When you want to grab a great sandwich to go, Darien's eateries offer both traditional and unique versions of your hands-on favorites. I ventured into a few tried and true sandwich stops as well as surprise destinations that are worth a visit.
Vavala's Deli and Catering : Darien Blue Wave Original ($8.79)
Across from Noroton Heights train station, my favorite stop before hopping Metro North is Vavala's Deli and Catering. "What's a customer favorite?" I ask. In response, the man behind the counter begins to assemble the Darien Blue Wave Original. This local hero starts with a fresh, soft wedge filled with tender, shaved roast beef, topped with creamy Russian dressing and horseradish sauce, sharp cheddar cheese, crisp lettuce and tomatoes. With just the right amount of meat for a hearty meal, the Blue Wave Original does not overwhelm. (If you avoid red meat, order the Blue Wave with a fried or grilled chicken cutlet.) I particularly like the zest of the horseradish, which adds another layer of flavor to the creamy sweet Russian dressing. Another crowd pleaser is Right off the Boat, a sandwich of imported provolone, cappicola, hot or sweet peppers, tomato, onion, oil and vinegar. It's simply a modified Italian sub, but the name alone got this Italian American's nod of approval.
Upper Crust Bagel & Deli Company: Beach Bum ($6.99)
Everything tastes better on a bagel. Boar's Head turkey breast, warm bacon, lots of your favorite cheese, lettuce, tomato and sweet onion slices are no exception. It's called the Beach Bum, but it's no slacker. I opted for a sesame bagel with my Beach Bum fillings, but was tempted by the pumpernickel and "everything" bagel. Next time I'm going for the Bagel Belly filled with chive cream cheese, black forest ham and fixin's. Or perhaps I'll deviate from the bagel and try a flatbread sandwich (think panini) with mozzarella cheese, roasted red peppers, olive oil, tomatoes and romaine lettuce. Upper Crust, which has operated in Darien since 1997, is more than just a bagel shop and coffee stop. It's a bona fide café and sandwich shop with the nicest people working there and lots of great things to put between the the bagel.
Fisherman's Net: Snow Crab Salad Wrap ($7.00)
Just around the corner from Goodwives Shopping Center, Fisherman's Net is a great find for lovers of all things from the sea. In addition to icy display cases filled with ruby red tuna, deep orange salmon, sweet sea scallops and tiger prawns, this little seafood market does a whale of a lunch business. The Snow Crab Salad Wrap called me by name: fresh Canadian snow crab bound with just enough mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato, wrapped up in a bright green tortilla. Don't let the healthy spinach wrap fool you, though. This sandwich is filled with a generous portion of crab salad and, while it is lightly seasoned, the sweet crab meat and mayo make it rich. On this cold winter day, the smell of fried seafood and the taste of fresh crab put me in a summertime frame of mind…all I was needed was a cold beer.
Uncle's Deli: The Italian Combo ($3.95)
It's almost impossible to write a sandwich article without including Uncle's famous Italian Combo. I know, I know, you just read about it in my Super Bowl grub piece. But it's just that good. It's got those great Boar's Head cold cuts, including ham, salami, pepperoni and provolone cheese plus that oil, vinegar, lettuce and tomato mix on top. Uncle's is jammin' all day long – but no worries. They always have these bad boys pre-made and wrapped up for grab-and-go. The price is right too. I'm always amused to find these decadent sandwiches stacked up next to the containers of colorful fresh fruit and veggie salads. I'm going for the salty, cheesy, tangy, sesame seeded bread concoction, thank you very much!
A Taste of Italy: Eggplant Parmesan Hero ($6.95)
This place is fun, with the feeling of a specialty market on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. Outside the large signs shout, "Free Delivery", "Dry Sausage", "Fresh Pasta", "Imported Provolone", and my favorite, "Fresh Mozzarella Made on Premises". Inside is an oasis for all things Italian and delicious. From the hot food case customers can fill fresh wedge rolls with sausage and peppers, meatballs, pulled pork, chicken scarpiello and roasted chicken oreganato. The options seem endless. The aroma of marinara sauce prompts me to order the Eggplant Parmesan Hero with melted mozzarella cheese on a toasted wedge roll. Eggplant is layered with ricotta cheese as well as mozzarella and the sauce is flavored with sausage and meatballs. This masterpiece is a meal to satisfy a ravenous working man – and me! Available for those in a hurry are pasta and garden salads as well as pre-made cold cut sandwiches. Next time, I'm coming back for "Terranova Bread Delivered Daily."