Schlotzsky’s: Funny Name, Serious Sandwich

While I am on my perpetual quest to be the most interesting food blogger in the world, I don’t always venture to restaurant chains, but when I do they have to be special.   To be honest, even the grand marshal of the pretentious foodie parade, no matter if they admit or not, occasionally has a hankering for the chain restaurant of their childhood. I believe all the foodies in the world should attend meetings to admit our closet cravings that would shock the general public. I’ll start, hello Interwebs, I am The Blue Collar Foodie, and I am addicted to McDonald’s French Fries harder than the Kardashians fiend for fame.

Schlotzsky's Front Door

Since I am willing to admit my admiration with certain food that would be considered beneath the foodie scene, and embrace not only the sentimental longing for such food but confess that most of it tastes pretty darn good too, I was intrigued by the story of a local entrepreneur, Lea Dalleggio. Her tale was the classic saga of girl meets Schlotzsky’s, girl falls in love with Schlotzsky’s, Schlotzsky’s doesn’t exist in New Jersey, so girl grows up and buys 17 Schlotzsky’s franchises. Wait a minute; I am not sure if that explained anything to anyone. I think I might have to explain this a little more, probably starting with the question that is on most of the minds of my Jersey readers, “What the hell is a Schlotzsky’s?”

Schlotzsky’s is a restaurant chain that was started in Houston, Texas way back in 1971 by Don and Delores Dissman, who tasted a sandwich in the French Quarter of New Orleans and fell in love. Their tiny store front that served their rendition of this sandwich called the original which did and still does consist of ham, salami, and melted cheddar, mozzarella, and parmesan cheeses layered with black olives, red onion, lettuce, tomato, mustard and their signature dressing on a fresh made toasted Sourdough bun. No one really knows, or at least the googles doesn’t, why this sandwich caught fire faster than Michael Jackson’s hair in that Pepsi commercial circa 1984, but it did. As Schlotzsky’s notoriety grew, the Dissman’s decided to open more stores and as Schlotzsky’s took over town after town, their menu followed suit.   Eventually, the Dissman’s dove into the wild west of franchising head first, which spread the Schlotzsky’s brand further than they ever imagined.

Meanwhile, sometime during all this craziness Lea Dalleggio found herself visiting her family in Houston, Texas quite often and fell in love with this whimsical sandwich shop. Unfortunately for Lea, much like the Wawa’s and In and Out’s of the world, Schlotzsky’s had never broke into the North Jersey area. As a young girl, Lea had to wait for her trips to Texas to partake in her favorite food from Schlotzsky’s, and so her long distance relationship with her one true foodie love began. That is until she was old enough to do something about it.

Englewood Schlotsky's

Instead of moving to Texas to be with her epicurean Romeo, Lea Dalleggio decided to share her childhood dream with the rest of Northern New Jersey by opening her first Schlotzsky’s at 39 Nathaniel Place, in Englewood, NJ one day after her 25th birthday. Since Lea was nice enough to bring Schlotzsky’s to New Jersey, I think it is my duty as a foodie to investigate what made her fall for this chain so many years ago.

Schlotzsky's Dining Area

Before Kat and I ventured to Schlotzsky’s, we did some research on the restaurant’s menu and found that they offered quite a variety. The aforementioned Original is still offered as well as several other sandwiches featuring roast beef, chicken, turkey, and even veggies for all the herbivores that walk the earth.   They also have a plethora of Pizza options that are chock full of tasty toppings atop a seasoned sourdough crust. A few salads also grace the menu for those looking for something a little lighter to nosh on. Furthermore, for those of you with a sweet tooth, Schlotzsky’s offers Cinnabons and Carvel soft serve to calm your sugar craze.

Armed with knowledge and appetites, Kat and I entered Schlotzsky’s with a pretty good thought on what we were going to order. As most of you already know, I am sucker for specials and “for a limited time only”, gets me every damn time, so when the interwebs informed us that Schlotzsky’s is offering a special Schlotzsky’s 66 menu featuring the Windy City Pastrami and Swiss, California Chick, and Albuquerque Turkey, we really did not have much of a choice in the matter. Proof that my wife is the best wife ever, she agreed to split two sandwiches with me so we both could taste half of the California Chick described as thinly slices roasted chicken breast, pepper jack cheese, bacon, guacamole, red onion, tomatoes, lettuce, fat free spicy ranch piled high on a toast jalapeno cheese bread and the Albuquerque Turkey which consisted of Smoked Turkey, crispy bacon, cheddar, mozzarella, and parmesan cheeses layered with fire roasted vegetables, chipotle mayonnaise, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, Schlotzsky’s sauce, also on a jalapeno cheese bread. We also ordered two garden salads and two drinks to round out our meal. The total bill came to just under $27.00, which we thought was reasonable even before we tried the food.

