Cravings Cafe is located on Front Street between Gay and Long Streets, in a space that used to be occupied by the legendary Saigon Palace. The physical space has been renovated inside and out, and now features an airy, exposed brick ambiance that it looks nothing like the old SP — which is a good thing in my book — and the food is nothing like that served by the former occupant of the space, either. Cravings offers breakfast and lunch menus, with the lunch options being heavily weighted toward sandwiches. There are daily specials, too, which suggests to me that the people running the place are both creative and serious about their craft.
In fact, Dr. Science and I both had the special on Monday, which was a grilled cheese sandwich. This wasn’t the kind of grilled cheese that Mom used to make with Wonder bread and Kraft American cheese squares, though. The Cravings version had at least four different kinds of cheese and a delectable bacon jam, and was served on hot, crunchy bread. Dr. Science dipped his in hot sauce, while I speedily polished mine off au naturel. Either way, it was excellent, and Cravings’ other, everyday menu sandwiches look pretty good, too.
Cravings Cafe is only a few blocks from my office, in an area of downtown that hasn’t really been known for food. I’ll gladly welcome a top-notch sandwich place to the ‘hood anytime.
I like a good sandwich at lunch. These days, however, it is getting increasingly difficult to find a true sandwich — that is, something tasty placed between two pieces of some kind of bread that you can pick up in your hand and eat without too much muss or fuss.
There’s no problem with the tasty part, that’s for sure. Take this delightful double cheeseburger I got today from deNovo Bistro and Bar, one of the many good restaurants on High Street in the downtown area. It was very savory, indeed, with its medium rare beef, sliced onion, and melted cheese and sauce. The dusted fries were excellent, too.
No, it’s the pick up in your hand without muss or fuss part that has become the problem. The amount of food being put between the bread slices — and especially the heapings of melty, saucy concoctions that make your mouth burst with flavor — just make it impossible for you to take a bite out of a handheld sandwich. If you try, you’re going to end up with food falling to the plate and onto your lap, hands that are covered with goo, and a paper napkin that is soaked and probably ripped to shreds, besides. Unless you want to look like a slob and run the embarrassing risk of stray dogs racing over to lick your fingers clean you need to recognize reality and use the civilized utensils to slice up and wolf down these gooey, overflowing masterpieces.
So call it the emerging era of the knife-and-fork sandwich. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, just . . . different. If the Earl of Sandwich could eat some of these creative approaches to his namesake, I honestly don’t think he would mind.
Most vanity plates seem like a waste of money to me. If you’re going to use your vanity plate to make a public declaration about your support for the Greatest Sandwich Ever Conceived, however, I can definitely understand that — especially now, when my effort to avoid carbs means that the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich is like the forbidden fruit. But a man can dream, can’t he? I’ll take mine with crunchy peanut butter and strawberry jam and cut diagonally, thank you very much.
Tonight when I drove home I was thinking of the perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I’m not sure why, but as I was crossing Long Street on my way to the parking garage the thought of the perfect PB & J insinuated itself into my head and there it has stayed, firmly lodged at the forefront of my consciousness.
The perfect PB & J
What is the perfect PB and J? My definition has changed over time. When I was 12 I would have argued vigorously that the perfect PB & J was made with Wonder Bread, plain peanut butter, and grape jelly. When Mom packed my lunch for school that combination was my sandwich of choice. The concoction was prepared, cut horizontally, and put into a Glad bag, and by the time I ate it during lunch period the grape jelly had thoroughly seeped into the Wonder Bread, infusing every pore and leaving it a purple, wet, spongy slice of grape-y goodness that squished out jelly when when you bit down on it. Wash it down with a pint of whole milk that cost 2 cents and top it off with a Twinkie and you had the perfect school meal.
Now I have a different view, although I wouldn’t turn my nose up at a chance to eat another of Mom’s grape specials once more. These days my preferred PB & J is made with a heavy grain wheat bread, toasted so as to better ensure even spreading of crunchy peanut butter and strawberry preserves. This sandwich is a sweet and tasty masterpiece of different textures, combining the crunchy toasted bread, chopped peanuts, gummy peanut butter, and occasional globs of jam with those tiny strawberry seeds. The coarse wheat bread is needed to stand up to the crunchy peanut butter, which would tear ordinary white bread to shreds during the spreading process. And, for the middle-aged guy, wheat bread and strawberry preserves at least seem healthier than bleached white bread and sugary, processed grape jelly.