Bagel & Egg Sandwich

Bagel & Egg Sandwich at Bagel Cafe
You're not going to find this exact sandwich anywhere on The Bagel Cafe's menu. It was invented one morning out of necessity -- the perfect union of bacon, fried egg and cheese, all combined in order to sooth the wicked beast known as the raging hangover.

From its carby base up, this sandwich delivers. The bagels are oversized, chewy and flavorful, and I've yet to come across a flavor that doesn't complement the overall sandwich. (No surprises there -- the bagels better be good, considering the place is named for them.) The sandwich is one of the cafe's egg and bagel offerings, and I usually order mine with one egg fried over easy, then add bacon, cheese and tomato. The waitresses rattle off at least five available kinds of cheese, but I generally stick with cheddar. The bacon and tomato are essential as the bacon grease absorbs lingering queasiness and the tomato sneaks a little extra hydrating water content into the sandwich. Plus, the whole damn thing just tastes good together. Really, really good.

The only way this thing would be better is if it could be ordered with a bloody mary on the side.


The Meatball Sinatra

The Meatball Sinatra at Eddie D's Famous Italian Sandwiches
This sandwich is not exactly on the menu at Eddie D's. Among the add-ons available here is broccoli rabe, a vegetarian condiment of Italian broccoli rabe or rapini mixed with garlic and hot peppers. On the menu at the deli, it was described as "Sinatra-style." So I ordered a homemade meatball sandwich with the rabe. I was told no one had ever ordered that before (not surprising considering this shop is less than a year old) and that if it was good, they would add it to the specials' chalkboard and name it after me.

It is fucking good, and naming a sandwich after me would pretty much be the culmination of a lifelong dream. I suggest it be called the Brock Sinatra.

Eddie D's meatball sandwich is killer without the extras. The velvety meatballs are constructed of a beef and pork mixture, well seasoned and among the very best meatballs I've ever tasted. Combined with homemade marinara gravy and topped with parmigiano cheese on a hard Italian roll, I doubt there's a better meatball sandwich in Vegas. Adding the rabe takes it to another level. The bitterness of the greens, the heat of the fried peppers and a touch of garlic contrast pretty wildly with the decadence in each meaty mouthful. It's crazy. I'm happy to take credit for it, but I think the folks at Eddie D's deserve the accolades. Highly recommended.

Turkey, Bacon & Cheddar Grilled Sandwich

Turkey, Bacon & Cheddar Grilled Sandwich at Jack in the Box
Jack in the Box describes this new creation as "roasted turkey, bacon and cheddar cheese with a sun-dried tomato sauce on grilled artisan bread." It's not bad for fast food, but there is no trace of this phantom sun-dried tomato sauce and the bread seems more simple than "artisan." The bacon is crispy enough, the cheese appears to be real and although it looks like a compact sandwich with a tiny portion of turkey, it has a nice satisfying bite to it. It doesn't look, taste or feel like a fast-food product; it's exactly the kind of grilled cheese you'd make at home if you happen to have some turkey and bacon to add on. The biggest drawback, impossible to overlook, is the greasiness. Of course, you always a bit of that with a grilled sandwich and it's not a bad thing, but this thing goes above and beyond with its grease factor. Multiple napkins are not enough.


The Popeye

The Popeye at Shari's Diner
Shari's Diner is a total throwback, a '50s-style joint complete with milkshakes and meatloaf. I would argue flame-broiled burgers are what they do best, and they get pretty creative. The Popeye Burger is one of these innovations.

Piled on top of a very well executed half-pound patty on a shiny, almost eggy bun resides a generous portion of creamy feta cheese, two long, crispy strips of bacon and a neat pile of fresh spinach. It sounds and tastes delicious, especially the mixing of the feta and the pure beefy flavor. But what sets this burger apart is a sweet, tangy lemon zest dressing. Shari herself said this thing is supposed to be a spinach salad on a burger, and the dressing reinforces that idea. Surprisingly, the beef, cheese, salty bacon and bitter spinach are further enhanced by this almost candy-sweet dressing. Doesn't sound like it would work out, but it does.

The Johnny Sack

The Johnny Sack at Eddie D's Famous Italian Sandwiches
Eddie D's is a new Italian deli in northwest Las Vegas, operated by a family of East Coasters with South Philly/Jersey roots. They decided to open a joint with the familiar tastes of back home, something they just couldn't find here in the desert. Several sandwiches later, this is my favorite shop in the city right now. The menu combines high quality product from the well-known, reliable Thumann's company with some fresh, homemade hot stuff like meatballs and 10-hour roasted pork and beef.

The Johnny Sack was my first experiment at Eddie D's. The menu has an entire section of "signature" sandwiches named after characters from The Sopranos. The Johnny Sack has hot capacola, prosciutto and very, very sharp provolone cheese, with standard fixings of oil and vinegar dressing, lettuce, tomato and onion. The meat is of the highest quality, particulary the buttery prosciutto, and the cheese, delivered in thick chunks instead of thin slices, is a unique treat. It packs the flavor of a dry parmesan with extra moisture. Eddie's prefers to serve its sandwiches on hard rolls like this one, but you can get your pick on a softer roll or on white, rye or wheat bread. This roll is perfect, with a crackling outside and chewy inside.

This is just the beginning of our exploration of Eddie D's.


Two-Fisted BLTA

Two-Fisted BLTA at First Food & Bar
First Food & Bar is a fun place to eat. It is one of several Las Vegas Strip restaurants offering a tasty, somewhat upscale twist on traditional bar food, and the chef behind First (Sam DeMarco) is often credited with starting this movement and inventing items like the slider, or mini-burger.

