BITE: Downtown Sandwich Smackdown
Eating & Drinking

BITE: Downtown Sandwich Smackdown

Hot dog carts and fast-food fare have nothing on the new generation of urban sandwich artists who are popping up around the Bank Street business core. These eco-conscious, independent, food-loving entrepreneurs believe in creative and healthy fare to inspire the appetites of time-pressed cubicle dwellers. All four contenders advertise their use of local and organic ingredients whenever possible, and all offer a unique, fresh take on the humble sandwich.

Bowich Sandwich
Cheese Whiz: This Bowich sandwich combines lemon-rosemary braised artichoke hearts and ricotta cheese on a tangy sourdough bread (Photo: - Christian Lalonde)

155 Bank St.
Samantha Hall, who co-owns Bowich with her brother, Gavin Hall, makes everything from scratch each day. The lemon-rosemary braised artichoke heart and ricotta sandwich, made to order and grilled on a panini press, is a marvel of creativity and great flavour. The kicker is homemade pine nut and currant relish and tangy sourdough bread. Amazing.
Cost: $11
Love that the sandwich is cut in three sections, each individually wrapped with a sleeve of parchment paper for easy, mess-free eating at your desk or on the go. All tucked into a cute cardboard box with room for a tiny
salad with lemony vinaigrette.
Slow food — prepared slowly. Better for those who are not in a rush: everything is made to order. Funky modern furniture makes this adorable space a cool place to lounge. Sandwiches here are top-notch, made from superior ingredients that are thoughtfully prepared. More like what you’d get at a gastropub than a café (with prices to match). The place to go for a lunchtime splurge.
Bread & Sons Bakery
195 Bank St.
Yoav and Karen D’Vaja challenge clichés by combining hippie sensibilities with a passion for good eating. The Heavenly Havarti Sandwich — aka the Simple Sandwich — with cucumber, tomatoes, sprouts, red onion, and homemade rustic roasted sunflower seed and olive tapenade on fresh slices of sourdough bread. Cost: $5.75 Simple can be deceiving. This homely cheese sandwich really satisfies, with delightfully fresh, clean flavours — each ingredient sings. Bread is, of course, baked fresh in-house. Grab and go. Everything is ready-made but fresh as can be. You can browse various veggie pizza slices, breads, pastries, and sweets and help yourself before heading to the cash. Tiny eat-in counter, but mostly takeout. Proof that veggie sandwiches don’t have to taste like toppings and that really fine bread makes the sandwich. This is a good-value lunch that makes you feel good.
100 Gloucester St.
Pals and partners Amir Rahim and Gabriel Pollock say they set out to raise the bar on the uninspiring sandwich/salad
/soup scene.
The California club boasts roasted chicken breast, double-smoked bacon, tomato, avocado, and homemade roasted red pepper aïoli — everything gets almost sealed inside the crunchy bun once it’s grilled on the panini press. Cost: $8 Attention to detail. Everything is made to order. Love that they sprinkle the warm panini with a touch of coarse sea salt. Menu printed on adorable takeout brown bags. Great coffee too. Homemade soups and desserts. Large open kitchen lets you watch the cooks at work. Baskets of produce on display give it a market-fresh feel. Fun, artsy, funky decor is created out of a mishmash of reclaimed materials. A groovy downtown oasis. Would have liked some grill flavour to boost the bland chicken, but it is tender and makes a fine canvas for this upscale club. Curious to return for the popular $10 daily hot homemade lunch special.
121 Bank St. (two other locations nearby)
Co-owners Timothy Van Dyke and David Tugwell borrow the UK model of grab-and-go local, eco-friendly lunches. The Cuban Chicken is served ready-made from a temperature-controlled cabinet. Free-range, organic, grain-fed chicken breast, sliced into pieces, is marinated in lime and pepper and topped with corn-tomato-black bean salsa. All of it wrapped in a warm whole wheat tortilla. Cost: $6.45 No gloppy sauces and a light hand with seasoning keep this healthy-tasting squishy-soft burrito-style sandwich very light. Feels more like fuel than something you’ll need to sleep off at your desk later. Sandwich options are separated into hot and cold sides. All ready-made but with the option of white or wheat for the wrap. Funky, friendly neighbourhood café vibe with tall window seating upstairs. Serious coffee and loose-leaf teas available. Quick, healthy, and satisfying, but nothing memorable about the Cuban Chicken sandwich — apparently one of the most popular. Overall, it’s the least inspiring of the bunch, but still a huge notch up from fast food.