At the new, improved Goodwich, our pair of critics can taste the kitchen's commitment By John Curtas and Greg Thilmont
The much-adored Goodwich gourmet sandwich shop began in a small kiosk outside of Dino’s bar Downtown. It recently opened a permanent location at Las Vegas Boulevard and Hoover, on the first floor of Soho Lofts, where we find our critics on the patio, ready to boogie.
JC: They’re piping in Janet Jackson music, which I assume makes you happy.
GT: No, this is Stevie Wonder, man.
JC: There was Janet Jackson. I saw your foot tapping to that.
GT: Well, I’m from that time. So this place is brand-new, opened up in May. You work Downtown; have you been here a lot?
JC: This is my fifth time.
GT: Within a month. So that’s a pretty good sandwich endorsement.
JC: I am about three-quarters of the way through their sandwich menu. Haven’t had a clinker yet, not one.
GT: That’s fantastic. So today, we have a little array here. We’ve got our sandwiches here on these nice campfire tin plates. Gives it a kind of rustic look. Let’s talk about the sandwiches. What do you have in front of you?
JC: This is called The Patty. It’s basically a takeoff on a patty melt, with smoked Gouda cheese. Not a really tightly formed patty — it’s almost like ground beef pressed into the sandwich, and the smoked Gouda melts into it. It’s a fabulous sandwich.
GT: I just tasted mine.
JC: It’s an “umami bomb,” is that what you said?
GT: Yes, I’ve used that word again, but it’s packed with umami — that’s the fifth flavor, right? And it’s just got that. The beef is fantastic, the smoky flavor …
JC: It’s so balanced. And they’re using good bread. It’s got some substantial crunch to it; there’s a beautiful crust on all the bread they serve.
In which the phrase hot brown is used repeatedly
GT: I’ve got what they call the Cold Brown. I guess it’s their riff on the classic hot-brown sandwich. You’re from hot-brown sandwich country. For people who don’t know what this classic sandwich is, what’s its original form?
JC: Hot brown comes from the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky. It’s basically like an open-faced turkey casserole sandwich. It usually has thick slices of white toast, slices of turkey, then they pour on fresh Mornay, which is a classic béchamel cheese sauce, then they garnish it with strips of bacon or country ham. It’s really like a hot, bubbling casserole of a sandwich. They’re doing it as a cold sandwich here.
GT: Yeah, it’s not hot at all. It’s in the family of a club sandwich.
JC: I’ve said it before, it’s like a club sandwich with a higher education.
GT: I think that’s the aioli, that’s the diploma. But it’s great. They're all over America, but a good club sandwich is still a fantastic thing.
JC: I love club sandwiches, but as an older guy who’s watching his waistline, that extra piece of bread in the club sandwich throws me sometimes.
GT: Yeah. This is just one layer of sandwich.
JC: For an upscale riff on a club sandwich, this is pretty substantial.
There’s more to this place than sandwiches
JC: The fact that they make their own pickles — a sandwich shop making its own pickles is something that would have been unheard of even 10 years ago, anywhere in America.
GT: I love pickles. Pickles are so good for you, too.
Speaking of vegetables
JC: You say this is the best sandwich here.
GT: It’s the simplest, and it’s in season — it’s their tomato sandwich.
JC: Generally with food, the simplest is the best.
GT: The tomato sandwich, it’s a Southern thing. But I think we’ve given it a Hebraic hint here, with the marbled rye. I love marbled rye, and it’s got the tomatoes, and there’s some aioli in there, so there’s some garlic instead of just the mayonnaise. And look at that orange tomato!
JC: They’re getting very good produce. I think what sets a place like this apart from so many predecessors is they’re using such good groceries. It’s so easy to make a bad sandwich. It’s like Italian food. You can always make a passable version of Italian food, no matter how crappy your ingredients and how indifferent the cooking, because you’re just throwing sauce and cheese on pasta, and somebody will eat it. But to make it sing, you’ve got to pay attention to the details. And what they’re doing here is paying attention to all the details. You can see it, you can taste it.
GT: It’s really good. I’d ask for a little less aioli, that’s the only thing — like, too much of a good thing. I like a light condiment, though.
JC: I don’t like using condiments at all, especially after dark.
GT: Exactly. But when you’re on Las Vegas Boulevard, always use your condiment.
What’s it all mean?
GT: A sandwich is not something that gets you too excited as an epicure. So why these?
JC: They have some passion behind them. They have a chef’s mentality, a commitment to making it better behind everything. You taste if from the first bite — when you have something even as simple as a sandwich, and you can see and taste that someone’s trying to make it excellent. It's not some guy slapping things on some bread, just doing “close enough is good enough.” These guys have thought it through. They’ve got the balance here: the bread, the way the ingredients marry to one another, the way they look, the way they taste. It’s the whole enchilada here. And that’s why even a snob like me will go, “Yeah, I’ll go have that sandwich,” because I can taste the commitment in the kitchen.
GT: I would say, in closing, them’s good eatin’!