Monday, May 2, 2011
God bless the Antique Sandwich
I'm sure I'm not alone when I disclose that the older I get, the more I lament the shuttering of a favorite restaurant, the demolition of a deco brick building, the overall constant barrage of faster and faster change. Years slip by and the places that built memories become, one by one, memories themselves.
And that's why we pilgrimage to the Antique Sandwich.
Objectively, there is nothing really stand-out about the Sandwich. They do make everything from scratch, including the world's best egg salad, which I cannot stray from no matter how solid my resolve, and their doughy whole wheat bagels, which would send any east coast native out of the place screaming. The service is pretty slow and occasionally even brusque. The carpet is worn and more than a little grimy. And the giant toy bin is an excellent place to build up your kid's immune system.
But, the menu hasn't changed in 20 years. At least 20 years - that's how long I've been coming here. And neither has anything else. Nothing. Same big old oak tables, same dusty fair trade items for sale on the walls and in cases. Same collection of audio equipment waiting for Tuesday nights when Victory Music holds the open mic and broadcasts it live. Same creaky stairs that lead up, eventually, to the only bathrooms. I swear when the baker emerges from the back hallway she still wears the same apron I first glimpsed nearly 2 decades ago.
Same. All same. Walking into the darkened room, where a new generation of toddlers play over by that toy bin and their moms share one of the Sandwich's enormous slices of pie, where old men sit across a table from each other and read the morning paper, where your money goes into an actual cash register that clunks and the operator of said antique is forced to figure your change - walking in here is just exactly like coming home.
I've learned not to burst in here starving - that only leads to irritation - and if there's a line, I know the best course of action is to get to know the person in front of me b/c we'll be spending some time together. But, once we're settled in at one of those big round tables, sipping our lemon water and knowing that lunch, when it arrives, will be just like every other lunch we've ever had at the Sandwich, yummy and handmade, a settled calm descends. My shoulders relax just a little and my eyes drift over the wooden carvings and woven scarves, hand-made earrings from Central America and beaded bracelets from Africa. Muted conversation wafts all around me and I'm a little less interested in catching the next ferry.
And it doesn't hurt that they make a mean milkshake.