Soda Machine

After ordering our food, we were given our drinking cups and directed to the soda machine that dispenses 129 different varieties of soda or juice. This machine kept me occupied for quite some time considering I flip flop and waiver more than a modern day politician when I have seven options at Taco Bell, so after staring at the machine for longer than I would like to admit, I finally decided on Cherry Mr. Pibb and joined Kat at the table.

Garden Salad

When are food arrived, we realized that not only was $27.00 for this meal reasonable, it appeared that is was a deal. The Garden Salad was served in a huge bowl that was filled to the brim with fresh veggies, olives, and warm cheesy garlic pesto flatbread. The sandwiches were stacked with meat and all the fixings and appeared as if they were going to be uber filling.

Schlotzsky's Bunz

After we took a brief pause so I could complete my always annoying, yet necessary Phoodie Photo Shoot, Kat and I experienced our first Schlotzsky’s meal. I have to admit, I am happy that Lea went all those years longing for Schlotzsky’s, because without her suffering, I would not have experienced the moment of sandwich bliss that occurred that day. Normally I am all about the innards of a sandwich, and usually feel the bread is just a canvas for the masterpiece to be placed upon. This is simply not the case with the Schlotzsky’s sandwich.

Schlotzsky's close up

Don’t get me wrong the meat was fresh and full of flavor, the cheese and the bacon added the salty, creamy crunch that every sandwich needs, and the combination of the sauces added just the right amount of kick. Truth be told, this sandwich placed on two ordinary pieces of white bread would be a formidable foe in the underground world of sandwich battling. But when these ingredients are lovingly arranged on a Schlotzsky’s famous bun, it amplifies the awesomeness of this handheld treat exponentially. These buns have been handmade in every Schlotzsky’s that has ever opened its doors, and the freshness and unique flavor and texture adds a level of deliciousness that is unparalleled in the realm of sandwich shops.

Schlotzsky's Sandwich

Kat and I opted for the medium sandwich which houses 4.4 ounces of meat; if you are really hungry, there is a large that holds a heaping 8.8 ounces of yumminess. Furthermore, if you are someone who enjoys a good ol’ fashioned test of gastronomic willpower, Schlotzsky’s has a Lotza Meat Challenge that offers its customers the chance to get their picture on the wall and a free Cinnabon. All you have to do is devour a large sandwich in 10 minutes or less, I know it sounds easy, but I assure you it is much harder than it sounds.

Garlic Pesto Bread BiteThe garden salad was a great addition to this meal and was the perfect companion to the Schlotzsky’s sandwich. However, the Garlic Pesto Bread that shared a bowl with our salad made me happier than a Met fan on Harvey Day. Everything about this seemingly perfect side was spot on, the cheese was gooey, the garlic was vampire deterring good, the pesto was not overbearing, and the bread was Schlotzsky’s. This delicious addition is a must try when you venture to Schlotzsky’s.

As I stated in the opening paragraph, I am not one who frequents chain restaurants a lot, but I am also not the type of person to write them off completely. What you should always remember about chain restaurants is that they grew to the size that they are now because of something, and that something is usually damn good food. Now, that is not to say that most chains lose their roots and therefore lose their way shortly after their growth, I do not believe this is the case with Schlotzsky’s. I thoroughly enjoyed the playful atmosphere, wonderful food, and attentive staff at Schlotzsky’s, and I completely understand why a young Lea Dalleggio was enamored by this establishment all those years ago.

 

The Cloverleaf Tavern: Come For The Beer, Fall In Love With The Food

The Cloverleaf

Most Blue Collar Foodies would rather have a cool refreshing craft beer paired with their meal rather than a hoity-toity glass of wine. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for wine, and I do enjoy a goblet of grapes every now and again, but my heart belongs to the hops and barley that can be found in every mug, pint, or stein of carbonated class in a glass. There are only a few spots in the North Jersey area that stimulate craft beer enthusiasts better than a pill of Viagra at the Bunny Ranch, and there are even fewer that not only have a remarkable beer menu, but also a food menu that is worthy of praise. It is my goal as The Blue Collar Foodie to find these institutions of higher inebriation and shout their accolades from high atop my soap-box, known as the interwebs.

