How do you know a sandwich is going to be good? Look for Dr. Brown’s or Boylan Bottling Company sodas in the drink case. I’m serious. The presence of harder-to-find sodas shows the restaurateur cares. And diners who already love Eugene’s Sausage & Fries know that Jamie Ryder and Jason Hardy put a great deal of effort into serving high-quality food. At the end of August, the pair opened Ethel’s New York Deli in the original Eugene’s space, serving New York-style breakfast sandwiches (yep, there’s a bagel with lox) and a slew of lunchtime favorites stuffed between bread.
With diet black cherry Dr. Brown’s in hand, I knew I had no choice but to order the Reuben. The seeded rye that holds the overstuffed sandwich is crisp and buttery but retains its nutty caraway flavor. It’s overstuffed with pastrami, but an elastic layer of imported Swiss keeps the surprisingly lean meat in place, brine synthesizing with the zip of sauerkraut and a forgivingly light application of creamy Thousand Island dressing. It’s an unusually neat Reuben, but there’s nothing staid about the flavors. And it’s big enough to stop a diner short from destroying the whole thing in one sitting. Especially if they, like me, also order a Cubano.
The choice of a second sandwich was no easy feat. I’ve heard great things about the Italian at Ethel’s and I’m an easy mark when I see a French Dip on a menu. But the call of mojo-marinated pork was inescapable. It’s almost a given that the roasted pork on a Cubano will be a little dry. Not so at Ethel’s. The tangy, garlicky pig flesh melts with each bite, warm and juicy. It’s almost enough to make you forget the sweet, meaty ham, but don’t. It’s a great foil to the pickles and mustard, all held together with a layer of that same flavorful Swiss, on a crisp pressed Cuban roll.
In the end, I was right: High-quality sodas translated to superb sandwiches.// 15111 Washington St. #113, Haymarket
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