The glory of a good sandwich: Flashlight & A Biscuit, No. 35
The right combo of meat, bread and cheese will take you a long way in this life.
Welcome to Flashlight & A Biscuit, my Southern storytelling/sports/culture/food offshoot of my work at Yahoo Sports. Thanks for reading, and if you’re new around here, why not subscribe? It’s free and all.
I measure out my life in sandwiches.
One of my first moves any time I arrive in a new locale — back when, you know, that was a possibility — is to locate the best sandwich joint in town and see if they deliver on their promise. I’ll start with the tourist-level joints — Portillo’s in Chicago*, Primanti’s in Pittsburgh, Biscuit Love in Nashville — and then try to ferret out the local secrets. (See if you can make it through three photos of this list of the 99 best sandwiches in America without drooling all over your phone.)
*-shoutout to my man Kevin Kaduk of Midway Minute for introducing me to this one.
I could (and probably should) start an entire newsletter just on sandwiches, but to start, here’s a non-exhaustive list of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had:
-The Friday-of-Thanksgiving leftover sandwich: toasted white bread, turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and a thin scrim of cranberry sauce. Best sandwich of the year, every year. It’s the perfect kickoff to the holiday season.
-The first pimento cheese sandwich of the first full week in April at Augusta National Golf Club. Self-explanatory. It’s the perfect kickoff to the spring.
-The first hot dog off the grill on the Fourth of July. Yes, a hot dog is a sandwich. I will fight you on this.
-The Hot Express, No Lettuce — ham, pepperoni, salami, melted provolone and red pepper — that I used to have at a place in Williamsburg, Virginia whose name I can’t even remember. The building has been demolished and remodeled twice now, so the Hot Express exists only in memory. It was a good sandwich. (Lettuce, my mortal enemy, still persists. It’s a war crime to put it on a sandwich and I will also fight you on this.)
-The roast beef-horseradish-Swiss-and-everything-bagel sandwich I had at some unknown Manhattan bodega after finishing the New York Marathon. I’ve never been more exhausted and drained in my life, and I inhaled this thing in three bites, standing on the sidewalk, still wearing my medal and wrapped in the aluminum foil that they put on your shoulders at the finish line to keep your body temperature from plummeting. Saying I saw God in a sandwich would be understating it.
(Interlude: Please leave a comment and name your best sandwiches below. Sandwich shop recommendations always welcome.)
These days, I get a sandwich a week from the local Publix grocery store. If you don’t know the legacy and reputation of Publix in the South, I get why this would raise an eyebrow, the same way people wonder how it is that some of the best barbecue, donuts and Mexican food in the South are sold out of gas stations. But roll with me on this.
My hometown of Atlanta is the site of a Forever War between Publix and Kroger. In Biblical terms, Publix is the responsible older son, and Kroger is the wayward prodigal one. Publix is bright and pleasant, but man, Kroger’s the one with character.
Hell, in Atlanta alone, there are multiple Krogers with their own named personality, including Murder Kroger (site of at least two fatal shootings and one corpse found in a dumpster), Disco Kroger (once the site of the old Limelight nightclub, a story for another time), Soviet Kroger (because the shelves are frequently bare), Cougar Kroger (the hunting grounds of a certain class of upscale Atlanta women), and Stinky Kroger (due to its location near a sewage treatment plant), to start. The groceries you get at Kroger might be expired, but they’ll come with a story.
Publix, on the other hand, is the dutiful child that makes its bed, the loyal friend that remembers your birthday, the warm and fuzzy blanket that’s always there waiting for you. (Publix has stories of its own, though; for instance, it’s the place where Jameis Winston “obtained” some crab legs back in 2014.) And its made-to-order sandwiches absolutely smoke Kroger’s. This is not an ad for Publix, though if I were a NASCAR driver, I’d happily wear a Publix firesuit.
The reliability of the Publix sandwiches is a damn delight. And every so often, they just get weird, like their annual Atlanta Falcons sub with chicken tenders, bacon, sriracha mayo and peach preserves. (Yes, this sandwich may induce choking. Yes, you get through three quarters of it and collapse. It’s still a solid sandwich.)
During NFL season, I’ll roll up to Publix about noon (pro tip: ALWAYS order ahead), grab a sandwich and some sides, and be back in time to fire up Red Zone. It’s a ritual as sacred and spiritual as church, and if I’ve learned nothing else in this last year, it’s that rituals are essential for keeping sane in a world that’s increasingly less so.
Anyway, like a good sandwich, this week’s column is going to end messily and abruptly. Be good, stay safe, and we’ll catch you back here next week. It’s time for a post-sandwich nap.
This has been issue #35 of Flashlight & A Biscuit. (RIP Knucksie.) Check out all the past issues right here. And if you dug this, share it with your friends. Invite others to the party, everybody’s welcome.