Welcome To The Clover

Welcome To The Clover

One such location is The Cloverleaf Tavern, located at 395 Bloomfield Ave., in Caldwell, NJ. Considering that The Cloverleaf Tavern has been continuously operating for over 75 years, this extraordinary establishment should not be a secret to any craft beer connoisseur that rests his or her rump within the Tri-State area. What these pint professors may not realize, and neither did I at first, is that The Cloverleaf Tavern, or The Clover, as it is known by the regulars, not only offers an awe-inspiring beer menu, but also serves up some serious eats as well.

First off, I feel that in order to properly discuss The Clover’s true appeal I will need to approach their exuberance for craft beer and their epicurean prowess separately. This way I can guarantee I will devote enough verbiage to each of these astonishing contributions that the Clover is making to the foodie community on a daily basis.

Mmmm Beer

Mmmmmmmmmm Beer

The Clover doesn’t just serve craft beer; they embrace the very notion of its very existence and attempt to house as much variety as they can possibly fit within their beer centric structure. Their ever changing beer menu reads like the phone book of Hop City, USA and is constantly updated via their website. The Clover is one of the first beer lists that I peruse as soon as the interwebs get all twitterpated about a specialty beer that has a limited release, because odds are not only will they have it but they will be throwing an event in its honor.

Lots of Beer!

Lots of Beer!

Furthermore, they have a free to join program known as the Masters of Beer Appreciation, MBA that now has over 1550 Alumni whose names adorn the walls on plagues that are updated with each new graduating class. This beer aficionado’s dream come true, escorts the participant in a veritable world tour of some of the best brews that can be procured on a regular basis by the Clover. To add to the charm of this intoxicating self-guided tour, after you earn 15 and 30 credits, you receive a $15 clover gift card. After you earn 45 credits your name will be added to the wall as an M.B.A. graduate and you will be entitled to a 20oz pour instead of the standard 16oz pour the common folk receive. There are also accolades for completing multiple MBA programs, like receiving your Doctorate, but don’t get ahead of yourself sparky, one degree at a time.

Masters of Beer Appreciation

You know you want it!

As for the Cloverleaf’s culinary prowess, I have to say I was initially surprised with the caliber of food that I was served the first time I ordered one of their insanely good burgers. Not to say that pubs serving decent food are unheard of but, the food that the Clover is offering to its patron is not just good, it is “shiv your best friend for looking at the last bite of your food” good. I am not just talking about the burgers either; I have thoroughly explored their menu and have not been able to find one thing on it that was not excellent. On top of their regular tasty menu, the Clover offers a weekly specials menu that allows even the regulars to indulge in something different.

Pulled Pork Sandwich

Pulled, straight from the heavens, Pork Sandwich

On my most recent visit to the Cloverleaf, I was in the mood for some good old fashioned American Barbecue, and since it was lunchtime, I decided to go with the Pulled Pork Sandwich served with homemade coleslaw, a pickle, and I opted to swap the fried for their jaw-dropping beer battered Onion Rings all for $10.99. One of the best things about The Clover is that even though they serve prodigious food and astounding beers they consistently keep their meals affordable for us Blue Collar folks that still want great tasting grub.

Onion Rings

Crispity Crunchity

When it arrived, the smell was utterly divine, and the pulled pork was blended with a BBQ sauce that was unearthly. Each bite of this sandwich sent shock waves of flavor from my mouth to my stomach, which in turn sent hate mail to my brain for only ordering one. After forcing myself to put down a sandwich that could only be described by using a made up word such as, amazeballs, I tasted one of the Onion Rings that were recommended by our awesome waiter, whose name I can’t remember because I am a horrible person, and I was in love… With the Onion Rings, not my waiter, I don’t think Kat would have been amused if it was the other way around. To add to these crispy and tangy fried rings of yummy, I dipped one into the Maker’s Mark Gourmet Sauce that the Clover places on each and every table, and I thought I had died and went to Texas, which as everyone knows is what BBQ heaven is called.

Maker's Mark Gourmet Sauce

Saucey Sauce Sauce

The moral of this article is that if you like food and/or beer and have not entered the hallowed walls of The Cloverleaf Tavern then you should be removed from the foodie guild immediately. Luckily, as a card carrying member of both the Clover and the Foodie Guild of America, or the FGA, which I just made up and am imposing an instant trademark on, I have talked both organizations into an amnesty program. They both agree that if you take it upon yourself to get your ass to the Cloverleaf before the summer is over; you will still be allowed to be a member of the FGA. Seriously though, all it will take is one visit to the Cloverleaf Tavern, and you will be sending angry emoticons to all of your Facebook friends and Twitter followers, for not alerting you to this food and beer sanctuary earlier.

