As of now, writing this, there are 71 blogger reviews (173 total reviews) for the original Meat & Bread location on Cambie, in Gastown… the majority of which are positive, or just flat-out glowing reviews. Well, here’s another to add to that pile, and another satisfied diner voting “Like it!” on Urbanspoon.com.
I think Mijune over at the Follow Me Foodie blog was spot on with her take on the place and its food: “Was it worth the wait? Yes. Did it live up to expectations? Yes. But was it the best sandwich I’ve ever had in my life? Not exactly.” But hey, I’ve had some pretty good sandwiches! I am, an amazing chef after all. (Kidding! Well, sort of kidding. Heh.)
When a friend suggested heading here for lunch one day to catch up, it only seemed right to agree and go see what all the fuss was about. Yes, there is certainly a lot of hype around Meat and Bread and its supposedly amazing sandwiches. And I have to say, they are amazing. Seriously. So amazing, apparently, that this is one of the few restaurants (if I can call it that) that I’ve blogged about on the day of visiting (instead of days or weeks later…). Before I say anything else:please go here if you’re visiting Vancouver. Or if you’re anywhere near Gastown and have a grumbling gut. Or if you’re not either of those things. Just go here.
Perhaps it is overhyped – but it’s hard to argue (at least, in my opinion) that the food isn’t good quality. My friend – I am calling him the Chemist – and I did wait in line (ehh for 20 minutes or so?) because we went directly in the middle of ‘lunch hour’, but the sandwiches were worth it. Everyone says the porchetta is to die for, and the Chemist stood by that and ordered it for himself. I’m going to assume it was as good as all the other times he’s been here before, since there were no complaints from him! Chopped up roasted pork with crispy pork skin and salsa verde – straightforward but delicious is the formula here, it seems.
I’ve never been a pork person; my mother never cooked it for my family as I grew up, probably because my father thought it “unhealthy”. Well, to that I say: puh-leeze, pork is perfectly healthy. Especially the stuff they serve at Meat and Bread – this is local, non-medicated pork. Good stuff, people. The rest of the meats and cheeses are supposedly also either local or organic or both, with pastured beef and free-range chicken – if those are on the menu for the day. Just my luck, actually, that beef was on the menu on this particular day. I went with the Fraser Valley beef chuck roll, cumin spice, salsa criolla, chimchurri, and arugula. How’s that name for a mouthful? The sandwiches are a mouthful, too, obviously… a tasty mouthful… Well, needless to say, it was awesome. I think I know where Guy Fieri’s coming from when, in his episode that featured this place, he said “I can’t even remember my name” after taking the first bite of his sandwich. The beef chuck was moist and tender, not stringy; the high quality of the stuff is obvious, and it was cooked to perfection to achieve that whole “melt-in-your-mouth” texture. It was a great sandwich – and probably the only way I’d ever eat arugula. (I hate arugula by itself. I couldn’t taste it here. WIN-WIN.) Looking back, I think my only complaint would be that I couldn’t taste any cumin spice?! The chimchurri was pretty powerful, though unbelievably tasty. Whatever the salsa was, it wasn’t noticeable. But if I haven’t already made my point clear: the sandwich was still delicious.
There is something to be said for the ciabatta, too! The ciabatta are crispy (and taste buttery… although they don’t butter them!) and don’t detract from the sandwich contents. There’s just enough bread to hold all that flavourful meat and accompanying sauce together – which is definitely what you want, considering that these are pricey sandwiches at $7 or $8 a pop, depending on what you get! Although I think the sandwiches are probably all great and I love the whole “simple” concept (which, don’t get me wrong, Meat and Bread pulls off extremely well, what with placing focus on menu item quality as opposed to quantity), I think the only thing on their menu I would change would be to offer something else instead of a grilled cheese sandwich as one of the four options. Oh, and I’d pull the salad from the menu. Yes, so says the reformed salad-lover who has taken a year to realise that ordering salads at restaurants is a waste of money (pretty much). (I did not come to Meat and Bread for a salad…) But I digress…
Again, as Mijune rightfully concluded: Meat and Bread may not have “the best sandwiches EVER”, it definitely dominates the whole “gourmet sandwich” niche and really delivers in terms of taste. Personally, I love the emphasis on quality meats and think that the seemingly high price-tag is totally worth it for what you get. Would I return or recommend this place to others? Count on it.
Meat and Bread, I’ll be back.