November 05, 2004

six ingredients are all it takes

Gentle Readers, after two weeks of delay, one lunch on Wednesday, and one dead car battery, Angelee Field and I finally sat down to a club sandwich lunch at Sconehenge. This greasy-spoon diner and bakery occupies the quiet corner of Shattuck Ave and Stuart St in a quiet part of Berkeley. Sconehenge doles out breakfasts and lunches mainly to "real people," as opposed to UC-Berkeley students. Less fancy than other breakfast/lunch spots like La Note, Rick & Ann's, or Venus, Sconehenge more than holds its own as the only source for "normal" unpretentious food. Upon seeing the slightly grimy orange floor to the chipped brown coffee cups, to the bright orange vinyl booths, one would not expect daring culinary innovations from Sconehenge, but rather the familiar tastes and smiling faces of a neighborhood American diner.

In addition to standard diner fare such as egg dishes, pancakes, french toast, and sandwiches, Sconehenge serves up burritos and Mexican breakfast items such as huevos revueltos and huevos con chorizo, as well as a few daily specials, my favorite being the seldom-seen Hangtown Fry (a decadent omelet stuffed with bacon and pan-fried oysters originally served to 49ers who struck it rich). While pretty much all of Sconehenge's food is good, it is their club sandwich that brings me and Angelee back there time and time again.

Angelee and I both ordered a turkey club sandwich, which comes with a choice of an organic green salad or french fries. Of course, we both opted for fries. Club sandwiches, a mainstay of diners, stand peerless in the sandwich world. A well-crafted club sandwich is an excercise in simplicity. Roasted turkey (or chicken), bacon, lettuce and sliced tomato, all placed betwixt three slices of toasted white bread lightly lubricated by a thin layer of mayonaise are all you need. Then, one should cut the resulting double-decker sandwich twice diagonally and then secure the slices with large toothpicks. Served atop a heap of salty french fries, a proper club sandwich makes a lunch that is almost impossible to beat.

There are fancier club sandwiches out there, especially in California, where avocado or sprouts may find their way in. Other breads besides toasted white have been used, and the meats may change. I have seen salmon clubs, dungeness crab clubs, ham and turkey clubs, and even a hamburger club. That being said, if the club sandwich isn't broke, there's no need to fix it. In a well-made club, each ingredient can be tasted individually while simultaneously contributing to the sandwich as a whole. Yet club sandwiches still cannot be explained as merely the sum of their parts. There is some sort of multiplicative effect, a Gestalt, present in club sandwiches and in other finely assembled foods such as composed salads. Sconehenge's clubs present good, clean and clear flavors and textures--the juicy meatiness of the roasted turkey, the rich, chewy smokiness from the bacon, the sweet-tart squish of tomato, the crisp lettuce and crunchy toast, all tied together with the smooth tang of mayonaise. Even with all of that going on, the flavors and textures do not step all over each other.

I find it refreshing to enjoy such a simply created yet complexly holistic sandwich. Sconehenge's club sandwiches are so much more than their six ingredients. When served beside pefectly crisp fries (which the condiment-averse Angelee eats sans ketchup), they become what American cuisine should be--simply flavored but not bland, a little on the greasy and rich side, and above all, comforting. Sconehenge clubs deliver on that end. They gave Angelee and me so much comfort that before getting up, we had to sit and relax and digest and enjoy the afternoon for a little while.

N.B. Sconehenge serves its turkey club sandwiches only on weekdays. If you're there on a weekend, they will gladly make you a club with grilled chicken, which produces (in my opinion) an even tastier sandwich.

Two turkey club sandwiches with french fries, executed with precision, Sconehenge. Posted by Hello


At 11/06/2004 12:36:00 PM, Blogger Dingus said...

Good looking food louis. Turkey is good stuff.


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