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Darn Good Sandwich at Whole Foods Cupertino

I love sandwich. I love it that in every culture there’s some variation of stuffed bread, and out comes this one complete meal you eat with your hands.

For me, good bread is the foundation of a good sandwich. I can never condone Subway. Who cares the bread is baked “fresh everyday”. It’s Daily Baked Cottony Tasteless Bread. All over Paris, you find baguette sandwiches made of minimum ingredients: butter alone, or just one thin slice of cheese or salami. When the bread is good, that‘s enough.

Until recently, I found no good sandwich locally. My favorites have been Salumi at Seattle (owned by Mario Batali‘s dad.) Its meatball sub with an extra shot of blue cheese never fails to make me swoon. Then there is Refuge  of San Carlos that prepares amazing ruebens. Neither is ideal impromptu lunch spot from Sunnyvale. After many passable sandwiches, I gave up. I settled for Penera Bread and Cupertino Whole Foods’ sandwich counter next door. The former is inconsistent. The latter is consistent alright, in its mind-numbingly slow moving line. I went there because I got to combine lunch with grocery shopping.

Then one day at Whole Foods, my friend Weiling unwrapped her lunch paper. Ta-da! It’s like out of nowhere a spotlight was switched on. I saw a golden, blistering crust and a crumb that was springy and laced with irregular holes, a sign of quality with sourdough starter. Under the bread, I saw mesclun, I saw salami. I saw mortadella?! Weiling realized that she’s better act fast before my drool destroyed her lunch. She cut me a generous portion and I wasted no time to sink my teeth into it. The rest is history. Now I have it at least once a week. $5 for a big 6-inch. I feel so loved.

About 4 months ago, bay area Whole Foods start offering a pre-made sandwich which they name it ‘Darn Good Sandwich”. Every weekday at 11:30am, a butcher block is set in the middle of the store. Each 6” or 12” sandwich is cut to order from extra long baguettes stuffed with salami, mortadella, greens, pepperoncini, red onions, provolone, smeared with tapenade and drizzled with vinaigrette. The bread is from Boulangerie Bay Bread of San Francisco, half-baked, frozen then sent out. They make this size specifically for Whole Foods. At each store, one person is in charge from start to finish: final baking of the bread, mixing dressing, assemblage and selling it.

The whole thing is a juxtaposition of flavors: The tang of the dressing counter balances the saltiness of the meat. Salami is sharp, mortadella is mild. The lightness of the greens contrasts the fattiness of the meat. The bread suits me: crackly crust with a moist, toothy crumb of robust flavor.


A word of warning: not all ‘Darn Good Sandwich” is darn good everyday and everywhere. I am sure the corporate recipe is the same, but every person who makes it gives his or her own personal variation. A perfect one for me is from Cupertino and only when it’s made by Greg who truly takes pride in his work. I have had it from Mountain View and from other weekdays at Cupertino. I am a bread person so I notice the biggest difference there. Other days and locations, the crust is not crackly, the crumb has a uniform texture and tastes dull. If you are going for it, do make the effort of trying out Greg’s. Currently he works all weekdays except on Tuesdays.

It keeps too. Greg taught me that. Now I buy his sandwich on Friday, then put it in the frig with a jug of milk on top. On Saturday or Sunday before we head out, I bake it again in 375F preheated oven for 10 minutes or so until the bread is completely revived. It’s the envy of the Children’s Discovery Museum.

08/07/2010 Update: Well, a prime example of big brother. The health department mandates that this sandwich cannot be cut to order in front of customers anymore and has to be refrigerated under a certain temparature before it can be sold. Therefore, now what you see is a pile of pre-wrapped cold sandwiches. And Greg doesn’t do make it anymore.


One Comment

  1. I am in agreement with your assessment of Greg’s sandwiches. The first ingredient is passion!

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