You can't miss All Star Sandwich Bar in its bright yellow glory, boldly announcing itself with bubbly fonts and fun colors on a corner of Inman Square near Christina's, East Coast Grill, and Bukowski's. An endeavor started by East Coast Grill's Chris Schlesinger several years ago, it has been owned by the Diamantopoulos brothers, Kosta and Johnny, for the last two years.
Due to my love affair with East Coast Grill (blog posts 1, 2, 3, 4), I've been meaning to try All Star ever since I heard it was opened by Schlesinger. Although he no longer owns it, his influences are still there: one of the featured sandwiches the other day proclaimed that it was "as seen at East Coast Grill," and the cornbread recipe is partly influenced by Schlesinger, to name just a couple remaining ties. The Diamantopoulos brothers have certainly added many of their own changes and improvements, though, and their hard work is evident as the place was bustling on a Thursday afternoon recently.
I was invited to come by for a small blogger gathering ("Sand-Tweet") by Chris Lyons (of Chris Lyons Communications). Also in attendance were some local blogger friends with whom I've previously dined: Richard Auffrey (The Passionate Foodie), who has recently earned a certification as a Sake Professional, Jacqueline Church (Leather District Gourmet), and Pam Aghababian (Cave Cibum). Christine Liu of Citysearch Boston and Dave Baldwin of Thrillist Boston also stopped by.
I'm kind of weird about sandwiches. I love bread, meat, and sauces in the A1/BBQ/Teriyaki class, but I'm not really into ketchup or mustard, and definitely not mayo, and I'm iffy about vegetables ruining the purity of my bread/meat combos. (I feel the same way about pizza. Bring on the pepperoni, but don't ruin it by adding healthy stuff. Blech.) So I end up having trouble finding sandwiches that I like. In general, I'll go for one meat and maybe one sauce, but no other toppings. Recently, though, I've branched out into basil, mozzarella, tomato, and pesto combos as well. Anyway, I perused the All Star menu carefully before accepting the invitation to make sure there'd actually be something I'd cheerfully eat.
Sure enough, right on top of the menu was Beef on Weck. What?!? I hadn't seen Beef on Weck since living in Rochester. It's not even all that common in Rochester, but it's huge in Buffalo, created around 1901 and feeding countless Buffalonians ever since. I was thrilled to see it on the menu! Beef on Weck consists of thinly sliced, rare, juicy roast beef on a kummelweck roll, which is like a bulkie roll but topped with coarse salt and caraway seeds. The sandwich is served with hot au jus, like a French dip. In other words, sodium overload...but so delicious. Most people will also top it with horseradish, but I opted out.
Based on my extensive sampling of Buffalo and Rochester's Beef on Weck, I can give All Star Sandwich Bar's version a pretty hearty thumbs up. I would have preferred a slightly squishier bun; this was a bit on the crispy side, scattering crumbs with every bite. Au jus aficionados might find this one a bit thin, but it tasted good to me. The beef was spot on, thin and rare and reminiscent of the sustenance during many a cold Western New York winter.
All that salt will make you ravenous for something refreshing. I tried out a glass of the house sangria, which was mild and fruity.
Kosta also brought over some fresh house-made cornbread for us to try. It was light and airy, almost like a pound cake, and it worked well as an end to the meal.
All Star Sandwich Bar has a bunch of sandwiches always on the menu as well as rotating specials. Look, I was the Monday feature :-P
A lot of care and creativity is put into these sandwiches, but despite this, many diners will understandably think twice before throwing down $9 for a sandwich, especially one that just comes with coleslaw and a pickle, but no chips or fries. I work in the Copley area, where there are plenty of expensive sandwich lunch options on and around Newbury, and even those fancy sandwiches top out at $7. Plus, All Star Sandwich Bar is a sit-down restaurant, so on top of the steep price, you'll also be tipping. At least for lunch hours, it might behoove the Diamantopoulos brothers to drop the prices a dollar or two. Fancy ingredients or not, sandwiches have a long history of being cheap, and that's tough to overcome.
Since this is the only Beef on Weck in town (to my knowledge), I'll likely be back. The atmosphere is fun and lively (although the music was rather loud), the ingredients are high quality, and there are so many specials, it'd be impossible to get bored with the menu.
Update 12/20/2010: According to this post by MC Slim JB, Bleacher Bar (at Fenway) also serves beef on weck. I'm going to have to check it out!
Full disclosure: My meal was free. Please see my About page for more info about my free food/product review policy.