Sum­mer is a great time for a sand­wich, a light, por­ta­ble lunch that you can eat on the spot or carry to a park bench. Two restau­rants in Santa Fe — one old, one fairly new — aim to make this hum­ble of­fer­ing more mem­o­rable.

Pasatiempo - - RESTAURANT REVIEW - The New Mex­i­can

for a sand­wich, a light, por­ta­ble lunch that you can eat on the spot or carry to a park bench. Two restau­rants in Santa Fe — one old, one fairly new — aim to make this hum­ble of­fer­ing more mem­o­rable. Mu­cho Gourmet Sand­wich Shoppe, a fix­ture in the St. Michael’s Drive area since 1989, ad­ver­tises that it serves “gourmet” sand­wiches, im­ply­ing the kind of ob­ses­sive fo­cus on in­gre­di­ents that you’d get at the best big-city del­i­catessens. Bad Ass Sand­wich Com­pany, down­town near the cor­ner of West Palace and Grant Av­enues, is go­ing for some­thing slightly dif­fer­ent: no-frills fa­mil­iar­ity. Its co-owner, Shan­non Quin­tana, told a few months back that you won’t find fussy in­gre­di­ents at his place — just good, hon­est sand­wiches, hot dogs, and smooth­ies, made in por­tions that sat­isfy big ap­petites.

Both restau­rants have some­thing in com­mon: They rely heav­ily on the Boar’s Head line of cold cuts and cheeses, a ubiq­ui­tous brand whose pres­ence means, by def­i­ni­tion, that nei­ther is at risk of be­ing overly fancy. Boar’s Head prod­ucts aren’t bad, but they of­ten taste generic.

For a down­town res­tau­rant that serves a lot of of­fice work­ers dur­ing the week, Bad Ass has set­tled on an un­usual style, com­bin­ing el­e­ments of gym cul­ture and heavy me­tal. You can buy a black mus­cle shirt for $17.94, and the back­ground mu­sic is pro­vided by 94 Rock, a sta­tion the own­ers like so much that they named a sand­wich af­ter it: the 94 Rock BLT. Do you en­joy hear­ing loud mu­sic while you eat? You’re in the right place. If not, you may be an­noyed, and you can’t es­cape it by eat­ing on the big court­yard pa­tio next to the res­tau­rant. There’s a speaker out there, too.

The menu of­fers a lot to choose from: nearly 20 sand­wiches, sev­eral hot dog and bratwurst vari­a­tions, sal­ads, soups, and a small morn­ing menu that in­cludes a break­fast bur­rito. In a throw­back move, many of the sand­wiches are named for celebri­ties, like the Al Pa­cino Ital­ian, the Steven Sea­gal Meat­ball, and the Axl Rose Fla­vor­town. They come in three sizes — 6-, 10-, and 12-inch — which makes sense for a sub sand­wich but not so much for, say, the BLT or a grilled cheese. We asked about this and were told that all the sand­wiches are served on the same bread: white hoagie rolls.

Of the sand­wiches we sam­pled, the best was the Arnold Turkey Reuben, a yummy com­bi­na­tion of turkey, Swiss cheese, Thou­sand Is­land dress­ing, sauer­kraut, and av­o­cado. I tried both the meat­ball and Ital­ian subs. The hoagie rolls were good — soft and lightly toasted — but the meat­balls were a lit­tle tough and blandly herbed. The Ital­ian sub had a lot go­ing on in­side — salami, pep­per­oni, capi­cola, pro­volone, pick­les, pep­pers, let­tuce, and tomato — but the meat was sliced so thin, and there was so lit­tle of it, that the sand­wich seemed too bready over­all.

The menu lists a fruit smoothie — “your choice of blue­berry, straw­berry, ba­nana” — but we were told there was no fruit, and it sounded like this item is no longer be­ing made. In­stead we had a “pro­tein drink,” an un­re­mark­able blended mix of fla­vored pro­tein pow­der, fat-free milk, and ice.

Mu­cho’s set­ting is plain and func­tional; it oc­cu­pies two suites in the col­lec­tion of stores, restau­rants, and of­fices known as St. Michael’s Vil­lage. The menu is big­ger: roughly two dozen reg­u­lar sand­wiches and nine sal­ads aug­mented by a “build your own” sand­wich op­tion. Mu­cho of­fers more types of bread, and the shop seems more apt than Bad Ass to serve meats and sal­ads that are made in house, like the tasty white-meat chicken salad they of­fer in a prepack­aged item called the Av­o­cado De­light, a fill­ing mix of a half av­o­cado, tuna or chicken salad, al­monds, greens, pep­per­oncini, and grape toma­toes.

Or­der­ing things made on site doesn’t al­ways get you far, though. For ex­am­ple, Mu­cho sells a BBQ beef sand­wich that re­ally ought to be re­la­beled. The meat isn’t bar­be­cued at all — it’s roasted, and it gets all of its “bar­be­cue” fla­vor from a sauce that’s poured on. The Cubano — pulled pork, ham, Swiss cheese, and pro­volone — came to­gether bet­ter and was nice and juicy. Also good: the Mu­cho Turkey Plus, a combo of cold-cut-style sliced turkey breast, ba­con, av­o­cado, sprouts, let­tuce, tomato, and cream cheese.

At Bad Ass and Mu­cho, what you’re re­ally get­ting is convenience, along with af­ford­able, ac­cept­able food that can range be­tween just OK and very good. Both places could im­prove their games in easy ways: Bad Ass, by of­fer­ing more va­ri­eties of bread and be­ing more gen­er­ous with sand­wich meats; Mu­cho, by do­ing a more au­then­tic job with some of the meats they’re mak­ing them­selves.

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