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You perhaps already know this, but one of the greatest culinary concepts of all time, the sandwich, was invented by John Montagu, the Fourth Earl of Sandwich, in the mid-18th century.
Since "Sandwich" was a geographical location and not the dude's name, I don't understand why two slices of bread with a piece of meat stuck between them is called a "sandwich" rather than a "montagu."
Well, however it happened, I'm just glad John Montagu, Fourth Earl of Sandwich, was sufficiently hungry to come up with his creation. Herewith are three reasonably priced sammiches I've eaten recently that you might like to know about.
Philly's A Taste of Philadelphia, Norwich
The Doctor is one of several designer cheesesteak options on the menu at this tiny take-out joint (with a row of outdoor seats) just down Sherman Street from Backus Hospital - and the honchos behind the venture are actually from Philadelphia.
They want you to understand what an authentic Philly cheesesteak tastes like and how it's made. I've never eaten a cheesesteak in Philly, so I can't speak as to the accuracy of the recipe and product in that context - but the Doctor is a damned fun thing to eat.
At the core of the Doctor is the basic Philly, which is to say minced, all-star ribeye steak, diced Spanish onions and gooey Cheese Whiz: nuance the mixed steak and onions in oil on a hot griddle, ladle the batch into a just-baked, hollowed out Philly roll and smother the whole thing with the melted cheese. What gives this construct its medical degree is the addition of another support layer of American cheese and, added into the original mixture, finely diced sweet and hot peppers.
This is a tremendous thing - ol' Montagu would be intimidated, methinks - and that the Philly dudes have several other spinoffs besides the Doctor is a fact well worth exploring.
Barbecue Chicken Po'boy
Popeye's, New London
For some reason, the cardboard sign announcing what I believe is a Popeye's specialty item is tucked away to the extreme right of the order line and you sort of have to look for it. When I did spy it on a recent visit, I was intrigued - particularly for $3.99.
Turns out, this is a pretty tasty item. It's a small po'boy loaf, and certainly not the crisp French version you'd find in New Orleans from the god-like bakers at Leidenheimer, but it was reasonably fresh and anchored the admittedly moist ingredients together.
The Popeye's squadron has come up with a pulled-chicken version as opposed to a fried or grilled filet. The shredded hunks of bird, breast and thigh meat, are swirled in a thick, smoky sauce whose sweet and incendiary properties play beautifully together. Too, there are coins of tangy dill pickle spaced evenly across the length of the bread, adding another taste component.
It's all very flavorful and pleasing, and it wasn't until I reached the end of the po'boy that I realized a happily lingering stinging sensation on the tongue. Not a bad lunchtime possibility at all and, for a few bucks more, you get a small side and a drink.
Dog Watch Cafe and Restaurant, Stonington
The premise of this new menu item is based on a sound principle: salmon is good. Also: tasty Ciabatta bread presents a crisp crust with a slightly spongy, chewy texture. As such, you can grill a thick slab of salmon, plonk it onto the bread, add a pungent (but-not-too-much-so) Remoulade sauce and a thin sheet of designer lettuce - then get out of the way. The Dog Watchers do a nice job for $12 (and throw in a choice of fries, fresh vegetable, fruit or coleslaw).
The only sad part about this was that the length of the salmon plank didn't quite measure up to the bread, and my final two bites were fish-less. I made the best of it. I tucked a few French fries into the empty space between the bread, let them wallow in the remoulade, and the whole thing became a worthy and fresh sandwich creation. Perhaps I should be made an earl.
The Doctor, $8.49
Philly's A Taste of Philadelphia
33 Sherman St., Norwich
(860) 912-1057, phillysct.com
Barbecue Chicken Po'Boy, $3.99
Popeye's Chicken and Biscuits
455 Colman St., New London
Salmon Sandwich, $12
Dog Watch Cafe and Restaurant
194 Water Street, Stonington
(860) 415-4510, dogwatchcafe.com