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.
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.