Earl’s Gourmet Grub Gives Me the Chinese Chicken Salad Sandwich I Never Knew I Wanted
If you like gourmet sandwiches, the west side is the place to be these days. Popular Downtown staple Mendocino Farms opened in Marina del Rey last month, Skratch has become Choppe Choppe in Downtown Culver City, and now- filling the hole in between- Earl’s Gourmet Grub has opened in Mar Vista, on Venice. If you live in the area you may already be familiar with Earl’s. They’ve been selling their gourmet sandwiches at the Mar Vista Farmer’s Market, preparing for the opening of their brick and mortar storefront- which finally happened last week.
Some of the sandwiches look good in that healthy, has vegetables, marinted not fried, safe for L.A. kind of way (I’m looking at you heartichoke) but I look for something a bit meatier in my sandwiches. Also, paying $9+ for a sandwich is not my idea of good deal, but I can be persuaded by interesting combos, quality ingredients, and cutesy names involving two of my favorite foods (hello “pig n fig”!) So yesterday, I headed over to try some of their less healthy sounding sandwiches and see for myself whether this was a worthwhile “Midtown Lunch’ish” option or one of those new places that sound good on paper, but ends up not being worth the $$.
Those of you who became hooked on Earl’s at the Mar Vista farmer’s market might be a bit disappointed. If you expected a quaint, homey, farmers market’esque shop you’ll be surprised by how slick the place is (“clean” is the horrible buzz word that comes to mind.) And somebody has to pay for that fancy design, so, naturally, that sandwich you enjoyed for $6 or $7 while standing on Grand View two weekends ago, is now $9.25. In other words… that’s how they getcha! Of course you get what you pay for, and all will be forgiven if the sandwiches are amazing.
The best turkey sandwich in the world won’t get me excited (unless it’s topped with stuffing and cranberry sauce) but salumi + fig + cheese gets me every time. Earl’s “fig hash” is more interesting then just sliced figs, and provides the sweetness that I love in a salty (procuitto di parma), funky (Verde Capra-Blue Cheese) sandwich like this. But the real star of this one might be the bread- a tasty sliced rye studded with nuts. A few minutes in the panini press, and voila- sandwich awesomeness. It’s a bit small to be totally worth $9.25, but I can’t be mad at this sandwich. It’s too tasty.
I am a sucker for anything labeled po’boy, and considering that Zapp’s potato chips line the wall, I couldn’t resist trying the “Who Dat Crab Po’Boy” (‘sucker’ being the key word.) I know it’s tough to get a real po’boy outside of the crescent city, and this is clearly a gourmet take (snow crab w/ melted parsley butter and cajun mayo?) but it was way too small for me (half the size of a regular po’boy) and the baguette wasn’t as good as it could be- especially compared to the breadtastic pig n fig. I did like that it came with a little bit of Zapp’s on the side (spicy cajun crawtaters if I’m not mistaken?) and the crab salad was admittedly tasty. In other words, if you like snow crab, and enjoy a good creamy, crab salad this is going to be one of the better crab salad sandwiches you can get for under $10. If you’re being taken in by the word po’boy, you’ll probably be disappointed.
If you read my write up of the Grill em All truck you might be aware of my obsession for meat + bacon (i.e. more meat) + maple syrup. (It’s the whole sweet and salty thing again.) So I also convinced my lunch-mates to try the “Rosemary Maple Chicken”, shreds of rosemary chicken, with bacon, maple mayo, and a parsley onion hash on foccacia ($9.25). The flavor between the slices was good, and the meat was super tender- but the bread to filling ratio was waaaaay off on this one. The foccacia dominated, and it wasn’t that great (not oily enough?)- a double whammy.
Save the best for last… I’m not into salads, but I love “Chinese” crunchy things- so if I was going to acknowledge the existence of a salad it would have to be the Chinese chicken salad. Earl’s has one of those (along with most every lunch spot in the city) but they save me the trouble of even considering it by offering said salad in sandwich form! Meet, the Choppy Joe ($9.75)- rice cooked ginger chicken with bean sprouts, celery, peanut & black strap molasses gravy, and One Ton Chips- or as I like to call them, Chinese crunchy thingees. In other words, a warm Chinese chicken salad on a bun. It was crunchy and it was a mess, and we all loved it. The only complaint I personally could make is that there wasn’t enough of the sweet element in the sandwich (the second most important thing about a Chinese chicken salad after the crunchy things.) If it was a tad bit sweeter, it would have been sandwich perfection. In its current form, it will just have to settle for “best thing at Earl’s”.
The sandwiches are already on the smallish side, but they also have a meatball sub on a petite baguette for only $5.75! Sadly they didn’t have it yesterday, so I guess I will have to return. Hopefully whoever I go with will be willing to order the Choppy Joe and share.
THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- When it comes to sandwiches I like quality over quantity
- I work right near there, so I’m so sick of Santouka! This will be a nice change of pace.
- Chinese chicken salad in sandwich form? What could be better?
- I love Zapp’s potato chips, and I like how they give you some chips with every sandwich
- I could eat any sandwich served on that “3 season bread”
- The cookies look goooooood
THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- $9.25 for a smallish sandwich? I don’t think so.
- The place is way to hip looking for its own good. Didn’t Earl’s start at a farmer’s market?
- Some of the bread is not that great
- There’s no place to sit (yet). You’ve got to take it to go, or stand in the front
- That’s not like any po’boy I’ve ever had.
- The choppy joe could use a bit of sweetness
- Did I mention it’s really expensive?
- The Curious Palate is a few blocks away and is kind of better
Earl’s Gourmet Grub, 12226 Venice Boulevard (at Grand View), 310-313-1717