So while there are tons of delicious appetizers and exciting small plates to be sampled here, the sandwiches could use some work. Case in point, this behemoth of a BLT. It is stacked, and I mean stacked, with thick, crispy bacon, great slabs of tomatoes, avocado slices and big crispy onion rings to boot. The bread is two large, dry slices of toast. It's big and it's pretty, but there is little to no taste going on here, and the size is what fucks everything up. Not only is it cumbersome and difficult to eat, but every ingredient seems oversized so if you do manage to cram it into your face, you won't get a bite with a bit of everything. This sandwich is simply too much of a good thing.


Spicy Chicken Sandwich

Spicy Chicken Sandwich at Wendy's
Back in high school, we used to race to the nearest fast food joint that wasn't McDonald's, Wendy's, in order to devour some junk and get back to campus in 30 minutes flat. It wasn't easy. Since I never have been a fan of the greasy fried squareburgers this pigtailed witch is serving up, I sought out different menu options. The spicy chicken sandwich was a treasure, relatively speaking. The spice on this breaded, fried chicken breast is actually decent, with a little flavor and enough heat. We discovered that dousing it with barbecue sauce only improved it. As long as you don't get a rotten tomato slice, aged mayo or brown lettuce (and let's face it, the odds of self-poisoning are pretty high here), this is a respectable fast-food sandwich. If only Wendy's could upgrade its bun and veggies, maybe this thing would be more ... edible.

PCH Chili Dog

PCH Chili Dog at Pacific Coast Hot Dog
Pacific Coast Highway in Huntington Beach
Don't try to tell me a hot dog isn't a sandwich. It's meat or some other tasty bit in bread, people. A dog might be the most simple sandwich you can get. And this one is a simple pleasure: a steamed frank with a nice snap with each bite, a soft bun, mustard, onions, and plenty of grated Cheddar mounted on a surprisingly delicious, cumin-blasted chili. It was an outstanding breakfast, and the perfect complement to a sunny day on a pristine, picture-perfect California beach. Go here and eat this.

Cuban Sandwich with Tomato Jam

Cuban Sandwich with Tomato Jam
The recipe/inspiration for this nontraditional Cuban came from Food and Wine magazine. It isn't pressed flat, which strays from tradition, but that's just the beginning.

We started with some fresh, soft bolillos. Instead of a grilled piece of pork and a slice of ham, there is roasted pork, tender, moist and shredded into meaty chunks. The pork was about a 6-pound boneless shoulder cooked simply for about four hours with minimal seasoning. On top of the meat, melted Gruyere, long thin pickle slices, sauteed red onions, pickled jalapenos, and the ingredient that really stole the show. The tomato jam was made from canned roasted tomatoes, white wine vinegar, a little sugar, mustard seed, cinnamon, salt and a little ground clove. Not overly sweet, it simmered long enough to create a rich tomato flavor. This sandwich could have been just pork, cheese and jam and been amazing. But the added texture and layers of flavor from the onions, pickles, jalapenos and a quick wipe of garlic mustard shot this bitch into the stratosphere.


Naked Sandwich

Naked Sandwich (with roast beef) at Naked City
Naked City is a new sandwich shop in downtown Las Vegas and something sorely needed in this town: neighborhood joints operated by people who put their menu together with lots of love. With the exception of the bread, everything served is made on site from scratch. These East Coast guys roast their own tri-tip, turkey and honey ham, mix their own mayo, mustard and salad dressings, and even make their own pickles (which are spicy and delicious). The simple, minimalist menu really has three sandwich options (Naked, Naked Royal with mild Italian sausage, capicola and fresh mozzarella, and Naked Veggie) to which you can add your choice of toppings.

For my first visit, I decided to go basic with roast beef, but the flavorful extras really put this one over the top. This has roasted but still deliciously rare tri-tip with lettuce, tomato, green chili mustard and horseradish on a Kimmelweck roll. The salt on the roll added an extra savory kick, but the roll itself was a bit dry. This was the only real drawback for this sandwich. The beef was lean and reminded me of the many mornings I've eaten a cold steak leftover from a ridiculously expensive dinner the night before: very beefy flavor. The mustard kept things moist and the horseradish cut deep, the perfect complement in every meaty bite. As much as I admire the short menu at Naked City -- it's pretty close to a deli-style restaurant concept I've been thinking about -- I kinda wish there were more options. The first taste hints at great potential.

Big Mac

Big Mac at McDonald's
Although I am weak and occasionally give in to fast food urges, I loathe McDonald's and consider it an entirely evil entity. Whenever I hear or tell stories about eating McDonald's, they always revolve around extreme circumstances or limited availability of actual food, as in "I was in the middle of nowhere and there was nothing to eat but fucking McDonald's." If that's my situation, I will almost always go the royale with cheese route. But for our purposes here at MZ, it seems only proper that we address one of the most consumed and iconic sandwiches in America, for better or for worse. To truly discover and savor exceptional sandwiches, we must absorb what is considered average and commonplace. And so, the Big Mac.

Ignoring the taste, the structure of this sandwich is excessive, and problematic, and excessively problematic. There is an extra bun in the middle, which is unfortunate because neither of the other buns contribute any taste. The lettuce is shredded iceberg, and the pickles, one of the predominant flavors, are less than firm. So your three textural contrasts are pretty much shit. The melted American "cheese," pickles and special sauce -- the latter more mayonnaisish than Thousand Islandy -- combine to form a new, unholy flavor that defies description. Let's call it "Big Mac." It is strong, tangy, gooey and sweet, and it overpowers any beefy flavor that might sneak out of one of these thin, rubbery meat patties. It even out-funks the diced white onion shards.

The only thing more preposterous than the popularity of the Big Mac is the creation of the Big Mack Snack Wrap, the same ingredients rolled up in some wicked fabrication of a tortilla. Don't worry, I'm not going to try it. Hopefully it was a limited time item that will disappear.