoned chicken with fresh spinach, slices of tomato, crumbled feta and an olive spread.  The tapenade style olive spread was great and the bite from the feta really complimented the spinach.  Like mine, the chicken was the same frozen strips.  I would have much rather seen fresh, grilled chicken that would have added a lot more flavor to the sandwich.

The total for our two sandwiches was $19.06 without tip.  Though this is doable for under $20, I think the sandwiches we had, though delicious, were overpriced for the quality of the ingredients.  Thank you Laurie, for the quick and friendly service.

Don’t forget that I will be picking a reader to join me for a meal on my 8th week.  To enter for a chance to eat with me, send me an email with your name, address and telephone number toAkochirka@goerie.com.

Until next time,

Andrew – Beard vs. Food

 

Bistro 26 on Urbanspoon

Read more of Andrew's thoughts about Sandwiches
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Posted: May 10th, 2011

I want to remind everyone that I will be picking a reader to join me for a meal on my 8th week of trying sandwiches from local restaurants.  To enter for a chance to eat with me, all you have to do is send me an email with your name, address and telephone number to Akochirka@goerie.com.

The deli was crowded when Amanda and I arrived for lunch.  There were only two tables without patrons, one of which we chose.  Like the last time I visited Gerry’s 8th Street Deli for lunch, Lauren was our server.  This time however, she came to the table with a small cup of their homemade pickles.  That was a great way to start.  When I was choosing a soup, my decision was easy.  Selecting a sandwich was a different story.  The headline of “Erie’s Best Reuben” had me intrigued, but so did a few recommendations I received before visiting.  I really wanted to try the Winner and Still Chompion and when Lauren recommended it to me, it sealed the deal.  Amanda took it upon herself to test out the Reuben claim.

We expected a small wait due to how busy it was, but the food still came out in good time.  I saw Lauren carrying the two plates to the table and I’m sure my eyes got huge.  My sandwich was the largest deli sandwich I have seen outside of a New York City deli.  The woman at the table in front of me turned around and told me she wanted to watch me eat the entire thing (and that is just what I planned on doing).  The Winner and Still Chompion is easily stacked four inches high.  Thin sliced corned beef, baked ham and pastrami are layered with Swiss, Colby Jack and Havarti cheeses all topped with lettuce, tomato, coleslaw and the house secret dressing.  As you can see in the picture, this is no joke.  I thought the first bite was going to be tough, but I made it through.  With all of the different layers, the taste was awesome.  Some of the flavors of the different cheeses get lost, but it is delicious none the less.  The slaw with the house secret dressing really brought the whole sandwich home for me.  I would gladly eat this again.

Amanda’s Reuben was just as good, though not nearly as big.  The thin sliced corned beef is so good by itself and when combined with their fresh sauerkraut, Swiss and the secret dressing, it is incredible.  My sandwich was cold, but when the corned beef is toasted, it really lets the taste of the meat shine.  The creaminess of the melted cheese and the dressing soaks all the way through the kraut into the meat.  I want one right now.  I’m not sure if I can really rank my favorite Ruebens in town, but I do know this is in my top three.

Thank you again for the fantastic food and great service.  I can’t wait to come back and try the rest.

Until next time,

Andrew – Beard vs. Food

Gerry's 8th St. Deli on Urbanspoon

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Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: May 18th, 2011

I want to remind everyone that I will be picking a reader to join me for a meal on my 8th week of trying sandwiches from local restaurants.  To enter for a chance to eat with me, all you have to do is send me an email with your name, address and telephone number to Akochirka@goerie.com.

