Once I made it to my D.C. hotel, I embarked on an exhausting day of sightseeing — really the only day I had to play tourist. After a nearly-sleepless night, a ridiculously early flight, and a big breakfast at Ben’s Chili Bowl at the airport, I walked from my hotel down to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, then went to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, and then all the way down the National Mall to take a tour of the awe-inspiring Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress. Any one of those landmarks could easily take a day or more to fully appreciate, but I realized my time was limited in D.C., and I wanted to see and do everything I could. It ended up being a great day, full of education and inspiration, but also a long and exhausting one. I walked much more than I’m used to — in uncomfortable dress shoes, no less — through oppressive heat and humidity on par with ours in Florida. All those countless hours on the elliptical machine in my nice, air-conditioned gym didn’t prepare me for that.
So when I finally made it back to my hotel room, I did the usual — make it dark, make it icy-cold, and make fists with my toes in the carpet. After a lot of water and Gatorade, I was ready for some dinner — something simple, within walking distance, that I could eat alone, to decompress and chill out before all the heavy-duty socializing of the next few days. I found the perfect place about a half-mile walk from my hotel: SUNdeVICH (http://sundevich.com/).
A casual sandwich shop built into an old garage, SUNdeVICH has international flair, with sandwiches taking their namesakes from major international cities. The menu is large and eclectic, with a little something for everyone, no matter what mood you’re in, including if you’re dehydrated and exhausted.
As usual, I had a hard time deciding, with all the options before me. But thinking ahead to how busy I was about to be the following day, I decided to order two sandwiches, try them both tonight, and have plenty left for tomorrow, when I’d have conferencey stuff going on and couldn’t sneak off to eat anywhere good. Did I want the Rome (an Italian sandwich with my beloved cured meats)? The Berlin (a bratwurst with sauerkraut and mustard)? The Havana (a Cuban sandwich)? The Memphis (barbecue chicken)? The Seoul (bulgogi beef with kimchi and Asian slaw)? All sound good and any would have satisfied, but this was my one chance to get a little weird at SUNdeVICH.
I chose the Istanbul ($13), with ground beef and lamb, sumac onions, tomato, tzatziki, and fresh herbs, and the Shiraz ($12), with beef tongue, pickled vegetables, and mustard. All things a Saboscrivner loves! I also ordered a side of the intriguing Russian salad ($5), with chicken, potato, egg, peas, gherkins, carrots, and mayo.
This was back in the comfort of my room, with dinner, lunch for the next day, and not nearly enough Gatorade, after all that walking. The Russian salad came with a huge bag of baguette ends for spreading and/or dipping. They were very generous with these, and while I would have made them into garlic toast or croutons had I been home, there was just no way I could eat all that bread, on top of the nicer, fresher baguettes my two sandwiches came on.
This was the Istanbul (not Constantinople, NEVER Constantinople!) The beef and lamb was made into a chargrilled patty, similar to the kofte I make at home — the consistency of a dense burger or slice of meatloaf. Everything was seasoned very well, the tzatziki did a good job cooling the primary flavors of salt, garlic, and onion, and did I mention how fresh the bread was? Well, it was.
And this was the Shiraz. I love beef tongue, whether it’s pickled like corned beef at a Jewish deli or slow-braised in a lengua taco. This preparation wasn’t exactly like either, but the slices were still very tender. The pickled vegetables were cauliflower, celery, and carrot, like a finely-chopped giardinera salad, and the mustard was whole-grain variety, with crunchy little round seeds. It was an interesting combination I never would have come up with on my own, but I’m glad I chose it.
And the Russian salad? Sorry I don’t have a close-up, but imagine a mayo-based chicken/potato/egg salad hybrid with peas, and you’ll have it. I appreciate a cool, creamy salad accompanying rich, hearty sandwiches, and it was a much more interesting choice than plain old potato salad. I wish the included baguettes had been toasted or grilled, but they wouldn’t have been as crispy by the time I got back to my room anyway.
I really liked SUNdeVICH and how creative and diverse the menu was. We’re lucky to have lots of great sandwich shops here in Orlando, but I was thinking this particular international concept would do really well here. After my first day in Washington D.C., it hit the spot and possibly saved my life. But I was there for a few more days, which means a few more meals and a few more reviews yet to come. Stay tuned, stalwart Saboscrivnerinos!