Cloverleaf Tavern on Urbanspoon

Before The Impending Porkcalypse, Follow The Blue Collar Foodie to The Swiss Pork Store For Oktoberfest

     As a self-proclaimed foodie and bacon aficionado it is about time that I bring up a place that is very near and dear to me.  Not only is this shop located minutes away from my house in Fair Lawn, but the mere smell of this brilliant store makes me smile. The boutique that makes this Blue Collar Foodie enter a dream world tantamount to Willy Wonka’s factory, only instead of chocolate it is full of wondrous meaty goodness, is none other than The Swiss Pork Store, located at 24-10 Fair Lawn Avenue, Fair Lawn, New Jersey.

The Swiss Pork store is what Disneyland is to children for carnivorous foodies all across Bergen County and beyond. Their motto, which is extremely apropos, is, “We’re Not Just Pork,” and they are not kidding. Their packaged goods menu reads like a who’s who of foods that one needs to try before they die. They are a one stop shop for all things meat and then some.

Some of the best homemade sausages in the state, if not the planet, can be found at the Swiss Pork Store, and just in time for your very own Oktoberfest. You can buy Bratwurst, Weisswurst, Bockwurst, Bauernwurst, Knockwurst and pretty much any other damn wurst that is known to man. On top of that they offer frankfurters with or without skin for anyone who feels somewhat inadequate when eating a large sausage, TWSS. You also never know what type of specialty sausages the mad men at the Swiss Pork Store are going to concoct on any given day, so I suggest stopping by and taking a peek before making up your mind, you might end up leaving with a Jalapeno and Cheddar Wurst that would make Oscar Mayer cry himself to sleep.

The Swiss Pork Store also doubles as a full-fledged butcher as well. Although their fresh prime meats are rather expensive, ask before you buy, they are well worth the price. You can acquire chop meat that is unlike no other in the beef, veal, pork, or lamb varieties to create awe-inspiring meatballs or hamburgers. The steaks they offer compare to any of the steaks that I have paid triple for at a high end steak house in New York City, and you can choose between any cut, including porterhouse, shell, skirt, and NY strip.  If you are feeling one of the white meats they can also carve your choice of Chicken and Pork in a variety of different cuts.  If you are feeling a little frisky though, you can choose something a little more obscure to don your dinner table and go with their veal or lamb. Whatever you choose I assure you, you will not be disappointed, or at least I have never been.

     Not sold yet?  Well, I am about to make the boldest statement that this Blue Collar Foodie has ever put in print, and if this statement does not make you get into your car and drive to the Swiss Pork Store immediately, I am not sure we can be Facebook Friends anymore. Ready?  You might want to sit down.  Are you sitting?  THE SWISS PORK STORE SELLS THE BEST BACON YOU WILL EVER TASTE! There, I said it, and I mean it. I have somewhat of a Bacon addiction as any of my followers know from previous posts, and I must tell you, with 100 percent certainty, this bacon could seriously create peace in the Middle East and it could make North Koreans and South Koreans hug it out. In fact, I have it on good authority that Roger Goodell and the Referees for the NFL, sat down and ate this Bacon on Wednesday night just before they settled the lockout. Alright maybe none of that is true, but I am serious, this is really good bacon!
     If everything you have just read did not convert you into a Swiss Pork Store customer, which does not bode well for our friendship status I might add, I present to you the following. Not only can you procure some of the finest uncooked goods in the land, you can also find remarkable homemade cold cuts for purchase by the pound or, unbeknownst to most, on a fresh made sandwich, that can only be described as simply divine. I suggest trying the Veal Loaf, which is scrumptious, but you can stay within your comfort zone as well and try the smoked in-house ham, salami, and turkey, or you can go completely off the rails and sink your teeth into their famous head cheese, blood & tongue loaf, or liverwurst.  Creating a sandwich at the Swiss Pork Store is always an adventure and the best part is there is always a happy ending, get your mind out of the gutter people; I am talking about a full stomach.  Furthermore, instead of the horribly unhealthy fries that any run of the mill burger joint will pair up your lunch with, the Swiss Pork Store has a huge selection of cold salads which Kat fiends for like a pregnant lady craves ice cream and pickles.

Whether you are looking for packaged goods, including imported candy and European Groceries as well, to take home to feed your family or a sandwich on the go to feed your face, The Swiss Pork has it all.  From the second I walked into this place and was greeted with a smile and slice of veal loaf, I fell in love.  The people that work the counter here are always extremely helpful and have tremendous knowledge about the magnificent product that they sell. So don’t be shy when you give the Swiss Pork Store a whirl, and ask some questions, they will be happy to answer them and steer you in the right direction!