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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The 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.