The humble sandwich is experiencing a moment. What has long been considered a grab-and-go fast food option for providing fuel for the body quickly and efficiently is slowly finding a new audience among food lovers. Perhaps this is an extension of the explosion of casual gourmet proliferated by food trucks and fast casual establishments, or maybe we're all just ready to fully appreciate the beauty of a really good sandwich.
Whatever the case, Mendocino Farms, a California chain that opened its first two non-California stores (Rice Village and Uptown Park) in Houston this year, has completely embraced the concept of the elevated sandwich. They even have a section of the menu called "Foodie Favorites."
Focusing heavily on locally sourced ingredients and unique flavor combinations, if you love sandwiches, you'll likely love Mendo (as fans call it). It shares a number of traits with Houston chain Local Foods including creative side dishes (like a spicy couscous and a romesco pasta salad) and some rather unique sandwich combinations.
A seasonal Cubano with jalapeño aioli and mojo de ajo sauce, a prosciutto and chicken sandwich with mozzarella and crushed honey almonds, and caramelized pork belly banh mí are among the really interesting menu options.
On my visit, I tried the "Not So Fried" Chicken, a roasted chicken sandwich with "Mendo's krispies," herb aioli, a slaw with a mustard and pickle base, tomatoes and pickled red onions. The interior of the sandwich looked like a messy chicken salad covered in coleslaw. The exterior was a wonderfully tender ciabatta roll. And it is served with a choice of a chipotle barbecue sauce or mustard pickle remoulade, neither of which were really necessary.
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The Mendo in the Village has the vibe of a Cali farmhouse, so I half expected the recipes would be something out of the famous Moosewood Cookbook: mostly delicious but loaded with kale. Fortunately, I was very wrong.
No doubt there is that California ethos evident in not just the decor but the strict adherence to as much locally-sourced ingredients as possible, but overly fussy and short on flavor this place is not. My sandwich choice was messy and tangy and crunchy and loaded with complex flavors from the pickled elements and bright mustard to the gently flavorful chicken and super crunchy "krispies," whatever the hell those wonderful little things are.
Because the menu is essentially just a bunch of sandwiches and salads, the sandwiches here are no afterthought. They are very carefully considered and raised to almost fine dining levels of quality. It's not a nice restaurant with a few interesting sandwiches. It's a sandwich place built specifically for aficionados of stuff in between slices of bread. And at around $12 per sandwich, you can afford to skip Subway for something of a much higher quality with flavor for days.
If you have a sandwich you think is one of the best in town, hit us up. We're always looking for new options.