Top-notch sandwiches rarely have more than five ingredients. One of my all-time favorite sammies combines melt-in-your-mouth sliced tri-tip with barbecue sauce on a chewy French roll. The Italian grinders I love so much are just as straightforward: cold cuts, sliced cheese, tomato and lettuce stacked on a white loaf.
Flashy sandwiches seldom win me over. Yes, this means that fried eggs are usually shown the door—as are other trendy fixings that don't do much for me. A few high-quality ingredients and the right hunk of bread is all you really need.
Most of the sandwiches offered at Big Front Door (4135 Park Blvd. in University Heights) keep a fair distance from ingredient-overload. I like that. I also enjoy the overall feel of the place—high-ceilinged, streamlined and, yes, big-doored. The glass door lets in all the afternoon sun, making the eatery feel light and buoyant—basically the exact opposite of how you'll feel after downing one of the deli's hefty subs.
The baby-back-rib sandwich is a brick-size belly-filler. It was the menu item that immediately caught my attention, mainly because it seemed like the quintessential summer sarnie. Who doesn't hoard memories of summer's smoke-breathing grills and the charcoaly, juicy, barbecued meat that they'd provide? I certainly do. So, I ordered the baby-back-rib sandwich, and my grub buddy ordered the "Deep V."
Twice-wrapped, the baby-back-rib 'wich required some careful undressing. I first thought of tearing back the paper with each chomp, but I wanted to see and feel the bread, because, in my opinion, it's the most important element. In this case, the chubby torpedo roll was soft and chewy with just enough bounce. I love how it soaked up the house barbecue sauce and fit snugly around the chunks of tender pork. Crunchy slivers of cabbage added harmonizing plinks of acidity to the rich, savory sandwich while oven-roasted onions packed a silky sweetness.
My friend's "Deep V," though not as solid, was still pretty good. The vegetarian sammie offered a tart stack of smoked potato, lettuce, tomato, red onion and pea sprouts between two avocado-whip-slathered slices of whole-grain bread. Chip-thin and crisp, the smoked potato was a sad bacon wannabe that tasted neither like spuds nor like the salty pork product. Too distracted by my oozy, meat-packed sandwich, I took a few bites of the hard-to-eat Deep V before resuming with my lunch.
Big Front Door has one big wooden table. If you shy away from communal-style dining because you're a terrible conversation starter or just antisocial, there are also outdoor tables where you can feast solo. Other than sammies, the hangout offers sides like pesto orzo and red-curry quinoa, as well as several promising salads. Sweet-toothers will be happy to find a display case filled with baked goodies.
When it comes to solid sandwiches, BFD's flavorful baby-back-rib offering is further proof that less is more. Next time, though, I'll be going for "The Natural." What's that, you ask? Beef, jus and a torpedo roll. In other words, pretty close to sammie perfection, if you ask me.