I have driven past Caribbean Sandwiches so many times and never really given a thought to stopping.  Monday was my chance.  Amanda and I headed in just around lunch time and we were the only two inside.  I didn’t really know what to expect walking through the door.  It is, in a way, like a Caribbean Subway.  There is a counter to order, you pick your bread, meat and toppings, you pay and find a seat.  I told the man working behind the counter that we had never eaten there before and asked him for some recommendations.  Instead of suggesting anything, he pretty much just read the signs in front of the six different meats aloud and told us which ones were spicy.  There wasn’t a daily lunch special posted on the board so we just assumed he didn’t have one for the day.  Everything seemed to be al a carte so Amanda and I each ordered a sandwich.  I went with the Orange Glazed Jerk Chicken on wheat and Amanda decided on the Sweet and Sour Pork on wheat.  I also got a spicy beef patty at the recommendation of a co-worker.  The drinks were also al a carte and expensive.  A bottle of water or a can of pop is $1.35 and the Caribbean sodas are $2.50.

Both sandwiches were simply meat, lettuce and mayonnaise on a wheat roll.  My Orange Glazed Jerk Chicken was good, though I thought for having such a great name that it would have a lot more flavor.  The orange taste was hard to pick up.  The overall taste was okay, but it was just on the plain side compared to what I was expecting.  Amanda’s Sweet and Sour Pork had more flavor, but overall was still bland.  Both meats had so much liquid on them that the wheat roll disintegrated.  My favorite part of the meal was the spicy beef patty.  I wanted to try one in coco bread, but they were out of them.  A beef patty is made a lot like a turnover, but instead of being sweet, it has a savory flavor.  The shell of the pastry reminded me of a pot pie.  The filling is a seasoned beef mixture very similar to a chili and not an actual patty like I was expecting.  The beef was very rich and I would have loved to eat a few more of them.

Overall, the price and the portion size do not make these sandwiches worth it for me.  For the two sandwiches, the beef patty and two bottles of water, it was just over $20 and I left still hungry.  If you are looking for a quick lunch, this is a place to consider.  We were in and out in just about 20 minutes.  Maybe it was an off day, maybe they were recovering from a busy weekend.  It was decent food, but I don’t know if I would come back to try it again.

Until next time,

Andrew – Beard vs. Food

 

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Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: May 24th, 2011

I had a great response to readers signing up to eat with me next week.  I wanted it to be as fair as possible, so with all the names in a hat, one of my coworkers selected Rick P. to join me.  I will let him know where we will be eating as soon as the voting this week is up.  Thank you to all of my readers and to those of you who entered.

In the middle of the 1300 block of State St. is Calamari’s Squid Row.  In business since 1995, this is one of the most popular bar/restaurant combos in town.  With the weather cooperating for a bit, Amanda and I took the opportunity to eat outside on the deck.  We grabbed a table and our server, Kim, gave us some menus and drinks. I have eaten at Calamari’s numerous times so I wanted to try something new.  I was trying to decide between the Filet Croissant and the Filet and Portabella wrap.  I asked Kim what she recommended and she told me the Filet Croissant.  She told me that some people have said the filet wrap gets a little too messy.  I really wanted the portabellas on the sandwich, though, so I had her put them on the croissant.  Amanda ordered the Chicken Cordon Bleu wrap which sounded awesome.

The food came out quick.  My Filet Croissant was four tenderloin medallions cooked to order (mine were medium rare) topped with portabella mushrooms and provolone cheese.  Together, everything was delicious.  The buttery and flaky croissant went perfect with the saltiness of the cheese and the juices from the steak.  The steak did seem to be missing something, though.  It seemed like there was no seasoning on the meat at all.  I added my own salt and pepper, but it still didn’t seem to be enough.  Steak sauce gave me the bite I was looking for and I think if I ordered it again, I would ask to maybe get a little char on the outside of the tenderloin.

Amanda’s wrap was awesome.  Thin sliced ham and Swiss cheese was wrapped around chicken tenders, lettuce, tomato and an incredible horseradish mustard sauce.  The crispness of the breading on the chicken combined with the horsey mustard sauce was so good.  The cheese melted perfectly with the ham and really let all of the flavors marry.  Even this wrap got a little messy with the sauces making the actual wrap a little soft, but it was still fantastic.

This meal only cost us $19.07 before tip.  The food and the service really made it worth it.  Thank you, Kim, for the recommendation and the great service.  I will be back for sure.

Until next time,

Andrew – Beard vs. Food

Calamari's Squid Row on Urbanspoon

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